Marvel Comics

Quarterbin Follies #15: The View from the Cheap Seats

The_Marvel_UniverseWell, I suppose it was only a matter of time. Inevitable, really. 616 is no more. El finito. Deep Six'd. Garroted. Really, this is sort of a big deal, I suppose. So big, that Chris asked me to put my normal Quarterbin Follies column on hold (tune in next week for some thoughts on Gen13!) and give some thoughts on the END from the perspective of a continuity obsessed uber-nerd. Sure, it seems like the kind of thing to rankle the crochetey hackles of a middle-aged and loud-mouthed comic-book wash-out, right? Sounds like some “good TV.” And to be honest, when Chris first mentioned it, I was a little miffed. It is no secret that I HATE the New 52 and all it stands for. As a general rule I hate “the relaunch,” and all that it implies: the new ideas are better than the old ones, or that there is something wrong with how things were done. There's an inherent disrespect in that type of thinking. So, you'd expect that I would have some pointed opinions about what Marvel should do, or how it should or should not proceed, but I don't think I can care. I could go on about how the 616 began: about how Roy Thomas, the original Super Fan, saved the Marvel Golden Age, and how Marvel had formerly been one of the more reboot proof universes. I could do that, but I won't. As I said in the beginning, this move was inevitable. Hear that, Fan-Boys? If you didn't see it coming, you are fools (for the record, I didn't see it coming, either, damn it). It really has only been a matter of time, and no greater evidence should have been needed than Disney's sundry decrees over in the Lucas-Verse. The Star Wars Extended Universe was one of the most closely guarded and edited fictional universes in history, but it still was not safe from the mighty swing of the Great Axe of the Mouse. With a single swing, decades of side stories and timelines were undone. Now, I get the reasons, and I am even excited for the new Star Wars products (Star Wars: Rebels has been a ton of fun!), but there is a lot there for a nerd to lose sleep over. Nevertheless, why should that have an impact on Marvel? With Marvel's recent success as a movie studio, and recent acquisition by the Disney “conglom-co,” it is suddenly true that there is a reason for a single, interlocked product that can be MARVEL, under the umbrella of “House of Mouse.” However, the late 90's and the 00's were not kind to this kind of uniformity. Marvel began struggling for 'relevance' in the face of a shrinking comics industry, and so they tried to re-invent themselves with the Ultimate line. (Gah—how I hated the Ultimate line, but now is not the time for that). But even if they had not, this reboot was the doom required by the intrinsic assumption of Marvel. You see, Marvel – like many of their other mainstream counterparts – built a universe with a rotating timeline, where everything that happens in their comics is happening “now.” This constant present tense does make for easily engaging stories, but at the same time it ties the legs of the narrative. Comics take a while to come out, and because modern comics are telling complex, nuanced stories, this practice stretches days into months and years to the point that the whole hot mess eventually falls into itself. I am not going to bore you with the math here, but I trust you can see what I am talking about. Just how long can Peter Parker stay a teenager? Anyway, because comics refuse to tie their stories to any kind of realistic time frame, and yet refuse to leave themselves untouched by real-world events, the reboot becomes needful and, despite my impulse to hate it, well, that just doesn't matter. So this merger, which, as I understand it, will not be an entire reboot, will still leave few things unscathed. Only these things I hope:
  1. Captain America stays hopeful in spirit and believes in all the best of what America was meant to be. It worked in the movies, guys.
  2. Wolverine stays really short and really damned old. And that he is not a statutory rapist
  3. Nick Fury has his beginnings in the Golden Age. He is so much more interesting as a point-to-counter-point to Cap, and you miss a lot of that if they don't have the same roots.
  4. Bruce Banner is more Dr Jekyll and less Mr Hyde.
  5. Miles Morales finds a place and Peter finds MJ. The former deserves a chance, and the latter, a break.
Well, I suppose that's what I have to say. I don't know if it's because I really don't have an opinion, not being a die-hard Marvel fan, or I am just argued out, but, damn people, let Marvel do what they want. They were gonna do that anyway. Me, I am going to sit back and watch. From a respectful distance.

