Following up on the news that Inhuman would be getting delayed by months, Bleeding Cool is reporting a major bombshell that Matt Fraction will no longer be writing the title citing “creative and editorial differences.” The book was meant to be a reintroduction of the Inhumans in a big way to the Marvel universe under Fraction’s direction but he has been replaced on the title by writer Charles Soule, who is coming up in a big way at the moment penning books like Superman/Wonder Woman, Letter 44, as well as Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk # 1.
I don’t want to speculate about what sort of creative decisions may have been made with regard to the series that would have caused Fraction to walk, but I’ll stake my reputation on it being Marvel not wanting to dedicate a six issue arc to Chip Zdarsky’s experiences with the terrigen mists that gave him the power to ink and color his own artwork with lavish strokes of his genitals. [*please note that I do not actually believe this except I sort of do and will not redact it until Chip Zdarsky releases a statement otherwise.]
Shockingly, the news has broken that the Matt Fraction penned and Joe Mad illustrated Inhuman # 1 originally slated for a January release will be postponed to a later date (Update: We’re hearing now issue one will ship in April with issue 2 to follow in MAY). All orders for the issue have been cancelled by Diamond Comics Distributors. Considering I recently made a post about how Sandman Overture being late over at DC was a remarkable blunder, I have to reiterate that idea here as well for Marvel. Inhuman spins out of the Inhumanity one shot moving into a full series and rumors have been swirling that it is the blueprint for how Marvel can have “mutant” style characters in their cinematic universe while not stepping on Fox’s toes. Fox’s film rights to the mutant characters are solid and unflinching, so it is not surprising that Marvel might want to have an equivalent in their cinematic world.
The book being late has further repercussions as the Inhumanity tie-ins are already starting to trickle in. Avengers Assemble hits stores today with that branding at the top of the cover. If the book ships that much later than expected it could affect other books in the process. I think that a good portion of people expected this to happen when they saw Joe Madureira’s name on the solicit, but it is still a disappointment that such a hyped event is allowed to ship late.
I gushed like hell over issue 1 and issue 2 of Sex Criminals. I thought they were some of the best comic book work to come out this year. The book is different and unique without being a book that insists upon its own cleverness. No, the book is unique by virtue of how honest it is. Sex Criminals is a book about two people who can stop time with their orgasms but at the same time it is a book about people. People discovering what it means to be vulnerable and learning what it means to discover each other slowly throughout the course of a relationship. There is a palpable sense of energy to our lead characters as well as a transcendent level of honesty in the storytelling. These characters feel like people and the story feels stronger for it. The moment in issue three where Jon watches as Suzie belts out “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen (in one of the most unintentionally funny bits of licensing snafus I’ve ever seen) is as honest a moment as I have ever seen on a page. I know I can point to the exact moment where I looked at my girl and knew that she was special and unique in a way nobody else could be and I felt that for Jon with Suzie here in issue three. Chip Zdarsky’s artwork makes the scene explode with dynamic intensity and every element of the moment is perfectly captured on panel.
Speaking of Zdarsky’s art, he can draw the hell out of a dude getting nailed in the face with a dildo.
And that boys and girls is why this book is so good. The back and forth of real human emotion and character worked mixed with the absurdity of a man getting a green rubber wiener thrown in his face. This is a book where these two people use their powers to rob a bank and yet it is that element of the story that takes a back seat to the character work. We want to know why they’re choosing to use their powers in this way. All of it feels believable and you invest yourself in their story this way. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have done something wonderful here. I really cannot wait until this comes out in trade so I can buy ten copies and distribute it to people who ask me what comics they should be reading.
