The Gold Standard #27

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The biggest issue of ongoing serialized story telling is that while your average story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, an ongoing serialized book has no planned end. How can it? How can a book have the leverage to continue for countless issues if the writer has already planned the ending? It would mean that the story is sticking to an incredibly strict bible, one in which actions are dictated by plot overviews long before the pencil hits the paper to tell the tale. In all honesty, that kind of a story structure is actually incredibly beneficial to long term review on a title. Look at Starman, Sandman, Rising Stars, Planetary. Set beginning, set endings, the middle served to create more importance going in for the final climax. Would you have cared about Jack Knight’s journey to be a hero if all you had was him getting the rod, and then him retiring with his head held high? Of course not, the hero’s path is the entire point of the title. For those who read Rising Stars, would you have cared about everything coming full circle if you hadn’t gotten to follow the lives of the Specials from the start to the end? Probably not, right?

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You get that option with some books, usually where the writer creates the franchise, or at least reinvents it. The less hands digging into the honey pot the better, as the more writers that try and leave their mark the less the story seems to mean. Though this isn’t to devalue the importance and quality of your average serialized book, quite the opposite in fact, this is just being said as a way to dedicate added importance to other titles. Any book can have a great issue, or a great run, but it takes a finite run on a book to earn such an honor. So while yes, we can say that Brian Bendis had an amazing run on Daredevil, the story continued after he left with Ed Brubaker, and soon to come, Andy Diggle. Jack Knight, on the other hand, hasn’t said a word on panel since James Robinson concluded his series, when DC allowed the writer to retire the character that he created and made special. They could have just passed the book off to the next writer, but they realized how it would ruin something special and left it at that.

That’s cool to me, that a company will sign away the rights to one of their characters in the interest of maintaining artistic integrity. Sometimes the story needs to end, and it’s not the worst thing ever. Just like how some books truly do not need to have sequels, chief among them being Kingdom Come, which had an ending that made the book work in one volume. The Kingdom came out and was a mess of crap that devalued the original story to the point where it had to be moved to an alternate timeline that was like Kingdome Come before being completely forgotten. Thy Kingdom Come was a good attempt at a follow up, but to be honest it wasn’t until we saw the future of Kingdom Come Superman that it truly felt like it was more than just a story with the JSA and an alternate reality Superman.

Ultimates is another fine example, as the first two volumes by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch were critically acclaimed masterpieces, the Avengers with a modern and realistic twist. Brilliantly handled, beautifully rendered, completely priceless story. So of course Marvel shoveled out Ultimates 3 with Jeph Loeb and Joe Mad, and quickly announced Ultimates 4 for Loeb and McGuinness. Ultimates 1 and 2 each ran 13 issues. Ultimates 3 ran 5 issues, and Ultimates 4 was just flat out cancelled. Marvel realized that they’d beaten the horse to death and then kept on whipping it.

Or take a look at Marvel Zombies. The original was a fun take on a concept that hadn’t really been done before, in what would happen if the super heroes were zombies. They got Robert “Walking Dead” Kirkman to write it, and the first miniseries was AWESOME. So of course they did a follow up the next year, Marvel Zombies 2, and they got Kirkman to come back for more. The sequel was not nearly as good, but it was still fun. Of course, we also wound up getting Dead Days, a fine lead in to the Zombieverse, and Marvel Zombies vs The Army of Darkness which came out of fucking nowhere but still was fun. Then we got Marvel Zombies 3 by Fred Van Lente. Not to knock on Fred, since MZ3 was a fun miniseries, but it felt absolutely nothing like the ones that came before it. Nothing at all. And I figure that the upcoming MZ4 will feel even less like it. They’re just using the name for all it’s worth until the value is completely drained.

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Kind of like Wolverine.

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$$$$$$$$$$$$$

It’s a rare occasion when an ongoing book has a shift in who is writing it without a jarring change, where one writer flows seamlessly into the next. Brubaker taking Daredevil from Bendis, Swierczynski taking Iron Fist from Brubaker and Fraction, Tony Bedard taking Birds of Prey from Gail Simone. It’s not easy to do, not at all. I mean, good God, look at Ultimate X-Men. Even when the oncoming creative team is capable, they never seem to find two to go in a row.