An Open Letter to Miles Morales

Miles_MoralesDear Miles, I hope this letter finds you well, especially in light of Marvel's recent announcement that they would be merging your Ultimate universe with the standard 616 universe into something called Battleworld, which sounds more like a post-apocalyptic movie from the 1980s. Of course, this announcement brings with it questions about your existence. What happens to you in Battleworld? Unfortunately, I doubt the outcome will be good. And, for that, I am sorry. I was talking with my friend, Rhys, about the announcement shortly after it was made, and I mentioned that I had severe doubts that you would survive the experience. He asked if your death had been confirmed, and I replied that it hadn't. Maybe it's the cynic in me, though, because I do believe wholeheartedly that it's coming. Peter Parker is one of Marvel's golden boys, and he always has been, and there is no way they're going to give him up, or let him down, or turn around and desert him. He has a longer history, and he's much more well-known to Spider-Man fans, and because of that, it makes more business sense to keep him around and let you go. And, I for one, think that's a dang shame. For starters, you are necessary. It isn't that Peter Parker isn't necessary, but he's old and overcooked. We've followed Peter Parker's crappy life for over fifty years now, and he's tired, and done. You, however, present new stories to tell, as you learn and grow and deal with your own past, present, and future. I think it's a shame that we'll never get to see those stories. Because, you ultimately represent a stronger voice, and one that is sorely needed in comics. There have been some amazing black and latino characters in comic book history, but we need more. Diversity is always a good thing in any medium, because your experience, your world, your life, your truth is so much different than mine. And that is why you are so important, because you speak to those with similar experiences in a way that Peter Parker will never be able to. The idea of a universal story is a myth, and when we lose the opportunity to tell different truths through our different stories, the medium as a whole suffers greatly. Of course, you had your haters for this very reason. You were different, and people said that you were the result of the United States electing a black president, or political correctness gone awry. I have my own opinions on the subject of intentional diversity, and maybe someday I'll write a bit about it. but let me respond to those accusations concerning you specifically. Don't ever imagine for one second that you weren't Spider-Man. At his essence, Spider-Man is an allegory for growing up, and black or white or Asian or Indian or whatever, Spider-Man stories need to explore these ideas. And you did that in your stories. Maybe it was a different coming of age story than we were used to, and some of us couldn't necessarily identify with all of your experiences, but your stories as Spider-Man fed this requirement, and it fed it well. You grew up into the mask of Spider-Man, and discovered, in your own way, why great power brings great responsibility. And, ultimately, that is why the return to the status quo of Peter Parker is so sad. Because, Peter is an adult, and he learned long ago that with great power comes great responsibility, and continuing to beat that dead horse feels as stale as stale can be. Eventually, Peter stops feeling like a kid trying to balance real life and superheroics, and more like the guy that sits down the aisle from me at work and spends all day complaining about how much he hates his 40-hour-a-week job, but he can't leave, because his dad got him this job, and he needs to pay his massive credit card bill that he ran up eating all-y0u-can-eat tacos every Tuesday night for four years in college. During our conversation, Rhys asked me why both you and Peter couldn't exist together in the same universe, and ultimately, that would most likely be a happy medium. But, I sincerely doubt that as well. Because the last time Marvel tried to make two Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) exist in the same universe, we got the Clone Saga, and the less said about that, the better. I still have major doubts that your fate is anything other than bleak. Ultimately, I'm sure this letter makes me sound like a grumpy old man, or a social justice warrior, or a weird combination of the two, but I don't really care. Miles, you were the best thing to come out of the Ultimate universe, and the freshest thing to come to Spider-Man in years, and your presence and voice will be greatly missed. Goodbye. Sincerely, Christopher David Lawton