I spent a good part of my time as a comic book fanatic turning Image Comics into a punchline. We all remember the nineties. Now it has the nostalgic place in our memories the way that previous decades did. You can use the nineties as a period piece now. We’re far enough removed from it to work. The way Scorsese made us look at the seventies and eighties when he made Goodfellas, I can imagine someone doing for the nineties; distilling the time period down to its elements and showing us what we were all too caught up to see. I look at the Image comics output of that era and, generally speaking, it was nonsensical man-child crap that was disposable then and outright embarrassing in hindsight. So of course as a know-it-all nerd I would joke about how Image was a garbage imprint and that they could never put out anything worth reading. I feel like the last ten years have been a veritable challenge to every notion anyone ever had of Image. Kirkman’s Walking Dead and Invincible were revolutionary. Bendis cut his teeth on Powers there. It has become the creator-owned slice of heaven that the founders of the company intended it to be. Books like Morning Glories, Saga, Lazurus, and Thief of Thieves are the sort of thing that prove creator owned comics can be done to perfection and reinvent ideas associated around a single company. The last ten years have been a controlled burn in making me eat my words about Image as a company.
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals is going to be another one of those books from Image that makes everyone sit up and take notice. While DC comics relies on gimmick covers to sell books with characters that nobody recognizes and Marvel works harder on mining their character catalog out for TV and Film adaptations, real visual storytelling is taking comics in the direction it needs to go and the one company publishing those books right now is Image. Fraction and Zdarsky give us a book that is unlike anything else on the stands. Visually or narratively, I dare you to find something that compares. The voice of our lead character recounts the story of her oddball sexual education in comedic and dramatic flashbacks that give us a good sense of who she is as a fully realized concept before ever getting to the crux of the book’s premise. We learn that she finds herself stuck in time, a swirling mass of colors and euphoria enveloping her as she reaches sexual climax. This is obviously a frightening and unnerving experience for her, one for which there is no context or assistance readily available. Suzanne is mysterious, and a mystery herself, but she is also fully fleshed out and her quirks and tics seem like logical and organic reactions to stimulus from the character’s background. The dialog that spews forth from her may seem hyper-realistic in the style of a Diablo Cody screenplay at times, but while Juno was just some quirky teenager, Suzanne’s sensibilities and personality traits can be traced back to her childhood trauma. What we see of her is a mix of the shield she puts up to cover her pain and frustration as well as the resigned true self that she tries not to let slip. This is a well written, character-driven book. Matt Fraction has really outdone himself here.
Chip Zdarsky’s artwork makes the book sing though. His artwork is unlike anything you will see at DC or Marvel. His line-work is crisp and doesn’t fall into the overly realistic post-Hitch style that we see so much of nowadays but instead presents us with clean artwork that flows from panel to panel effortlessly. He has a mastery of body language and facial expression that this book requires to truly work. Suzanne emotes more than a little bit with her body and a look in her eyes or the sloop of her shoulders holds as much meaning as any of her dialog. This is a book about sex, after all, and how important are the little details like the positioning of a hand or the angle of someone’s face when trying to convey a sense of intimacy? Zdarsky seems to understand this and peppers the book with expressive, emotive artwork that may not be everybody’s cup of tea but serves this book better than any artist out there right now.
In all seriousness, this is a compelling book. If you like truly well written characters and intriguing stories I suggest you buy this issue. My shop ordered a metric ton of them. Because myself and the store manager believe that the market for good, outside-the-box comics is only growing and we want people to have the opportunity to read something like this at its debut. Don’t kick yourself like you do for not getting in on Walking Dead, Invincible, or Saga at the ground floor. Pick this one up and remember just how engaging comic books can be.
I really enjoyed the last Hawkeye series with Mockingbird. I’m not a huge fan of the character and so I don’t mind seeing different takes on him from different writers. I’m certainly not going to pitch a bitch about the way Marvel used him in The Avengers on YouTube the way some people did. I will admit that the current re-design of his costume strips him of some of what makes him visually unique, but his costume is systemic of the current trend in comics where a stripped down sense of utilitarian design work is en vogue. However, a costume does not make the character. So is the book focused on a character worth reading about?
