I'm Just Sayin'…#17

Hello one and all – in this latest installment I’d like to start you off with some cartoon-related news…if you’re anything like me you’ve been jonesin’ bad since this particular series disappeared from Nickelodeon back in November, but it looks like the drought is just about over!

YEAH, MAN! – AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER concludes with the final ten chapters to the BOOK OF FIRE. July 14 – July 19. That’s all of next week, people – when the clock strikes 8, make sure you’re home!

IGN.com has a great interview up with Producer Greg Weisman, whose insanely talented crew has just finished writing and voice recording the second season of THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. It’s about six pages long and offers a ton of insight into where Weisman’s coming from in the conceptualization of the series overall, and things he’d love to do as time goes on. There’s one quote from Page 4 of the interview, that really gave me chills:

Down the road, I’d like to be able to expand it a little bit. But from our point of view, and this is important, it’s 2008, but it’s 1962 re-done as 2008. So this is not, from our point of view, a Marvel Universe jam-packed with costumed characters. It’s really the early days of the Marvel Universe. So even in my head, yeah, the Fantastic Four are there, because they pre-date Spidey. Hulk is around. Ant-Man is around. But the Avengers haven’t assembled yet. Professor X hasn’t gathered up his earliest students into an actual fighting team yet. This isn’t a world that’s jam-packed. From my point of view, Donald Blake hasn’t been to Norway yet and Tony Stark hasn’t been to Vietnam or Afghanistan or wherever yet. In terms of our series, we’re just not there yet. Now as the series progresses, I’m hoping that we have the opportunity to explore some of these things. I mean, Captain America is still an iceberg! That’s kind of the mindset. We’ll see what happens when the time comes, but right now we’re really, happily, focused on the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel Universe.

Anybody else thinking what I’m thinking? Has Marvel Studios lucked out and found their very own Paul Dini? I’ll tell you, for someone who still hums the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED theme song at random, the prospect excites me to no end…!!

Now on to the main course of discussion this week, a three-part Marvel miniseries that I can’t recommend enough. You know how just about every Marvel hero at some point was a total jerkhole who had some kind of eye-opening experience that turned them into heroes? Well, according to Matt Fraction’s original interviews with Newsarama

…This is the story of Thor as that jerkhole. A story, to my recollection, has largely gone untold.

This was originally solicited as a one-shot entitled THOR: AGES OF THUNDER, but the story just got bigger and bigger, into AGES OF THUNDER, followed by the recently released THOR: REIGN OF BLOOD, and the forthcoming conclusion in THOR: MAN OF WAR. In this trilogy, Matt makes use of an the idea that Mike Oeming conceived while writing THOR: DISASSEMBLED, where Ragnarok is a cycle that continuously perpetuates itself…

Ragnarok occurs, the gods die, are reborn, they go through it again. Fraction takes this mechanism and uses it to tell an incredibly entertaining and unapologetically dark tale in which you bear witness to a God of Thunder growing increasingly impatient with the tantrums and excesses of his fellow gods.

And increasingly impatient with the burden of being the go-to god when someone (read: LOKI!!) creates a problem that Odin calls upon his hammer to solve. Such as when Loki lured the Enchantress into the clutches of a Frost Giant to serve as his bride. The Enchantress, of course is the only one that can pick the golden apples from the Worldtree Yggdrasil, that grant the gods their youth and vitality…

…so you can see the problem that creates when the supply starts running low. And of course, who does Asgard turn to but Thor. But as we’ve noted before…

Thor is growing very tired of being that guy. It’s not to say he will shirk his duty at the end of the day. Just means he’s starting to like it less and less, and that frustration is already written clearly on his face.

Eventually, it is the combination of his fellow gods’ machinations and eons of pent-up rage and frustration that will lead us into Part Three: when a godsized hissy-fit from the Enchantress causes the dead to rise anew on Earth, once again Loki decides to slip in a little of his special brand of treachery, turning Midgard’s savior into its latest plague…

Such a compelling tale, not unlike the Star Wars prequels – where Palpatine once transformed Anakin into Darth Vader, we get to see why Odin transformed Thor into Donald Blake. On the one hand we already know that Thor needed to learn humility, but after reading this miniseries, you also get the sense that the guy just plain needed a break!

And one thing you come to learn about Matt Fraction as you read this series, is that he writes tales of mythically styled intrigue VERY well. You can very easily get the sense of where his contributions to THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST lay as compared to Ed Brubaker’s, for instance. If Marvel and Brian K. Vaughan could get their schedules together on a DOCTOR STRANGE ongoing, Matt would be a great candidate to follow once BKV had his fill.

But I’ll tell you though, if there’s anything that Matt Fraction deserves an Eisner for, it’s the return of the omniscient narrator. The narration he uses here, as he did in IRON FIST, is full of personality and wit…such as the Enchantress’ quiet despair over a deal between a mason and the gods in Part One…

…to comical moments involving Loki weaving his lies…

…and parenting techniques that have stood the test of time.

But as I’ve said before, this is indeed a very dark tale, and as such, definitely one you would file under “Mature Themes.” There is no shortage of blood and brutality – these are Vikings, after all – as we see Thor’s preferred method of taking down a Frost Giant in Part One…

…to say nothing of the means by which the Enchantress procures a necklace from a trio of dwarf-smiths in Part Two…

Now this is a very uncomfortable scene that is crafted quite well nonetheless…there is a sense of progression in the Enchantress’ character, showing how she came to be the alluring villainess of the days of Lee and Kirby; in Part One we see a Goddess pulled away from her proper task, and with her descent into Nidavellir, we bear witness to her transformation into, well…

…a dirty, dirty girl.

So very dirty.

This effort by Marvel Comics has all the makings of a sleeper hit, and likely one that everybody would be talking about right now, if it hadn’t been released in a summer already hyped to the hilt with invading alien shapeshifters and time travelling bullets. So, yeah – THOR: AGES OF THUNDER. THOR: REIGN OF BLOOD. They’re already out there waiting for you. Go forth and buy. And if I haven’t sold you on this story yet, I’ve got two words for you: BLOOD COLOSSUS.

Where else are you gonna get this kind of imagination? I’m telling you, folks – I myself hadn’t even been looking for it when I hit the shop that shipment week, and I’ll tell ya – in a time when we actually have to budget our comic book purchases, I’m glad I spent the money.

Just sayin’, is all. And coming from a guy who was actively avoiding any Marvel comic with a zombie in it, that’s sayin’ plenty.

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