Open Mike Night: Marvels & The Bunker #1


Written by: Kurt Busiek
Art by: Alex Ross
Lettered by: Richard Starkings
Published by: Marvel

Maillaro I know a lot of people don’t like him (including our buddy Grey), but I have long been a huge fan of Alex Ross. I can even remember the exact moment that happened. When I saw the cover for the first issue of Marvels. Marvels had a ridiculous cover price at the time of 6 bucks, but I didn’t care. I had to own that comic.

Weaver: I’m one of the few people in existence who is ambivalent about Alex Ross. Although I do love that he put the whole painting genre of art into the mainstream of comics. That has been an incredible bonus.

Maillaro: What I love about Marvels is that it is a lot more than just the beautiful covers. Returning to the column, our reigning champion, KURT “BIG PAPA” BUSIEK! No one can take comic history and boil it down to its bare essentials as well as Busiek.

While I like most of this series (we can talk about my gripes about the last issue later), my favorite issue by far is the second one which deals a lot with mutant prejudice. Early issues of X-Men really didn’t deal with the racism issue all that overtly. Sure, there were Sentinels and Trask has his campaign to alienate mutantkind, but it always felt like the manipulations of one rich psycho, not necessarily a massive anti-mutant movement. But Busiek takes the Sentinel story, adds a lot more context, and gives us a sweet little mutant girl to use as the focal point of one of the best mutant stories I’ve ever read.

Weaver: I don’t know that I’d agree with it being the best mutant story I’ve ever read, but it is nice to see it from the other perspective. Often, anti-mutant people are shown as the obviously evil Trask or William Stryker…very infrequently do you get an honest story looking at it from an average person’s perspective. Then again, that’s what happens throughout the series. In the first issue, you have a similar feeling about the coming of the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, especially their battle.

For me, what sold me on this particular story was its juxtaposition with the wedding of Reed and Sue, including public perception of the Thing.

I don’t know that I’d call this a mutant story so much as I’d call it a Marvel universe story that shows their place in the larger scheme. For what its worth, I have read the early X-Men issue referenced where they save a construction worker who was falling to his death, and they do get blamed for trying to kill him in that issue, but that’s not something unique to them. Spider-Man used to get blamed for killing people all the time too.

Maillaro: Yeah, I appreciate that Busiek didn’t really try to sugar coat things. Issue 3 in particular after the FF stop Galactus, a lot of people are suspicious that the whole thing was a hoax.

Marvel traditionally has had the general public far more suspicious of their heroes than DC. DC has changed that up a little in the New 52, but I kind of think that was a bad decision. It always seemed more like a “Marvel thing” to me.

Like you said, Marvels tells the story from the civilian perspective. And that is where I think the 4th issue made some mistakes (to me at least). Focusing so much on JJJ, Gwen Stacy, and Doctor Octopus, even making them all major speaking roles, took away from the “outsider” perspective I think the first 3 issues build up so well. This was the issue that had the least interesting voice to me.

It also bugs me when Gwen Stacy is over romanticized. I guess it is just because when I started reading comics, Gwen was already long dead and I am a MJ fan…but when I read old Spider-Man stories, I find Gwen exceedingly dull. When I see a writer trying to bring her back to relevance (like here or Spider-Man: Blue), it is a huge turn off for me.

Weaver: Oh, distrust of our saviors is definitely a Marvel comics thing. I didn’t mind our humble narrator focusing on who actually killed Captain Stacy that much, it was when it got to the point where he got a really uncomfortable boner about Gwen that things started to fall apart for me. I was legitimately creeped out by the attention that he was giving her, especially when he started talking junk about Parker and not knowing what she saw in him. I mean, I’m frankly uncomfortable with anything that falls outside of the tradition half your age plus seven metric, and even moreso when you consider Gwen’s high school age or so whereas Phil’s been an adult since the 30’s (and it’s now the 70’s).

Gwen is also the only person within Marvels that I see as wholly out of character. She was, at least to my perception, always kind of pooh poohing all the superheroics and didn’t like her dad or Peter getting caught up in it.

It does amuse me that there was such an outrage about Gwen’s secret love children, though, since there was a Spider-Man plot (which I read) where she goes to London unexpectedly, Peter follows but can’t find her there, and then she comes back home suddenly in a much better mood. You know, the traditional “Gwen’s gone to visit her aunt for nine months” type story. Plus, I mean, apparently Gwen has the kind of look that gets old guys going. That’s what I’m reading into this.