Matt Fraction and David Aja reteam and bring back some of the magic they worked with Immortal Iron Fist on a character who needs a steady hand more than just about any solo character in Marvel’s stable. With his profile raised considerably because of his appearance in The Avengers Hawkeye needs to validate his own existence somewhat. He isn’t a particularly interesting character most of the time. He’s a side dish to the main entree in team books. He’s someone who is born to share the spotlight. Fraction luckily is one of those writers who really knows how to dig deep and find the things that work about a character and this is one of his strongest debut works since Iron Fist or Invincible Iron Man. I personally have been enjoying the majority of his work but will admit that he can fall into a little bit of a lull sometimes. His Uncanny X-Men run was about 50/50 and Fear Itself had none of his usual flair.
With Hawkeye, Fraction seems to get back to the nitty gritty. We get maybe a page and a half of Barton in costume and the rest of the issue follows his exploits while he’s not on duty. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a hero story. It isn’t about him going to pick up milk or wash his car. Instead we get a closer look at how Barton views himself; in the context of his role as an Avenger, in the shadow of Captain America, and as a simple man without powers standing next to men who can shatter planets. Fraction utilizes the first issue to tell a stand-alone story that explains why Barton does the things he does and where his moral code comes from. And Fraction tells us more about Barton through the way he treats a simple dog than most writers do with an entire series worth of heroic exploits. I know some might say its a cheap trick to play the wounded animal card, but Fraction nails it and nobody can really deny how effective the issue is.
I was planning on giving the series a pass entirely but the first issue was good enough that I can see myself following it through. I know for a fact that there are less deserving books that I’ve stuck with for the duration. I figure this one isn’t going to disappoint me anytime soon.
I know that this year has been a bit different when it comes to the content I’ve posted on the blog. After leaving my job at the comic shop back in December I had to make the painful decision to alter my comic buying habits to accommodate my new lifestyle. As such, I’ve been getting my comics from an online retailer, mailed out once a month and as such I haven’t had much luck posting real reviews on a timely basis. It’s just a sad byproduct of my current situation. Another byproduct has been the steady decline of my interest in the mainstream comics scene. I have, sadly, been dropping titles I once considered vital with each passing month and have instead been focusing on creator-owned work that manages to resonate with me more than anything that DC or Marvel sends down the chute every month.
I never thought I’d see the day that I’d say this but I may just be done with DC comics. Lately the only books that I can say I’ve enjoyed fully are Morrison’s Batman Inc., Palmiotti & Gray’s Jonah Hex, Cornell’s Action Comics and Gail Simone’s Secret Six. Roberson’s handling of the Superman book has also been admireable. But that’s five books out of a line that will see 52 titles jump started with a new # 1 issue.
Dan Didio was quotes in the USA Today article as saying:
In September, more than 50 more first issues will debut, introducing readers to stories that are grounded in each character’s specific legend but also reflect today’s real-world themes and events. Lee spearheaded the redesign of more than 50 costumes to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old.
“We looked at what was going on in the marketplace and felt we really want to inject new life in our characters and line,” says Dan DiDio, who co-publishes DC with Lee. “This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”
Fans around the internet have been in an uproar over this and I have to say that I understand where some of them are coming from, in light of this news coupled with the rumors that have been coming out that have not yet been substantiated such as Lois & Clark’s marriage being lost in the new continuity as well as several creative team changes that are less than exciting including a possible loss of Gail Simone from Birds of Prey. The last time that happened it sucked just about all the energy from the book and it was left to die a slow death. On the other hand Grant Morrison is rumored to be taking over the central Superman title and it is confirmed we will be getting a Justice League book written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, in a move that clearly parallels Marvel’s decision to put Bendis on New Avengers several years ago.