A Galaxy Far, Far Away (Part 2)

SW1When we last left the Star Wars comics universe, Dark Horse's 20-year publishing license was set to expire with the end of 2014, with Marvel taking over all comic book publishings set within the Star Wars universe. I would make a joke about how this is kind of like this movie I once saw where an emperor rules an entire galaxy with an iron fist. I think it was Flash Gordon, but my memory fails me at the moment. Anyway, the end of 2014 has come and gone, and sure enough, the Star Wars collection on Dark Horse's store has gone silent, nary a book in sight. Meanwhile, Marvel is preparing their first foray into publishing new Star Wars comics with the upcoming Star Wars #1. Like the delicious Dark Horse series I talked about last time, this title is again set immediately following the events of Episode IV. I'm not entirely sure what the appeal of this era of the Star Wars canon is, but apparently, people really, really want to know what happens next. This new series does have the writing chops of Jason Aaron, which is notable in itself. And, if you have a chance to see any of the artwork, it certainly looks great. Even if the series is retreading covered ground, I think it will still be a great read. But, it is not what I'm talking about today. No, I want to talk about the last time Marvel released a comic called Star Wars. Oddly enough, the Dark Horse series was not the first comic titled Star Wars to cover this time period. In fact, shortly after the A New Hope was released, Marvel Comics published the very first attempt to tell stories about the events immediately following the first movie. Unlike the next two series to use this name, the first six issues of the 1977 series were a direct adaptation of the film's script, and for the most part, it's pretty good. Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, as can be expected in a comic from this period, but it's a pretty straightforward adaptation, and it does a decent job. What came after, though, is something unlike anything I've seen in the Star Wars universe and unlike anything we'll likely see in the future. I think the important thing to remember is that, at this point, there was no "after" A New Hope. Now-a-days, we have decades of expanded universe material to read through. We've seen the years up until A New Hope, we've seen alternate stories set during the movie, and we've seen novels and comics that cover the time period immediately after. But, back in 1977, there was only the movie. This was something I briefly touched on last time with the Star Wars Holiday Special, but I think it's even more glaring with this series. Once the adaptation of the movie is done, the series goes off the rails, leaving us with something more akin to the sci-fi pulp serials from the 1930s. The story immediately following the adaptation follows Han Solo and Chewbacca as they leave the rebellion, reward in hand. They are almost immediately ambushed by Crimson Jack, the most dreaded space pirate in the galaxy, who alleviates them of their burdensome fortune, leaving Han and Chewie high and dry, with the bounty on their head as high as ever. They escape to a world on the outer-rim, where they are asked by a poor village to protect the residents from a ruthless bandit, who steals their money and women. There's definitely a Seven Samurai vibe here, which makes a bit of sense. It's no secret that Lucas based one of the original drafts of Star Wars on Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress. It's no surprise that Roy Thomas might base the first post-movie story on another Kurosawa film. Where the comic reaches its highest levels of absurdity, though, is in the characters that Han recruits to fight the bandits. For example, he recruits a six-foot rabbit named Jaxxon, who kicks people with his abnormally large feet. While Star Wars has always had some interesting alien design, I think Jaxxon is probably the first rabbit in the Star Wars universe, and I think it's unfortunate that he hasn't been used since (at least to my knowledge). The story plays out exactly like you would think, with some of the heroes falling, while Han leads the remainder to victory over the bandits. The town is saved, and Han gets enough reward money to get away from the backwater planet. Jaxxon While this is all going on, Luke is sent on a top-secret mission to find a new Rebel