Open Mike Night: Eternal Warrior (2013) #1 & JLA/Avengers

Weaver: First, I’d like to apologize for taking a short unannounced hiatus. I had a family emergency to attend to, but now I’m back, and I’ve got plenty of Busiek to talk about with the Other Mike. We also have a Valiant title called Eternal Warrior that I’m pretty excited about.

Eternal Warrior #1

Maillaro: Eternal Warrior was always a pretty cool Valiant series. I always thought Gilead, Aram (Armstrong from Archer and Armstrong), and Ivar were really the heart of the Valiant universe, with so many series building off of these three immortal brothers. The original Eternal Warrior series was always a lot of fun. You’d get a story in modern times with a ton of flashbacks to Gilead in ancient Rome or Gilead fighting Nazis. When Archer and Armstrong came back, I was really hoping that Gilead wouldn’t be far behind.

This issue had a lot of real cool moments in it, but I actually think that it got off to a real shaky footing. If you haven’t read any old stories with Eternal Warrior (or at least his recent appearances in Archer and Armstrong) a lot of this issue is going to seem vague and hard to follow. Who is this Wizard he refers to? What does Gilead’s daughter mean when she calls him the Fist and “Earth’s Mistress?”

It just occurred to me, this issue doesn’t even explain why Gilead is immortal. A lot of Valiant books have had some kind of info page to start the comic. This one didn’t, which seems strange since there actually was a lot of back info that could have helped the reader. Maybe it was just left out of the Review copy?

Weaver: It explained it a little bit, but only conversationally. I’ll admit, I never read the previous series and was unaware that this impacted the Valiant line in general. I agree wholly on the unsteady footing, though.

I do wonder if this is going to be Gilad’s book or Xiang’s. She does the narration, and seems to have the more significant role.

Maillaro: Long story short, throughout time, the Earth has chosen a human to “speak” for it. Sometimes referred to as The Wizard, more often as the Geomancer. Gilead has often served as the Geomancer’s primary protector. When a Geomancer is in danger, he acts to protect them. When a Geomancer is killed, Gilead will usually get revenge, and then help to find the next one. That is actually how he ended up in recent issues of Archer and Armstrong. They sort of accidentally killed the last Geomancer, and Gilead showed up to kill them for it.

Xiang was actually a pretty cool character, and I definitely would approve of the book featuring her more. Gilead can be a bit one dimensional at times. Fight, protect, kill, repeat. I am definitely curious how she is still alive, but her brother isn’t.

Weaver: I understand the appeal of the mythical protector warrior of the earth, but I think that ultimately, it’s an idea with a limited fanbase and a limited number of stories that can be told. I think that switching it over to being more focused on Xiang will open it up a bit both in potential audience and storytelling potential.

Plus, badass woman on a random elephant.

Maillaro: You have a strange obsession with warrior women on elephants. Remind me to keep far away from you if we ever visit the circus together…

One thing I think that really hurt this book was the art. The cover was absolutely gorgeous, but for the interiors some of the images were framed so tight it was really hard to tell what was happening without the narration. And some of the characters looked identical, so it was real hard to tell who was doing what at times.

Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of real outright problems with this comic, I just thought it didn’t quite execute on the level it needed to. I can’t help but compare it to X-O’s first issue, which did many of the same things, but in a much more accessible manner.

I also think that the flashback to start this book goes on a little too long. By the time I really thought the book was about to start rolling, it was “To Be Continued….”

Weaver: Really? I think the flashback was needed, and was just about the right length, but the art certainly did it no favors. Everyone had to say each other’s names not because it was conversationally necessary but because we needed some hint as to who each person was supposed to be. Their designs were not unique, and it was often hard to tell even what side they were on. Especially troublesome was the part about how the word for monster and man was the same back then, but then they were yelling about fighting monsters. I get that war is chaotic and hectic, and the style was going for that, but I couldn’t follow the illustrations at all, except for the elephant. And even then, there were some places it fell down, pun intended.