There aren’t enough long, single creator driven runs in comics these days. Brian Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers, Tom DeFalco on Spider-Girl, Geoff Johns on Green Lantern (and even that is only three years) and JSA (something like nine years, almost non-stop, I think), and Peter David on X-Factor are the only ones that really come to mind. For some reason giving a writer and artist team X amount of issues to tell a story arc has grown more popular, or to just give a writer a book for about two to three years before shuffling them elsewhere. Remember when JMS wrote Amazing Spider-Man for six years? Or when Mark Waid did Flash for what felt like the entire 90’s? How about when Chris Claremont wrote Uncanny X-Men for sixteen years?

Sure, eventually you need to pull a writer off of a book to freshen things up, but there’s no harm at all in letting one person give their voice to a book for an extended period of time. After all, just look at Robert Kirkman. His Ultimate X-Men was horrid, but check out his Image work. Invincible just hit issue #60 last week, and it’s among the most consistent books on the market. Or how about Walking Dead, which is one of the most beloved books in the world (if you read the Internet). He owns his properties, he controls them. He passes them off to other writers if he wants (Brit, Atom Eve), but they are HIS. And that’s just kinda cool. He has bosses (I guess, but then again, he is a partner at Image these days so who knows?), but they can’t tell him to kill off people in his books. Or to add in sidekicks. Or to do tie-ins. All his choice.

Now on to the best news I’ve heard in months. While this past week marked the last printed issue of Amazing Spider-Girl, it was also announced that the book is doing digital! Starting in April we already knew that Spider-Girl was moving to Amazing Spider-Man Family, but now we also know that she’s going to be in a new ONLINE monthly!

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IT’S A SPIDER-GIRL WORLD AND I LOVE IT!

There was also the announcement that Mark Andreyko would be writing backup stories in Streets of Gotham featuring everyone’s favorite Kate Spencer. I’m going to count this one as a win for me, since I originally predicted him to just flat out write the book because Kate is his baby.

So that means that my two favorite little books that could are not fully dead, and that they’ll continue to be in print, and written by the creators who made them…and made them famous. That’s respect by the publishers, that’s giving niche characters a chance to thrive even after sales dwindled past where estimates would place them.

The market may not be as strong now as it could be, but as long as little titles like these survive, things are going to look up. Abandoning the new and fresh tastes, the books that stay just outside the usual comfort zone spandex box, is a good way to just suicide the business altogether. As well as the big name books sell, you can’t run a multi-national comic book company on Batman and Wolverine alone.

And you can’t build a character to a point where fans care and want to read about them unless you give the character a good, solid, and consistent voice. The kind that can’t be provided by committee. The kind that requires the personal touch that can only come from the pen of a single writer.

As a rainbow grew round the sun all the stars I’ve love who died came from somewhere beyond the scene you see these lovely people played just for me

Fucking jeez, did EVERY X-Men title need to come out in one week?

X-Force is amazingly consistent, and I loved this lead in to Messiah War, even if it did come with at least one casualty. That’s one thing about Kyle and Yost, they aren’t afraid to put up a body count if they can make a good story out of it. I like that, especially when you add in that they know the characters well enough to be able to throw in three names that will make you even more intrigued. I’m hoping for the best….they chose three of my favorite X-characters that were in limbo and already killed one of them. I don’t want to lose Julian too! CYCLOPS IS A DICK!

Dark Avengers is fun. I hate the price tag, and so does Glazer, but we’re both reading it and calling it fun. Maybe it’s because Bendis is doing Ellis with less science and more wit? Maybe it’s because he gets to use Doom? Or because Norman is in armor? I think it might just be because Bendis is letting himself have some fun instead of just grinding out his workload. I do like BMB, and his Avengers stuff is usually his best. Always glad when he doesn’t disappoint.

At some point Uncanny X-Men went from Ed Brubaker writing it, to Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction co-writing it, to just Matt Fraction. How and when did that happen? I mean, I’m not complaining since this is the best the book has been in ages, but I still want to know. Terry Dodson is AWESOME on this book too, such an improvement on Greg Land and yes, I WILL remind you of this every month I see it. I was already loving Hank’s science team, but having Warren go Archangel just completely made the scene. Not so much because it was just brutal and bad ass, but because of Hank’s simple and honest reply to it. Fraction gets Beast in a way few writers truly do. Oh, and someone awesome made a last page return looking better then they have in years.