base, since the base on Yavin IV was compromised during A New Hope. I find it interesting that both Star Wars series that have come out have dealt with this story idea almost immediately, and I wonder if Brian Wood was at all inspired by this earlier series. Unfortunately, the similarities between the two stories stop there. While searching for a new base, Luke crash lands on a water planet, is besieged by sea monsters and captured by salvagers, whose base of operations is a pirate ship complete with sails. Luke's distress eventually brings Princess Leia and Han Solo, who had been captured by Crimson Jack, and we're left with a silly little story about pirates on the high seas in space. As silly as it all sounds -- and it is definitely silly -- there is a certain charm to these old stories. Later entries into the Star Wars expanded universe got super serious about everything, and while the stories have been good, they are also remarkably dark. These old stories, though, are just fun. Absurd, yes, but fun, classic science-fiction, without the condescension that later "fun" characters, like Jar-Jar Binks, attempted to inject into the mythos. It does feel like an old science-fiction serial from the 1930s, which makes sense. Considering that in addition to KurosawaLucas was also inspired by these classic stories, this may be the piece of the expanded universe that comes closest to Lucas's original vision. So, take that for what it's worth. I will say this: if you get an opportunity to pick up a few of these classic issues, do so. It may not be the Star Wars you're used to, but it's definitely fun. I don't know what Aaron's new Star Wars series is going to be like, but I'm excited to read it. I think it has some solid talent behind it, and who knows, maybe this will truly be the definitive continuation of A New Hope that everyone is apparently clamoring for. I'll tell you this, though. If there is not a six-foot-tall, green rabbit, I will be sorely disappointed.

Quarterbin Follies #11: A Merry Mutant Christmas

generationxSo, this week is Christmas. This post isn’t really about Christmas, though. Not really. It is about memories. And it starts in the summer. It was 1994, and I was in the employ of a local Church camp. Out here in the wilds of the Nebraska plains, working at Church camp is a lot more than playing tether ball and singing “Kumbaya.” We spent a lot of time on the road and a lot of time off it, driving county to county to tend to this thing and that. Every little town was filled with little shops: gas stations and grocer's. These shops had newsstands, and these newsstands had comics, because out here, grocers still routinely sold comics into the early aughts. These little towns never did have so much selection, being small, but they always had X-Men, the market still riding high from the Fox-Kids cartoon, and the ToyBiz action figures (cross-marketing FTW!). It was then I was introduced to the “Phalanx Covenant.” Now, I had just discovered the X-men – or, rather, I had just started to develop any real interest in them – and so I was pleased to read these adventures and even more pleased to meet, “in-person,” the new teen characters: Husk, Sync and Skin. They were just fun to read about, and it was only a matter of months until these characters were rolled into their own book, Generation X. GenX2I followed Generation X on the newsstands and spinner racks of my own Scottsbluff, but I never really spent money on them. My money was already dedicated to Batman, which I may or may not have mentioned before. And so, unlike my cohort, Chris, I had not really personally connected with the comic and its characters. I did begin connecting with the “Generation,” though. Junior became a Senior became a Freshmen in college, and somewhere between the comics and the novels and the summer jobs, I began to notice a fraternity of commonality that I was a part of. Like others born between the Summer of Love and the Death of Disco, I discovered the discomfort of the boxes my baby-boomer parents tried to put me into. I felt the weight of the future and then awoke to the unenviable truth that I was – that we were – pretty much destined to make less than our parents. I lived in the dawn of the internet, and I was retro before it was cool. And, for the record, we weren't slackers, we were trying to find new ways to solve old problems, while deciding some problems weren't worth solving. Heh. What a bunch of self-important crap. Parallel with the maturation of Gen-X was the “Dark Age” of comics, when everything