Month: January 2007

Rant: Return of…

Death in comics has become an almost laughed-about topic. What used to be an incredibly important event that often changed the course of a title, death has become an overly used and mainly ignored regular in today’s comics. The reason is that characters don’t stay dead. Sure, in comics anything can happen.

A very long time ago, I made a list of deceased characters who established by belief that death was still somewhat important in comics. As long as these characters stayed dead, I was a believer. They were:

  • Gwen Stacy – Spider-Man’s first love, killed when a save by Spidey went awry, snapping her neck.
  • Robin (Jason Todd) – Hot-headed replacement for Dick Grayson, he was blown up by the Joker after fans voted for his death.
  • Ben Parker – Spider-Man’s beloved Uncle Ben’s death at the hands of a robber he could have stopped is the focal point of Spidey’s origin.
  • Bucky – Captain America’s WWII sidekick was blowed up real good during the same mission that Cap was frozen in a block of ice.
  • Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) – In one of Marvel Comics’ most touching stories ever, this hero was diagnosed with cancer and died surrounded by friends and enemies alike.
  • Thunderbird – One of the second wave of X-Men, he was the first ever killed in action, when he detonated a plane he was on in mid-air.

Some notable deaths were left off my list for various reasons. For example, Barry Allen, the longtime Flash didn’t make it because he was pretty much exactly replaced by the former Kid Flash, Wally West. If you didn’t know that there were two of them, you’d never have guessed. In fact, that’s why there is only one DC character to five Marvel characters. DC will recreate it’s characters, almost identically, just with a new origin. With little difference in the characters, there’s little reason to bring them back. Jason Todd was the exception because his death still affects Batman’s character, even after almost two decades later.

Gwen Stacy was eliminated early when I learned there had been a clone of her made. Sure, it’s not exactly her, but it’s really close…and the clone’s still alive. Jason Todd’s return was hinted during the acclaimed Hush storyline (it was actually Clayface in disguise), but then he was brought back for real as the mysterious Red Hood. Bucky, it turns out, never really died, but was instead captured by the Soviets and transformed into Winter Soldier. Captain Marvel was inexplicably brought back during the Civil War story with no reason other than…because.

And with Marvel’s return, the list passed the halfway point and my faith was gone. Sure when a big name hero like Thor or Colossus dies, you expect their return. However, these deaths were all important parts of the big picture, and being done away with, it’s like what they had achieved in death (legacies and whatnot) were utter rubbish. It really takes the fun out of death…or something.

So next time I see a character die, even in a major way (like Goliath in Civil War), I’m not going to think another thing of it. No doubt they’ll be back in a matter of time.

Ultimate X-Men: Cable (75-78)

The storyline Cable was four issues that are going to completely change Ultimate X-Men. First, Cable shows up, kicks the X-Men’s collective asses, then escapes with Marvel Girl. The X-Men go off to save her and fight off the Six Pack, then Cyclops and Professor X attack Cable himself. Cable gets away and…holy crap, Professor X is dead. That’s the spoiler right there. Charles Xavier was reduced to a bare skeleton…which of course opens the door for his eventual return. For the here and now, though, that’s big.

Let’s look at the little things, though. Kitty Pryde, who’s planning on leaving the school anyway, gets stabbed in the gut, giving her the definite reason to take off next issue. Rogue, bummed out by the return of her powers (and a reset from the previous idea of making her Rogue/Gambit), gets her frickin’ arm blown off, opening her to leave the team. Bishop shows up to stop Cable and is stranded in the future, making him an apparent new cast member of the book. Cable is actually Wolverine from the future, minus the healing factor, which turned out to mean absolutely nothing in this storyline, except a shock value moment.

And that’s really what this storyline was. Without the death of Professor X, this story would be nothing more than a “Whoa” storyline. Cable is Wolverine, Rogue loses an arm (which grows back, with help from Wolverine), and there you are. We’re still on the fence as to whether Marvel Girl has the Phoenix powers (yes, she does), so there’s plenty of room for development forthcoming.

