The Gold Standard #28

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Two things I love in comics are alternate realities, and books where nothing is safe. In other words, I like to see shit happen that could NEVER happen in the core canon. I mean, how else could Batman legitimately be a Green Lantern and not Batman? How else could Ruins as a story even exist? And most importantly, where would my beloved Spider-Girl be if there were no alternate realities?

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That’s what’s cool about comics. You can do that. You can publish a book like What If?! and get enough sales to warrant it’s continuation. You can publish Elseworlds and have fans clamoring for more. There’s a market for this kind of thing, readers want to see different takes on the characters that they love in ways that they know could never happen in the core canon of either of the big two. And if anything, these days there is not nearly enough focus on this sort of awesome. Sure, we get the occasional Elseworlds story, and the yearly What If’s, but is that really enough? There’s so many characters and concepts and there are so many tales that could be told if the right pitch came in at the right time.

Or hell, how about cross company crossovers? I know that DC and Marvel are pretty against the concept these days for some reason, but am I the only one who wants to see some new Amalgams? I for one would like to see some new combinations, even if just for a one shot.

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FEAR THE DARK CLAW!

But the point is that alternate reality books are criminally underdone, and when they are they tend to get the wrong kind of treatment. I mean, Countdown. I read it, I’ll admit it, I read the entire stupid thing, and my favorite parts were the multiverse adventures, in fact, when it ended I was excited with hope that these Challengers of the Multiverse might get an ongoing book to explore the DC multiverse, but alas, no dice. Though in retrospect, Kyle Rayner is a billion times more awesome in Green Lantern Corps, so I guess it was a good thing that it never happened as Kyle would have been yanked from his spot in the Corps’ Honor Guard. Though I could stand to see more Donna and Ray, that’s not the point.

Marvel has spent the better part of the last ten years answering their alternate reality problem with a little book named Exiles, which upon my return to comics was one of the most natural buys for me that there could be. A book of six X characters from different realities hopping around the multiverse fixing alternate realities, and on top of that it was led by AoA Blink. That’s a win in my book. How could it be any better? Wait, they could KILL one of those six characters in the second issue! NOTHING tells you that anything can happen like shaking the status quo before it even sets in. By the time I started buying single issues the main roster had already lost three original members. The second year hadn’t even started yet.

Exiles is one of the reasons I have trouble hating too hard on Judd Winick, because the book was just so freaking cool! The worlds they landed on were cool concepts, the characters were interesting, and he made it a point to show how these very different people from very different worlds reacted to these situations. Let’s take Mimic for example, we were fed bits and pieces of knowledge about his life before he became an Exile, and it was just enough to help us understand the dilemmas he was facing in these missions where he would be forced to kill people he knew, trusted, and loved at home. This great super hero was becoming colder and colder and trying his best to deal with an impossible situation where he never knew what version of someone he would see next. In the second issue he killed an evil version of his mentor Professor Xavier, and in the fourth he helped kill a Phoenix possessed Jean Grey, the woman he loved.

I adored it. It was a character deconstruction with the setting being anywhere and anywhen, and it worked. They even went ahead and expanded the concept by the end of the first year to include the Weapon X team, a group who, for all of the blood the Exiles had to spill, were exponentially more vicious. And with a MUCH higher turnover rate in members. It was cool, the knowledge that there were so many worlds out there that people could be plucked from their lives for suicide missions and it not even matter in the grand scheme of things. That one life could be that small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, the book wasn’t all great. There were a few Chuck Austen stories that were beyond easy to forget like the teams first trip to Earth 616, or for the laymen, the core Marvel Universe. Also was the fact that the team kept seeming to wind up back on 616, and the core Marvel Universe was made to be presented as just that much more important then everything else which helped burn out some of the feel. But, the book kept rebounding, and in fact, it was Tony Bedard who truly upped the stakes for the title.

See, Judd might have killed characters, but he maintained a core team that you knew was essentially safe in Blink, Mimic, Morph, Sunfire, Sasquatch and Nocturne. Unfortunately, when you have a core team of six, how do you get rid of one? Well, you kill Sunfire to make way for Blink’s return. That was the last shake up Judd got to do before he left the book, and during Austen’s brief return he killed the entire Weapon X team and the Exile Magik.