was edgier, and that was cool. It was in the middle of that darkness that Generation X, the comic, was born. It was a story about kids like me, in their late teens – still in school, but with the need to both define themselves AND save the world. Again, just like me. The book was chock full of the same youthful hubris I felt so burdened with at the time, but now I look back at and laugh. I say look back, because I have, after so many years, finally laid down some hard-earned currency on some Generation X books. In our local game shop, Game Time, I was able to buy the first four issues for cover price – including, the fancy-schmancy, foil-covered first ish! Hot Dog! So, the first four issues, written by Scott Lobdell and pencilled by Chris Bachalo, are actually three stories: issue #1, issues #2 and 3, and issue #4. In this review, I won’t go over everything, but I will hit the high notes. That said, enough with the dawdling! In the first issue, we are introduced to the team as everybody shows up at this brand new Xavier satellite school in semi-rural Massachusetts. The school is on land owned by the formerly villainous White Queen, Emma Frost, who serves as Co-Head with X-Men veteran, Banshee. (Side note: Banshee was always one of my faves, but I always wished they hadn't given him a woman's code name!) And so, we again meet Husk, Skin, and Sync, who are joined by veteran X-Man, Jubilee, and one of my least favorite characters ever: M. After some well-written fish-out-of-water moments, this cadre packs up to drive into Boston and meet up with another new student. Jonothan Starsmore, the boy without a face. GenX3Chamber, as he came to be known, was one of my favorite characters, and certainly my fav in Generation X. He was simply a poignant metaphor, having his heart explode with the very stuff that gave him life. Between that and the fact that he could not fit in with, or even speak normally to his peers, I really identified with Chamber. I still spent my money on Batman, though. Anyway, at the airport, Chamber and the rest are attacked by the mutant/vampire/monster Emplate, who is eventually sent packing, and Chamber starts to get on board with the whole “maybe my mutant power can be useful” schtick. The issue is pretty-much popcorn, but I did enjoy it a lot. At the end of issue #1, we are introduced to the diamond-hard Penance, who is as silent on the inside as out. Issues #2 and #3 deal with very, very limited exposition about the girl, and some action-scenes-as-team-building, and ends with a non-catatonic, but no less enigmatically silent Penance. Again, very much popcorn, but the creators are clearly trying to build an epic story, piece by piece. Issue #4 is a stand-alone, and is, in fact, Christmas-themed, as humorous Christmas borders and cartoons fill the spaces between the panels. For some reason, Banshee, M, Skin, Jubilee, and Sync are all bundled up and car-tripping through the Northeast. Back at the school, Chamber tries to connect with Penance, and Husk shares an awkward moment with Frost. But the main story happens with the other five, who find themselves witnesses to a hostage crisis. Locals say that a mutant has taken a teacher hostage, and the SWAT are talking snipers, so our merry band decide to intervene. GenX4As I said, issues #1-3 are clearly intended to set the stage for things to come, but #4 seems out of the field, a bit. The bigger reason for this is largely because the whole of the X-universe was then placed on a giant hold for the massive Age of Apocalypse crossover, but it also just isn’t great as a Christmas comic. Really, it ends poorly on a real down note, and it has nothing to do with the seasonal hope, family, or any other delightful stereotype. “Sorry, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, and they won't let the freak go to school.” It is really weird. On a whole, I really enjoyed re-reading through these old issues. The plots were pretty par-for-the-course, and not so much to write home about, but the dialogue is good, and very much the kind of thing we would have said to each other as teenagers. Lobdell did a good job capturing that mid-to-late nineties jargon that was second nature to me. But, it is in the relationships that Generation X really excelled. These characters have a realness to them, a realness complete with vulnerabilities and guardednesses, flaws and ideals. They carry baggage and strive for dreams. I loved that. For my own sake I am glad I got to grow out of that stage, but at the same time, I am grateful to remember it.