It’s been announced that the team will have a major shakedown forthccoming, so here’s what I see happening – Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Wolverine, Iceman, and Storm will be hanging around, while the others shove off to obscurity. It’s already been solicited that Beast will shortly be returning, so you have your original lineup back (minus Colossus who has been greatly overlooked since Millar left) under the tutelage of Bishop. A breakdown like this might pull the book back to what made it good in the first place. It’s felt like it’s been hunting for an identity ever since Millar’s departure. Bendis jammed a crapload of characters in and then blew the whole thing up. Vaughan set up his own stage, but left before he could really do anything with it. Kirkman has certainly shook the entire thing up, and hopefully he gets it going in a better direction. Ultimate Spider-Man has an identity. The Ultimates (when it comes out) has an identity. This book needs one badly.

The next step for Ultimate X-Men is a crucial one if the book seeks to regain any of the momentum it had back when it started. A major shakedown may be exactly what can bring this book back to the level it was once at. A consistent artist wouldn’t really hurt either.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Clone Saga (97-104)

One of my biggest criticisms of the entire Ultimate line has always been that it seems the book is plowing through the famous storylines of the original characters far too quickly. Case in point, the final chapter of The Clone Saga has arrived, and we’ve just passed the 100 issues mark. That in itself is something worth mentioning about the odd timing of this story. Usually, highly marketable numbers (multiples of 50, usually) are used for big honking stories. Often either the first or last part of a storyline. That gives reason to double size the issue and bump the price up a dollar or two. Ultimate Spider-Man had the bonus sized issue, but it was part four of an eight part storyline. The bonus? A complete sum-up of everything that had happened in Ultimate Spider-Man to that point. Which, of course, would have fit a lot better had it shown up at the first or last part of a storyline, rather than smack dab in the middle.

As for the story itself, this would have been a huge turning point for the book had the ‘abort’ button not been hit in the final two parts, putting everything nicely back into place. For starters, Peter finally tells Aunt May that he’s Spider-Man after Gwen Stacy shows back up alive and well. May promptly kicks him out, which opens up for Peter’s father Richard to show up, which doesn’t surprise Aunt May at all. Turns out she’s known the whole time, but there’s no time for further explanations, because Nick Fury shows up and tells Peter he doesn’t get to be Spider-Man anymore – a decision that he announced waaaaaaay back in issue 77 at the close of the Hobgoblin story.

The story is that the government used Peter’s DNA (gained at the close of the Carnage storyline) to clone him several times. The clones escaped, one kidnapped MJ and as a means of protecting her, injected her with the Oz formula (creator of the Green Goblin), transforming her into a monster. She goes nuts, calms down, goes nuts again, then is cured by the Fantastic Four. Yay. All but two of the clones are killed – the survivors being Spider-Woman (a female clone with all of Peter’s memories…weird) and Scorpion (who will no doubt show up as a villain).

Towards the end of this storyline it looked like no outcome was planned in advance, because everything kind of just happened. Dr. Octopus was the head of the cloning project for no particular reason. Richard Parker turns out to be dead after all, with the one that showed up being another clone of Peter…which contradicts Aunt May’s reaction as well as not making any sense. Anyway, he kind of ages really fast in the issue and dies for no particular reason. Gwen Stacy becomes Carnage for six pages, then is taken away with no further mention of her anywhere. And finally, Reed Richards offers Peter a chance to cure his spider abilities…which for some reason comes as a big shock, after Nick Fury already told him it was going to happen. The book is called Ultimate Spider-Man for a reason. He ain’t losing his powers.

This story was really a victim of missing identity. The pieces were there, but there was simply too much crammed in, even in an eight part story. There’s an epilogue coming up next issue that looks to break up Spidey and Kitty, and everything will be good as new. Well…good as old, really. Hopefully the book can rebound from this mess, especially with longtime penciller Mark Bagley set to leave the book.

End of New Comic Day Posts

As I bought my comics today, I thought about updating my new comic day posts for the week, but as I got to the setup page of this wonderful site, I found that I still had last week’s draft saved, awaiting completion. That’s when I realized I will never keep up with writing a blog a week on each issue that comes out. There just simply isn’t enough to say. So instead, I’ll give a rundown on when storylines finish. As for books that don’t exactly have set storylines (like Walking Dead for example) I’ll do my best to divide them up on my own.

So shut up and leave me alone…but keep reading.