Enter Tony Bedard. He opened up by debuting Namora as a replacement for Magik, and ended his first arc by dropping Nocturne in 616 in favor of their Beak. Yes, Beak, that bird looking putz of a mutant from New X-Men. He gave the team control over their missions, and had them fight a mini war against Hyperion that cost Namora her life. But they had control, the Exiles were living in a place called the Panoptichron, or Crystal Palace, and they could go anywhere in the multiverse they wanted. They were in control of their destinies. And their first mission? Take Beak home.

Home, of course, wasn’t so easy as 616 was in the middle of House of M, which meant some people who wouldn’t normally be alive were there. Like Proteus, their new arch rival, who led them on a World Tour across famous locales in Marvel’s Multiverse and forced them to pick new members up on the way.

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New School and Old School, with the only two constants

Especially after he killed Mimic, who was considered by many to be the last of the three safeties in the book (along with Blink and Morph, and Sasquatch lost her powers and became their info hub person). That was a shocker for readers of the book, one of the core three was gone. And his replacement? Well, that was the fun thing about World Tour, there were no true replacements. Just new members. And by the end of the Tour, and their fight with Proteus, there was a somewhat new team. Blink was still the leader, and Morph was there (though he was actually a brainwashed Proteus who had taken over Morph, essentially killing the real deal), Spider-Man 2099 (after his reality was changed and his identity exposed at the beginning of his career), Longshot (who there is only one of, period, but goes through many mindwipes), Power Princess (from the original Squadron Supreme), and Sabretooth (from the Age of Apocalypse, Blink’s father figure).

Talk about a shake up, right? The book was on a complete high note, every issue better then the last. How could it get better?

Unfortunately, at that point it couldn’t. Chris Claremont quickly came on board and did his own reshuffle. And by that, I mean he put Psylocke on the team. 616 Psylocke. And by the time the book ended and restarted for him, the team was Sabretooth, Psylocke, Cat Pryde (go figure, Claremont writing a teenage Kitty), Rogue (a stuck up thief with control over her powers), Mystiq (a male version!), and Longshot.

At that point there was a mini with Excalibur, and a new series and….

Well, my recap ends there. I didn’t read it. I finished out Exiles under Claremont to complete my run, but I didn’t follow him to New Exiles, even if the cover had Sabretooth doing a Triple H pose. And apparently Sage was on the team too, though I am just now finding this out.

But wow, Claremont writing a book about heroes saving the multiverse starring 616 Psylocke, 616 Sage, AoA Sabretooth, a male Mystiq, an overpowered Rogue, and a teenage Kitty Pryde.

Real original Chris.

There’s a new run of Exiles launching this week, written by Jeff Parker who I must admit that I’m unfamiliar with. I know he does a lot of work for Marvel, but I’ve yet to check any of it out. The book promises a return to the old school statuesque, Timebrokers and everything. Even Blink.

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Maybe it’s time to get familiar with Jeff Parker.

I heard it once, I’m sure I heard it twice, my dad used to give me all of his advice. He would say you got to turn your back and run now. Come on son, you haven’t got a chance now

I bet you want to hear me talk about Flash Rebirth, don’t you? Well, don’t expect it just yet. I’m planning on doing a review sometime this week, because I do have quite a bit to say about it and don’t want to treat it like just any title to rant over like I usually do. I will say one thing though, Rebirth should not mean retconned origins, and so far Johns is two for two with them.

I quite enjoyed the first issue of the Oracle mini, but it did come across as WAY too cheesecakey after all those years I spent reading Birds of Prey. I’m sorry, but I saw more naked Babs in one page of this issue then I’ve seen since Killing Joke. That said, I do love her arch nemesis being Calculator, and I want to see just what he does with the Anti-Life equation, so this is one Battle for the Cowl tie-in that I’m in for the long haul. Possibly the only one.

The team shuffling in JLA is completely devaluing the book, but I think that’s the point. McDuffie lost the three big guns to editorial, and a few of the other big names to James Robinson, so he’s making do with what he’s got. And that means that he has to build the team up from scratch. Unfortunately Red Arrow had to go to make room for Hawkman, both on the team and in Hawkgirl’s pants, which is the biggest loss in my opinion. Hopefully a few Milestone heroes, such as Icon, will step in to fill the role of the Trinity and make this book important with a feel it hasn’t had in a long time. The JLA does NOT need the big three to thrive, sure, it helps, but there are enough heroes in the DC Universe that they should be able to fill the team up legitimately without Superman.