I love Supergirl, but I have a problem with the current arc. The question is “Who is Superwoman?”, but we only know the names of about four Kryptonian women. Kara, Alura, Thara, and Ursa. Supergirl, Supergirl’s mom, Flamebird, and Zod’s Bitch. So who is Superwoman? I’d be able to guess if I could name more Kryptonians!

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Who is she? Even if you told me, I probably wouldn’t know.

I dropped Punisher in favor of waiting for the trade….on accident, actually and honestly, but I don’t regret it. Good book, but if I can’t remember to grab it when looking right at it, then probably best to read it collected.

Outsiders was made into greatness just for Metamorpho explaining why everyone on the team was representing part of Bats, and the fact that he did it in a way that reminded me so totally of Morph from Exiles. Stay Classy Tomasi!

No offense meant to Joss Whedon (I love Dollhouse!), but Mike Carey has me more interested in Danger then two story arcs of Astonishing managed. I have no idea how he’s managing that, especially since I HATE Rogue, but even her I’m liking! I adore what Mike is doing on this book, and the art by Scott Eaton is just wonderful. I hope this book keeps going under the current creative team for a long time, as I would love to see Carey’s long term vision for this book.

X-Factor opened up once again with Peter David asking nicely that nobody spoil his book. I am, once again, going to grant him his wish. This is three issues in a row that have promised us big and shocking moments, and while this one isn’t nearly as big as either of the last two issues, it’s still quite massive in scope. It seems that Jamie’s adventures are just beginning!

Also, while I’m propping PAD, I’m going to do something out of the ordinary and recommend that all of my American readers with credit cards and $20 to spend go over to Amazon and pick up the Fallen Angel Omnibus, which is due out later this week. Twenty one issues for under twenty bucks. How can you pass up that deal?

Ultimate X-Men ended well, I thought. It might just be because I’m a fan of Madrox and love that he’s actually getting characterized. Or maybe because I just marked over the Rogue vs Madrox double page splash. The ending didn’t fully surprise me, as the mentions of a Madrox Prime, and Wolverine hunting him down made it fairly obvious. If I cared about Ultimatum I would probably have appreciated this more, but at least it was better written then the book has been in quite a bit.

Invincible was the biggest clusterfuck of a single issue I have quite possibly ever read. I adore this series, and love it to no end, but in sixty issues this actually will be remembered by me as one of the worst. Rather than double or triple size it for an event, they gave Kirkman an extra ten pages. So he tries to cram in everything he possibly can in thirty-two pages, and the whole story just…..it’s too much too fast. So many events that you can tell are important, or you wish were more important, are breezed over in a single panel. I saw Atom Eve being carried out injured by Invincible as fast as he could go, and was PISSED that it didn’t go longer for that one scene. It was, however, VERY nice to see Angstom Levy’s plan in motion. I can’t wait for the fallout!

Amazing Spider-Girl ended…..and I shed a tear. I love this book. I really do. But it’s not over yet! It ended perfectly though, the good guys winning, the Goblin losing, and the Brand New May? Well, I don’t want to spoil. But it had a very distinct voice in the issue that you don’t see in a lot of today’s books. It had a sense of hope that never went away.

Alas, my beloved Battlestar Galactica did, in fact, end this week. The old girl flew her very last mission as the series went out in such an……they didn’t give us the ending we expected, they gave us something so much better. The writing for the show was tremendous, and at no point did they ever want the viewers to feel complacent to the point where they could figure out what was coming. No, the events and revelations of this final episode came from all over the spectrum and combined into by far the best series finale I’ve ever seen for any show. The one SPOILER I will give out though, is that I cried with Admiral Adama at the death of Laura Rosalin. I felt his pain, and that just broke my heart to see her go after everything that the two had been through. Shit, I’m tearing up just thinking about it now.

That’s good writing. I’m tearing up at the thought of the death of a fictional character, and I am NOT a crying kind of guy.

What I read this week:

  • Outsiders
  • Supergirl
  • Invincible
  • Amazing Spider-Girl
  • Dark Avengers
  • Deadpool Games of Death
  • Ultimate X-Men
  • Uncanny X-Men
  • X-Factor
  • X-Force
  • X-Men Legacy

Best of the week:

  1. Amazing Spider-Girl
  2. X-Factor
  3. X-Force

The Gold Standard