Oddly, once we get to the present, the art felt a lot more crisp. It reminded me of a number of different comics that employ different art techniques or even different artists for different time periods, Alias being my favorite example. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to judge this art, because I want to give it points for that chaotic style, but ultimately, the art should be intelligible to some degree. And then I feel like a hypocrite because another of my favorite art jobs is Teddy Kristiansen’s charcoal work in House of Secrets: Facade which wasn’t always intelligible but definitely just grabbed the theme and ran with it.

Maillaro: You make a lot of valid points, both pro and con the art. I feel pretty like 3/5 for writing, 2.5/5 for art. BUT, I am definitely inclined to pick up the next issue. I do think the last few pages as business started to pick up were great, and I want to see what comes next.

Weaver: I’m going to give it a 3 on the writing too, since there were some points of clunkiness, but the payoff was mostly worth it. Art…art…I don’t even know, man. It’s hard for me to nail it down. I want to give it a 4 for taking chances and embracing the theme, I want to give it a 1 for sequentially telling the story. I’ll average it to a 2.5.


Maillaro: So, that brings us to JLA/Avengers. First of all, I want to say I am a huge fan of comic company crossovers. I owned or own quite a few crossovers of characters I didn’t even care about at the time…Batman/Predator (all three volumes), WildCATS/Alien, Spawn/Punisher, and on and on. So when they announced that two of my favorite creators (Busiek and Perez) were teaming up on on the ultimate Marvel/DC crossover, I was pretty hyped up for it.

Weaver: Same. One of my first exposures to the X-Men was X-Men/Teen Titans. I had a wacky Batman/Hulk with the Shaper of Worlds and Joker teaming up. And…uh…Superman/Ali, of course.

This was a perfect comic for that team. Busiek and Perez are both masters of giving an ensemble cast unique looks and unique voices. And this series features…well…everyone ever. Everyone. I really wondered if they were up for the challenge.

Of course they were.

Maillaro: What amazes me is that Busiek and Perez took so much time to keep everyone in character…including the “bad guys.” Metron, and the Gamemaster in particular just felt so well fleshed out. You look at something like Marvel vs DC (which I actually enjoyed too), and it was “create a very generic threat that didn’t even speak.” But on top of just the sheer fun and audacity of this crossover, there really was a cool and well constructed story here.

I will say that sometimes Busiek did lean a little towards “look how much trivia I know about Marvel and DC,” and I did sort of roll my eyes at times, but it never takes away from the story itself. I could point to something like Avengers Forever and Marvel and say, “It was much more subtly done here” but this book wasn’t going for subtle.

Weaver: Being honest, it would detract from the promise of this book if it was unsubtle. The JLA and the Avengers are the larger than life flagship franchises of their respective comic companies. I know, some would argue X-Men or Fantastic Four, but it’s not even the same league. Fantastic Four and X-Men are more like a bunch of friends hanging out, Avengers are Serious Business.

My first memory of JLA/Avengers was EVERYONE second guessing the Thor/Superman fisticuffs. That moment was needed, it was brilliantly executed, and right there in the first issue, you provoke major fan reaction.

Maillaro: I also loved how Cap and Superman were “most representative” of their universes, so most effected by when there were problems. Cap calling Superman a facist and Superman talking about how ineffective Marvel’s heroes were was just so perfect. I especially love how their teammates are like “What the hell is going on?” but so used to doing what Cap and Supes says, they basically go along with them, often apologetically.

I also love that issues 1 and 2 give us every possible fight you can want to see, and then the heroes get to team up for the last two issues (well, more or less. Issue 3 treats the teams like they have known each other all along and insert them in various team up situations). You really get everything you can possible expect from this series.

Weaver: There’s a lot of nice little touches in this title beyond what you discuss. In the team-up issues, they specifically reference some JLA/JSA team-ups, and some Avengers/Defenders team-ups. They even show a modified version of the cover of the first JLA/JSA team-up, but inserting the Avengers for the JSA. Also, they show damn near every hero imaginable. In the end, when time is fluctuating, Perez dives deep into alternate costumes and Z-list heroes…even the Thunderbolts show up in a panel briefly.