Nobody writes Hank Pym as well as Dan Slott does in the modern era, period. When he was Skrullowjacket he was the most intriguing character in the Initiative, and now that we have the real Hank back there was fear that he’d quickly devolve into his past….what’s a good word….ummmm….let’s say patheticness. I hate to say it, but Hank Pym was an incredibly pathetic character for a lot of reasons that were just insulting to me as a fan of his, it was as if no writers were capable at all of treating him like a hero and not just that asshole who hit his wife once twenty some odd years ago. However Slott came on board, gave him an increasingly weird relationship with Jocasta, and made him a hero again. I mean, for fucks sake, Hank Pym saved the world! Norman Osborn had to admit that it was NOT his team of Avengers that saved everyone. Hank is the man, and Dan knows it.

I enjoyed the Darkhawk mini for what it was, and it was a fun read. I like Cebulski’s writing more and more everytime I read it. However, my complete and utter lack of knowledge slash giving a damn for Darkhawk in the nineties cut my enjoyment a bit. I’m hoping that his role in the War of Kings will change that.

Speaking of War of Kings, holy shit this past issue was awesome. Giant space robots powered by Blackbolt’s voice?! Why did they leave Maximus locked up so long?!?!?! And Crystal getting not only characterization, but good characterization? Wonderful.

On a slightly related note, I’m not sure how I feel about Rachel Summers getting raped of her Phoenix powers in mid issue. However, it does seem to fit in with the cover to an upcoming issue of Uncanny. It seems the power is going home to mama…..it really seems like Jean is coming back.

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To be fair, she’s only died, like, twice.

I’m not sure how I feel about Fantastic Four going into Masters of Doom. On one hand I’m enjoying the different take on the team, and I like Millar’s writing, but at the same time I can’t imagine how much of this book will even be mentioned after he leaves. I know that Val is going to stay Reed smart thanks to Hickman’s Dark Reign mini, but for some reason I don’t see Ben’s girlfriend being around in a year’s time, which is just sad since Ben deserves to be happy but it will just never happen.

Speaking of Hickman’s FF, he completely lost me in the best possible way in the most recent issue. I heard he’s just going flat out balls crazy because all of the best ideas he came up with are winding up in his actual run on the title, and if this is him throwing out his B or C game, then I REALLY can’t wait to see his A game. I love the way he writes the kids more than anything. Even more then Reed hunting the multiverse to find out that the Dark Reign can be blamed entirely on himself. I can’t wait to see where he takes this.

Superman continues its Mon-El centric story for the year, as Guardian steps in to teach Mon how to be a hero in a different way. Now he’s not just Mon El, he’s Johnathan Kent….Science Police Officer. I dig it.

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I AM THE LAW!

Iron Fist had another story of Fist’s past, and as usual, it took nothing away from the ongoing story at hand. These issues always come at cliffhangers, and they never disappoint when they give you a flashback to hundreds of years prior instead of giving you a conclusion. I really hope the cancellations rumors are bullshit, this book is incredible.

Captain America was its usual level of awesome, and we’ve got the almighty #600 on the way. With Brubaker leaving Daredevil, and having already left Uncanny, I was afraid that he’d back off of this next, but he’s confirmed that this is one book that Marvel will have to pry out of his cold dead fingers, and I say power to the Bru. If he has more stories to tell, let him tell them. Nobody else is going to hold a candle to this. In fact, my only problem at all is that the Jim Hammond Human Torch couldn’t fly into action with Buck and Namor in the conclusion. That would have been awesome.

Am I the only one who wants to see Wiccan be the new Sorceror Supreme? Not because I don’t like Strange, but because if he has to be replaced it would be nice to see a Young Avenger in a monthly book. Actually, the best part of this entire book for me was the Spider-Man moment where Bendis did a very simple action that went miles towards showing the sheer pointlessness of some of the Brand New Day events. It was such a big deal to put his mask back on, but here he just rips it off after an overly dramafied moment, and then there was a hilarious exchange with Jessica Jones as Bendis finally got a chance to bring up her teenage crush on Peter Parker from Alias. Great work BMB!