Chris's Comic Picks: Batman '66 – The Lost Episode

Two-Face-CoverI haven’t read any issues of Batman ’66, the comic book series based on the old TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. I’ve certainly seen the TV show, of course. I grew up watching reruns of this great show, and some of those classic episodes starring great actors, like Burgess Meredith and Eartha Kitt, led to many of my favorite childhood television memories. I’m well-acquainted with the TV series, and I would definitely count myself a fan. I’m also well-acquainted with Harlan Ellison, the curmudgeonly old sci-fi speculative fiction writer responsible for such great stories as “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” “A Boy and His Dog,” and, arguably, the greatest episode of the original Star Trek series, “City on the Edge of Forever.”  I’ve read Ellison before, and I’ve been fairly impressed, so when I heard that DC planned to release a special issue of the Batman ’66 series based on an unfilmed Ellison treatment, I decided it was time to check this series out. In the proposed episode, Batman and Robin seek to stop Two-Face, the scarred former district attorney, whose two-themed crime spree across Gotham has left the Dynamic Duo confused and off guard. It isn’t that the crimes themselves are odd – in true Batman ’66 fashion, all of Two-Face’s crimes are centered on the number two – it’s the aftermath that bewilders the caped crusaders. About fifty percent of the time, Two-Face returns the stolen goods plus interest. Batman explains it all by the flip of the coin. If the clean face comes up, the good side of Two-Face wins out; if the scarred face comes up, the bad side does. So far, all of this is fairly faithful to the comic book, which is why I can easily see how this treatment failed to make it to production. Don’t get me wrong. As a comic book, it’s surprisingly satisfying. Actually, I probably shouldn’t say that. It wasn’t really surprising, I guess. I mean, you have a treatment written by a great writer, turned into a comic book script written by one of the great comic book writers of the last three decades, Len Wein. All of this is drawn by José Luis García-López, one of the great comic book artists of the 20th century. All in all, this is a superstar crew, who have turned out a fantastic final product that I can’t recommend enough. It has action and comedy, witty dialogue and puns galore. It has many of the things that made the original series so much fun to watch, and in this sense, the story they’ve created for this “Lost Episode” issue of the series fits really, really well. On the whole, however – as an entire package – it feels like it misses the mark of what made the series so successful. If this would have gone to production, I think it’s safe to say that, like “City on the Edge of Forever,” Ellison’s treatment would have gone through substantial rewrites before the producers would even consider it close to being ready for primetime. Two-Face-66For starters, Ellison left the origin story of Two-Face intact. I understand that the origin story is important for Two-Face. He’s a former justice fighter in his own right, whose scarred disfigurement causes his sanity to snap. For a show with bright colors that was invariably marketed to kids, the origin story is remarkably dark. I mean, the Joker: you can write him off as a criminal in face paint, made all the easier by Cesar Romero refusing to shave his moustache. It’s hard, however, to see the scars on the side of Two-Face as anything other than what they are: an extremely painful disfigurement that would push anyone past the breaking point. It’s dark and twisted, and pretty much the exact opposite of the original Batman TV series. The other way I think it fails to miss the mark is in the character of Two-Face himself. Batman spends most of the “episode” talking about how Harvey is in there somewhere, and all Batman needs to do is get through to him to save him. This is of course seen in the ever-present coin, which makes numerous appearances, and even spurs he climax of the story, in a true Two-Face kinda way. The issue I have with all of this, though, is that Two-Face is, at his root, a very cerebral villain, and this seems to fly in the face of the ethos of the original series: clear-cut, good versus evil, Batman versus criminal. The series never dove into the mentally unstable side of the Joker, nor the different layers of the Riddler. The TV show eschewed much of the complexity of the comic books, which was still present even in the campy 60s stories, in favor of giving us themed villains, like King Tut and Egghead. You can create all the number-two-themed crimes you want, you’re still dealing with a mentally-unstable criminal with multiple personalities, who dictates his entire life by the flip of the coin. The lines between good and evil begin to blur, and this blurring is made all the more murky through dialogue between Batman and Two-Face, whereas the defender of justice attempts to get the criminal to remember who he was. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that feels a bit deep for a series where the Penguin steals jewels from an heiress and names his henchmen Hawkeye, Sparrow, and Swoop. The end result, I think, is… odd. Again, it’s not a bad comic book, but I’m not terribly sure it would have made a good episode of the TV series. Or, rather, a good episode of the TV series as I remember it. And that’s as a kid, dressed in his PJ’s, eating Batman cereal (a promotional tie-in for the 1989 film), while watching reruns on The Family Channel. And, maybe that’s the most telling part of my experience reading my first issue of Batman ’66. Maybe I’m just a victim of that classic themed villain, The Nostalgiac, whose crimes all involve some sort of childhood memories. And… and, now I just want to write The Nostalgiac into an issue of Batman ’66. Hey DC! Hit me up on my pager. We’ll talk.