Maillaro: I definitely did not read it that way. I was thinking of it more like a fatherly interest since he had two young daughters of his own.

By the way, was I the only one who found it odd that Peter Parker looked like Billy Joel? I know Alex Ross tends to use celebrities and family members as inspiration, but that one really threw me. I kept thinking “Peter Parker is supposed to be from Queens, not the Bronx!”

Sins Past defies all logic. It was like in Marvel’s attempt to try and give Gwen some personality, they decided to give her a really disturbing one…We should review that next time you are looking for a real bad book to review. Editorial mandates…pretty much the heart of any Cracked column about odd comic moments…

But ignoring issue 4, I do think Marvels is a important and powerful mini-series. It came out when comics were being a little more introspective (like Starman), and I think this has really opened up the industry in many ways. Superhero stories don’t have to be hero vs villian. They don’t have to tackle social issues (like Green Arrow/Green Lantern, Watchmen, etc). Sometimes they can just explore what it means to be a hero, with all the good and bad that go alone with it.

Weaver: I’m holding it out as “our hero is a dirty old man.” I call it like I read it.

Oh sure. You get hung up on what borough Parker’s from…but Danny Ketch is a Brooklyn kid and couldn’t be delivering papers on his bike in the suburbs. Not a mention. I see how it is.

I’ve never read Sins Past, but I don’t agree that it was a bad idea…well, we can give it a go. There was definitely a window of opportunity for her to bear Norman’s love children. It fit in continuity. That might be the most disturbing part of it.

I agree, though. Marvels is a great series that gives a lot of introspection to things that kind of get glossed over a lot. It also sets much more continuity up from the era when continuity wasn’t a major buzzword. It stuck the adventures of the various superheroes together, with context, and that’s something that rarely if ever happened that way before. I’m giving the writing a 4, but only because I’m docking it a point for the final issue.

Maillaro: There are a lot of things that COULD have happened during Spidey’s timeline…it doesn’t mean they SHOULD have happened. Spidey could have been molested by another kid…oh wait…that happened too… I still call Sins Pasts far more creepy than Marvels. Adding that to our back issue list!

Danny Ketch was from Brooklyn? I don’t think I ever read a comic about Danny’s childhood. Ghost Rider is a character I have always liked in guest appearances, but have read very little comics starring him. It is very odd that you know that.

Yeah, I have to go a 4/5 too. Solid 5/5 for the first three issues, but the last issue completely loses me.

The art on the other hand is a solid 5+. I can flip through these issues for issues, just finding new things. I especially love the little details. Like quick news headlines about Pym and Wasp vanishing.

And later another about their miraculous return.

And I will always love Triton of the Inhumans driving a pick up truck.

I know that panel actually happened in another Marvel book, but the fact that Alex Ross included it here amuses me every time I see it.

Weaver: Danny Ketch is, in fact, from Brooklyn, and his origin involves Brooklyn to a large degree…the publicity poster they used to sell the series even has the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. But I see how it is. Boroughist!

Seriously, I had to double check that to be sure, but I did pay some attention to Danny when he came out since my older brother didn’t like comics…except for Ghost Rider. So I wanted to see if the new series was going to be appealing to him. It wasn’t, since he vastly preferred semi-nomadic Johnny Blaze.

I’m going to go with a 5 on the art too. I know that everyone in existence has seen some of these splash pages. New York going underwater, for instance.

That’s because they’re awesome, and they sneak up on you. It’s this tightly focused character piece until…oh my God. An art choice I found interesting, beyond the Triton in a pick-up truck one, was that after Phil says he won’t do a book on supervillains, almost every picture his assistant shows him is a villain. Shocker, for instance. Assistants. They can be bitchy.

Maillaro: Wouldn’t know…I have had to be my own assistant the last two years at work…despite a promotion and no raise… But enough whining from me, there are comics to be reviewed!

And just some left over pictures I had pulled for this review:

The Bunker #1

Written by: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by: Joe Infurnari
Lettered by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by: Hoarse and Buggy Productions

Maillaro: The Bunker was a complete “check out rack purchase.” I saw it on Comixology when I was buying Injustice, and it seemed to be interesting so I checked it out. And it is by Joshua Hale Fialkov, who is also writing Hunger. Ironicly, it ended up being the only new comic I was able to buy this week because of unexpected expenses yesterday…I wasn’t even able to get Hunger issue 2 yet…

I thought this was a cool concept. A group of high school (or college) kids decide to bury a time capsule so they can have a reunion 20 years later and check it out. While they are burying it, they find a bunker in the ground with their names on it. Well…most of their names. One of them seems to be missing.