Magnum Opus is loads of fun. I love Deadpool, I love the Thunderbolts, and I love that the Thunderbolts artists name is Bong Dazo. I like how Wade has a completely immature crush on Black Widow, and I almost died laughing when I saw the sky writing banner “BW <3 DP?”, the innuendo was just right there! And the use of Taskmaster? I almost want to see Wade join the team just so we can keep up the antics between him and Yelena!

Nova has a serious problem. It’s one of the best books on the market, hands down, but unfortunately it has spoiler heavy covers. You pick up the issue, you know how it’s going to end, and it’s been a recurring problem. I mean, yes, I like knowing that Rich as Quasar has a badass costume, but I’d much rather have found that out by reading the issue and not seeing the cover. It’s a complete buzz kill to know how something ends when you don’t seek spoilers.

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Guess the plot twist.

The Messiah War Prologue was awesome, and I love future Wade. Though not nearly as much as I love the return of Stryfe! Man, Kyle and Yost really are my kind of writers. They have nostalgia for my period of X-Men, the 90’s, and they know it well. Cable kept the story going, but I really want more. I want to see Apocalypse.

Authority is continuing its steady climb up from being the worst DnA book to being a steady and stable book on its own. I still wish I knew what the hell happened to the world, but with flashes of Angie as Engineer, and the recent events of Hawksmore the book is finding legs and walking on them. I figure they’ll hit a good stride soon and this book will payoff for me keeping it on my list.

I’m disappointed in Geoff Johns. His JSA has been one of the best runs on a book I can ever remember between last series and this one, and he’s going out on a horrible whimper. Johns made me care about Black Adam in the previous JSA run, and 52 kept that up, but this arc is…..what happened? Why is pink pigtailed Mary turning Billy evil and acting like five year olds with power? Why can’t Teth make up his mind? Why the hell is the Wizard not dead? And why is he punishing Billy? It just…..and why is Jerry Ordway’s art so fucking hideous?! I just saw him do some art not too long ago and he looked as good as ever, so why is this book so ugly? Ugh, I only hope that my Courtney centric last issue for Geoff makes up for it all. It has to. It’s Courtney.

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Black Adam has looked better.

The Mighty is continuing to grow on me as a story, and not just out of my bias towards “Classy” Peter J. Tomasi. Alpha One is finally developing a personality as the book more clearly becomes about Captain Gabriel Cole. I went from being happy with what I had to wanting the next issue badly, and I have a feeling that come the end of the second arc this book will be a must read.

Teen Titans finally debuted its new roster in one issue, and then led into Deathtrap in another, and both were on the same day. Final verdict? Read them together, as the team builder was nothing overly special, and the Deathtrap issue was a decent display of what the current team can do. It’s nice to see Static get some love, and maybe even get some loving from Aquagirl. I like that Cassie is the veteran member, and I also like that Eddie is hanging out despite being powerless. It’s a shame that McKeever is leaving the main story though as he’s finally seeming to get the hang of writing a larger cast all at once. I just hope the next guy can maintain things without going through a prolonged adjustment period.

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See that look? I like that look.

Iron Man vs Namor. Awesome.
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Nuff said.

Secret Warriors saw an explanation for all the Hydra people from last issue, and the sad fall of a Warrior due to an amateur move against someone who can kill Wolverine. It also had Nick Fury and the Contessa on a date….WITH GUNS! And a great last page cameo to set up next month. Such an awesome, awesome book, and a definite must read. I can’t say too much good without giving it all away, but it’s a perfect package.

What I read last week:

  • JLA
  • Oracle
  • Superman
  • Avengers the Initiative featuring Reptil
  • Captain America
  • Fantastic Four
  • Iron Fist
  • Mighty Avengers
  • New Avengers
  • Nova
  • Runaways
  • Thunderbolts
  • War of Kings: Darkhawk
  • X-Force/Cable: Messiah War Prologue

Best of the week:

  1. Captain America
  2. New Avengers
  3. Nova

What I read this week:

  • Authority
  • Flash Rebirth
  • JSA
  • The Mighty
  • Teen Titans
  • Teen Titans Annual
  • Cable
  • Dark Reign: Fantastic Four
  • Deadpool
  • Invincible Iron Man
  • Secret Warriors
  • War of Kings

Best of the week:

  1. Secret Warriors
  2. Invincible Iron Man
  3. War of Kings

The Gold Standard

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