Quarterbin Folllies #8: To Guard the Galaxy

Quill v. QuillLast Spring, my business partner and fellow ScoBlo nerd Barry Tetz texted me, “have you seen the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer?” I had not and said so. He told me I should stop whatever I was doing and watch it right now. I told him I would get to it when I got to it. This I did. It was unlike anything I'd seen in a trailer. It didn’t try to sell me on the movie by hinting at a plot, or by talking about how awesome the flick or the hero was. It didn't even claim to be sexy. It was simply fun, and right then and there, Hollywood earned $6.50 from me. I was utterly unfamiliar with the Guardians as a concept or as characters, my only exposure being a half-remembered issue of Marvel Two-in-One or Giant Sized Avengers (and, yeah, those weren't even the same guys). So, my reaction had nothing to do with fan loyalty (excepting the case that I have been very pleased with Marvel Studios’ recent output). Instead, having of recent years become quite a fan of space-travel action, I was pretty excited for August. This was not the case for my friend, Brandon. Brandon is a far piece younger than myself, but he has been into comics for proportionately longer than I have. And he was a huge Guardians fan. When he learned I'd seen the trailer (during a Munchkin match, if I’m not mistaken) he HAD to know what I thought, HAD to know if I'd read the comics. Brandon, he was cautiously, uh, cautious. “Optimistic” is too weak a word, but “excited” shoots past the mark. He was somewhere in the middle. Regardless, for the next few months, every time I would run into Brandon, the Guardians movie would come up, and his reactions, well, they were comical to say the least. He would increasingly be a little more nervous, a little more frantic. (I shouldn't make my friend sound like a nutter, but I found him funny enough to mention here. Courage, dude.) So, here it is, many whiles past August, and Guardians has come and gone from movie houses across this country. Also, I took the time to read some Guardians comics, so you all get two reviews—Call it Rhys's Two-in-One. In order of occurrence, I saw the movie first. It was, as advertised, an fun-and-adventure filled romp through the dark corners of Marvel's cosmic universe, complete with nods to nerd favorites like Howard the Duck and the Infinity Gauntlet (Infinity War, coming summer 2018--or not--I don't really speak for Marvel). It was just this last year that I discovered Chris Pratt on Parks and Recreation and the Lego Movie (and, oh, what I could say about that flick!), and so it was little surprise that he was enjoyable and fun in this movie. His Peter Quill, a rascal through and through, was more than a little endearing in an impetuous Han-Solo fashion. And the rest of the cast was good, too. There were some great cast dynamics and story interplay, even in the subtext. But it was Quill's story that I really want to key in on. In the film, young Peter has a close relationship, as many sons do, with his mother, a women stricken with cancer and on her last leg. Peter has never met his absentee father, but he has been told many wonderful things about him. Next thing you know, Mom dies, and the momma's boy Peter is kidnapped by aliens. Flash-forward twenty years, and the boy-who-never-had-a-father has grown into a man-without-a-clue under the watchful eyes of a band of space-pirates headed by Mallrats' Mr. Svenning. It is clear that Star-Lord (as he named HIMSELF) is stuck fast somewhere between ne'er-do-well and ineptitude. He is a compulsively fornicating frat-boy without the good sense to look before leaping. And it is these very leanings that wind him up in jail and in a position to become the captain of a team of misfits as out of place as he is. And that, for me, is the thing that sets the movie apart. Unlike his spiritual brothers, Malcolm Reynolds and Han Solo, Peter Quill has NOTHING going for him – at least, so far as he knows. He has no hope, no future, and only a tenuous grip on the past in the form of a mix tape from his dead mother. That is precisely where destiny, so called, finds him. He is a loser that suddenly has to learn from and lean on those around him to survive. And these guys look to him like a leader. It makes old Pete really stand up and take notice that he can be something more than a bottom-feeder. He