The problem I have with the Justice League book being handled by Johns & Lee, aside from the fact that the creative team is almost begging for publishing delays, is that it seems like they’re aping Marvel’s formula several years after it has already gotten stale. Granted, DC could never make such a move any time after Marvel does anything similar because it’s either too soon or too late after the fact for it not to seem like a stunt or playing catch up. My philosophy when it comes to the DC v. Marvel debate comes down to the way Marvel treats its writers. They sell the writers in a way that makes them out to be superstars. Marvel presents their writers as the A-list. The cream of the crop. Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Dan Slott, Jason Aaron, Nick Spencer, et. al are sold as being equal commodities to the characters they write. DC does not seem to do the same for their writers outside of Morrison or Johns. They have a SMATTERING of amazing talent in people like Chris Roberson, Matt Sturges, Gail Simone, Paul Cornell, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, and so many others. But you don’t see DC publicizing them like walking gods of creativity the way Marvel does with their stable.
The whole line-wide reboot thing reads like a desperate stunt. DC loves to pull stunts. The repeated weekly series plan alone shows that. This stunt in particular will alienate a great deal of the fanbase and probably lose them for a good long time. They say that the point of all this is to garner new readers by eliminating the confusion surrounding certain characters and their continuity but they are failing to understand the simple reason why the comics market isn’t viable to younger readers and that’s that comic books are not cost effective to the consumer.
The article in USA today also mentions that beginning in September, DC comics will be going same-day release with digital and print copies. This is a major leap forward in the digital market but raises even more questions. Are the digital comics going to be significantly cheaper than the print counterparts? If DC wants to make me pay full price for a copy of the new Superman # 1 at $2.99 when I can get it from an online retailer for anywhere from a 10-40% discount, then what is the impetus for me to switch to digital? The price debate is probably the most important hurdle that the comics industry will have to face in the coming years. I bought a blu-ray movie yesterday for $8.99. That’s two plus hours of entertainment plus special features for roughly ten dollars with tax applied. A comic book is 20 pages of content for about $3.25 after taxes are applied and the best case scenario is usually a ten minute read-time if there’s actually any dense content to the book. If you’re trying to attract new readers, you have to give them more bang for their buck. I respect DC for trying to lower the cost of buying comics, but the content provided for the price is a huge turnoff to people who aren’t already hooked. Add to that the fact that comics aren’t readily available anywhere outside of specialized shops and you’ve got a major dilemma. All the continuity stunts in the world will not save you from that pitfall. Comics are being displayed at Barnes and Noble now, but I’ve seen that selection and it’s not very impressive and not too well organized.
I don’t want to sound like a doomsayer, foretelling the end of comics or anything like that. The industry will adapt and survive in some manner, because too much money stands to be lost if they don’t. But the logic that has gone into DC’s latest stunt boggles the mind of anyone who takes the time to look at it carefully. Perhaps this whole article will be rendered worthless when more information becomes available. I hope everything does work out for the best. I still have friends who work in the retail level of the industry, and all the writers and artists who I’ve developed a rapport with since developing this blog don’t deserve to see their chosen profession crumble because the companies don’t know how to adapt. All I can do is sit and wait and see if what DC has to offer is worth paying for.
According to Marvel, Thor will be undergoing a few changes in April. Apparently the mainline title will revert to its original namesake, Journey into Mystery and current writer Matt Fraction will be launching a new ongoing Mighty Thor title with artist Oliver Coipel. This is nice news, as Coipel has done some amazing artwork for Thor in the past and I definitely want to see more of his work with the character. Journey Into Mystery will be helmed by writer Kieron Gillen who himself has done some decent work with the character in recent months.
All of this is none too surprising as a similar rearranging of Iron Man’s titles came about when the first movie was a success. Fraction was involved in that little endeavor as well if you will recall. This new move seems even more highly reminiscent of that particular marketing push due to a variant cover that is essentially the teaser poster for the film. I don’t blame Marvel for wanting to capture a bit of that audience, as I’m sure Invincible Iron Man was the jumping-on point for more than a few readers. Though I’m sure the Ultimate Thor collection will be a more appealing choice to mainstream readers as it requires no longterm commitment or familiarity with continuity.
I will make no guesses as to how long the changes to the character line will last. I’m not a psychic, I just read the stuff.