The bunker is from the future, where these kids all have become important figures that ended up destroying the world. One of the kids finds out that he MUST keep them all on that same path or else things will get even worse.

One thing that really bugged me was in Fialkov’s attempts to slip in pop culture references, it ended up being distracting. I can’t imagine college kids who watched Lost would have all that fond memories of The Big Chill. I always thought of that as “a movie for my mom’s generation.” And these kids are like 10 years or more behind me.

Weaver: Not just Big Chill references, but really specific Big Chill references. That movie skewed older than me, even. Although I found the soundtrack awesome as an easy way to assemble a bunch of oldies songs.

This, I think, is the first comic I’ve read that was digital release only. I found that kind of distracting at first, since the page sizes were very different than typical, but it was neat. Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do like the concept, and I like the last panel reveal, but a lot of the stuff that happens in between feels kind of questionable. It’s particularly strange to me that the future narrator says that GMO’s are not what’s going to kill the world, but then…they totally are.

Maillaro: Technically, Amelia Cole was released digital only, but where Amelia Cole is definitely formatted like a print comic, The Bunker definitely is not.

Yeah, I thought a lot of the execution was sloppy too. There were some really cool moments throughout the issue, but I never felt they tied together all that well. One thing that bugged me especially was when the kids were all finding letters from themselves in the future, and instead of the narrative being told through each letter giving us a few different view points, we focus entirely on just one letter.

And I really didn’t feel the characters were all that well defined in the comic, just through the narration. A great example is Natasha. We get a panel of her speaking, and then the future narration. Some kind of clever parallel could have been drawn here, but instead we get real generic dialouge that any character could have said…

It just feels like a book that never quite reaches it potential. Just nothing about the characters artisticly or personality makes them stand out all that much.

Weaver: That panel actually drew from me the reaction that I feel about the comic in total. I read the letter. I said to myself, “Oh, is it implying that she and Daniel had some kind of evil kid in addition to the GMO stuff? Wow, that’s interesting.” But by the end of the panel, I was left feeling whatever about it. Is she already pregnant with his child? Is that what Grady can’t know? Oh well. Who cares.

It’s like I started to get a little excited, but then the cliche ridden missive dropped me back into “meh.” This felt like a football game where on every play there was a receiver wide open down field but the quarterback elected to throw to a three yard crossing route instead.

Maillaro: That is an awesome analogy! It does seems like this book played it safe when there was a huge opportunity to do something big and different here. And many of those short passes were dropped, which didn’t help the situation…

Note to self: NO MORE PURCHASES ON A WHIM. They just don’t often work out. I mean it’s not like this is a bad comic or anything, but there are so many comics I want to buy that “okay” just isn’t cutting it these days. It is nice to be able to support indy companies, but the books need to be high quality.

This book is just woefully average. 3/5 for the writing. 2/5 for the art. I don’t mind black and white, but when you aren’t giving me color, I am going to raise the bar on how good the art needs to be.

Weaver: I wish I could defend this book, I really wish I could. Most of our indy forays have been pretty excellent, and I’m thinking Courtney Crumrin and Amelia Cole here, and even the Merlin one because you liked that really well even if I didn’t. But, you know, there’s always going to be some lemons.

I actually found the sketchy art to be more entertaining than the weak writing, so I’m going to reverse your scores and go 2/5 for writing, 3/5 for art.

Maillaro: Yeah, this definitely isn’t turning me away from all Indy books…in fact, I am proposing THUNDER Agents for next week’s column. And Kingdom Come, if you are up for it?

Weaver: Quick question before I agree: Is Kingdom Come as dense as Marvels? If it isn’t, sure. If it is, I’m going to have to wait til the school year.

Maillaro: Kingdom Come is actually FAR worse that Marvels in terms of being dense. Definitely can wait til school year. Any counter offer?

Weaver: Do you have JLA/Avengers? I have it sitting in a box right here, and have been meaning to read it again.

Maillaro: JLA/Avengers is perfect!

Weaver: Sweet. We can reminisce about cross company crossovers and stuff. Looking forward to it.

Maillaro: And eventually we really do have to get around to doing Sins Past…I really think we owe that to posterity!

Weaver: I have every reason to believe Sins Past is phenomenal, so sure. Alright, until next time!

Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
Marvels 4 4 5 5
The Bunker #1 3 2 2 3

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