Something I’ve discussed before about this, in the fourth issue, there’s a part where six people realize that fixing reality totally messes up their lives. To me, it’s odd, but the worst of those pairs has to be Vision and the Scarlet Witch. Busiek even draws attention to how badly Vision doesn’t want to proceed. And yet, there’s a part of me that think Hal may very well have the worse fate. Still…giving up your marriage, kids, pretty much your sanity…okay, insanity and mass murder is bad, but…it’s less personal, in some ways.

Maillaro: You know it’s funny. When I read that scene, I actually did think that Scarlet Witch had it far worse since she ended up going nuts and wiping out mutantkind. Hal’s actions were basically all wiped out of continuity. Guardians are back, GLC is back, Hal has been redeemed. It didn’t occur to me until right now…all that stuff happened AFTER JLA/Avengers originally came out. Yeah, at the time, Hal definitely had it far worse.

I also loved that the titles of each issue were classic Marvel and DC series. Journey into Mystery, etc. So many small touches are really what made this so perfect. This was not just a massive marketing ploy, this truly feels like a labor of love. And labor has to be the right word…Perez’s ability to draw tons of versions of tons of characters is just incredible.

Weaver: Oh, fully agreed. The last issue being the Brave and the Bold was great.

Perez was fantastic, but Busiek also manages to keep people in their own distinct voices throughout, a hard task given the number of people. I liked the brief Rick Jones/Snapper Carr moment, for example. A lot of work went into this, and it came out beautifully, in my mind. Several panels I had to show to my wife, like Thor cracking Superman the first time, because they were just so good. Others include the moment where the assembled heroes are all looking up at what their worlds’ fates are…it is NOT easy to draw figures from that angle, and Perez manages it well. Even beautifully. Also, of course, the covers…the covers of 2 and 3 especially. On the cover of two, most people are matched up right next to each other, except for Scarlet Witch and Zatanna/Green Arrow and Hawkeye. Those two pairings have the JLA member on the front cover and the Avenger on the back cover mirroring the JLA pose, nowhere near each other. The cover to issue 3 is just amazing to imagine putting that many people in one consistent drawing.

Speaking of Hawkeye. Even though I remembered it coming, the Hawkeye/Flash ending always sneaks up on me, and always amazes me.

Maillaro: Did you know that for a VERY brief time, this story was actually in continuity. The egg actually showed up in a Busiek-written arc of JLA, but it was referred the very vaguely. Just like Access (from Marvel Vs DC) showed up in a random issue of Green Lantern. I know that this was basically the ULTIMATE Marvel and DC crossover story, but I am pretty bummed that there hasn’t been one since.

Come to think about it, there really haven’t been many cross company crossovers at all the last few years….nothing is jumping out to me..

Weaver: How could you top it? There’s no way to make something better, so trying is futile. However, I’ve also heard persistent rumor that the idea of the cross company crossover just isn’t going to happen with the current Marvel brass and the current DC brass. There’s some kind of issue there, I can’t pretend to know what.

Anyway, like a lot of our classic issue reviews, straight 5’s here. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Maillaro: That is the problem, they shouldn’t try to TOP it. Just do something small far smaller in scope Say, Young Justice/Young Avengers. That was always the problem I had with Morrison’s JLA. Every arc had to be bigger and bigger…until the last arc had everyone on the planet gaining superpowers to fight a powerful God Thingy, and even though many, many civvies died, this was never referenced again.

Busiek did the same thing in Avengers, including Kang blowing Washington DC off the map…which again….was never really referenced again. Granted, I am no fan of politicians either, but you think someone would have noticed.

Yeah, we could be accused of cherry picking our classic reads, but we did do Catwoman 0, so we’re good there! 5’s across the board for me too.

Weaver: Not continuously trying to top things is a good idea for, say, a sequential title. These are events. Events have to be bigger and better. That’s why they’re events.

That’s all for me this week. It was great to be back. Go ahead and pick the titles for next week.

Maillaro: Morbius’s last issue comes out next week, so we should do that. And they posted some X-Men after Giant Size finally…so how about issue 100?

Weaver: New X-Men versus old X-Men at the command of Professor X while orbiting the sun? Yes please.

Sorry about the delay in posting this. After a long hiatus, it was hard to get back in the flow. That is why this was edited kind of quickly and with no images. We will be back to normal next week…In theory!

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