can be a hero. Now, while this is not my favorite Sci-Fi story, not my favorite adventure story, and not my favorite tale of redemption, it is damn good. Real damn good, truth be told. Another one hits the back wall! DC drops it in the outfield, and Marvel is rounding second – no it's third – there is no stopping Marvel today, folks. (And last year, DC release RED 2. Hrm.) Image3 (1)As is wont with the big theatrical releases, there were any number of tie-in, cross-marketing products at our local Box Store (We have a Wal-Mart!). There, I picked up a mass-market trade reprint of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis. (Now, any folk that have known me in the real world are probably well aware of my mixed to poor opinion of Brian Michael Bendis, so bear that in mind). I instantly found that volume a strange choice for a mass-market tie in for several reasons. First, because of the author. Now, here I am not trying to say anything snide about Mr. Bendis (well, not here), but because the “modern” team was developed by the writing team of Dan Abbnett and Andy Lanning. They built the team, and their work was what worked up the fans to the point where this was a movie that made sense to make, before it made dollars and cents. The second big question that seemed to hover about the air was “Why this story?” I want to try to keep this as spoiler free as I can, so bear with me here, but Cosmic Avengers is hardly a jumping on story. After a $0.01 issue (that lays out the 616 origin of Peter Quill, but does not match the narrative of 1-3) we are introduced to a team that is not quite working together. We meet Peter's father, and we instantly learn that they do not get along. Furthermore, we are plunged neck deep into Marvel cosmic politics, so deep I had to read the “diplomatic” sections twice to understand what was going on (and even then, I am not convinced it makes sense). A big part of that feeling is, I know, because of Bendis' writing. I have never cared for it—it seems weak, like low-fired pottery. His narrative jumps about without explanation, and his dialog lacks the conversational fluidity of James Robinson or Geoff Johns, the expositional utility of Denny O'Neil or Roy Thomas, or even the realism and distinctive voice of Chuck Dixon. Bendis seems only to be able to make his characters just say, well, stuff. Stuff filled with attitude laced one-liners, sure, but it is just stuff. So, I know that part of my dissatisfaction with the trade is the voice of the author. The other part is the dichotomy between the cinematic Peter Quill and his 616 counterpart. In the book, Peter Quill is a man who watched his mother die, murdered as collateral damage in an interstellar war. Young and practically an orphan, Quill knows his father is out there. He has excelled, joined NASA, and formed himself into a specimen of heroic accomplishment on his quest to make it to space and seek out his absentee father. As I mentioned, in the film, Peter starts at the bottom and begins to climb out. He was a victim of circumstance trying to find his way and his footing. The 616 Peter Quill is still an ass, but he is not a feckless one. He has no need to become a hero, to be something greater than what he is, because his personal moral issues are not representative of a wholly unfit person. In the film, Peter's sexual history is just that, a metaphor for his scavenging, bottom-feeding lifestyle. In the book, Bendis paints a picture of a competent soldier who can do anything he wants. So, when he propositions questionable company, yes, he could do better, but he just likes a little skeez in his day. Once Cosmic Avengers closes in a fashion that hardly feels like a climax, the first issue of Tomorrow's Avengers is thrown in. This one follows the guardians as they go on about their lives and are eventually gathered together by Peter. It appears there has been some falling out, as they must assemble to face some unknown baddie. Or something. It left me wondering whether that last issue was supposed to be printed first. It just doesn’t seem to fit into any sort of order, and it ultimately hurts the quality of the trade and left a bad taste in my mouth. And I don't suppose that is the way to leave a book. And this is no way to leave a review, but I really have no idea where to go from here, so I suppose I will take a cue from Bendis and just stop.