Long After Watchmen: Let’s Talk About Deadpool History

July 5th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

I regularly peek at the traffic of the site because of ego. No big deal, I figure. While the new stuff almost always ends up hitting the top of the hit list, it’s interesting to see what stuff regularly gets its share of visitors no matter how old it gets. The We Care a Lot and the What If stuff, for instance, still do well. One of those articles that still gets notice is the Top 70 Deadpool Moments. It’s a 7-day series of daily posts I did three years ago that listed my favorite moments in the character’s history (with a little help from the readers). It was a fun writing project, but I look back at it and raise an eyebrow.

The timing of it was deliberate. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which featured a character that was SUPPOSED to be Deadpool, was about to be released and Day 7 came out on that Friday. It was right before what I like to call the Deadpoolsplosion, where he started appearing all over the place with way too many comics to keep track of. And I think back to the list and all the comics that have come out since then and I wonder how much I’d change the list if given the chance to update it.

Sadly, I wouldn’t change all that much. There really haven’t been too many stellar incidents with him since mid-09. He’s had his moments for sure, but they’re more few and far between than there should be, what with him being all over the place. In fact, for a guy who was once one of my favorite Marvel characters, the only thing I read with him is a team book where he rarely gets shoved into the forefront.

I figured it would be a good time to look at the character’s history and see what went right and what went wrong.

Deadpool made his first appearance in New Mutants #98 in 1990, where he fought Cable and lost. While Fabian Nicieza was the writer, the basic design for the character was an idea of the artist, Rob Liefeld. Liefeld had always wanted to draw Deathstroke the Terminator professionally – something he’d get to do 22 years later at the expense of me caring about what was a fun series – but since Deathstroke was a DC character, he had to make due with a pastiche. We got Wade Wilson instead of Slade Wilson and our awkwardly-drawn villain was born.

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Fourcast! 96: Welcome to Pluto

September 19th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-I was out late doing karaoke before recording, sorry if I sound tired
-Esther made me read Gail Simone and Neil Googe’s Welcome to Tranquility
-I made Esther read Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto
-Esther claims that I’m why we can’t have happy comics, because I like sad things
-We didn’t like each other’s books very much, I think. Can you tell?
-So we switch gears to talk about stuff we do like.
-Esther liked a pretty good bit in Spider-Island with the Punisher
-Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Punisher is aight, it’s aight, but it shoulda been more john blaze than that
-Esther really digs Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s Punisher
-I’m not as keen on the changes to the origin story
-(it’s a good comic for someone who’s not me)
-The thing I said was from Daniel Way and Steve Dillon’s Punisher vs Bullseye was actually from Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke’s Under the Red Hood, and also the note said “LOL” and not “gotcha!”
-Here’s something similar from the series though:

Buy John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew, thanks.

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Franken-Castle: A Look Back at Rick Remender’s Graveyard Smash

October 7th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Just last week, Rick Remender’s infamous Franken-Castle story arc had come to a close. Never have I seen a more divisive reaction to the character’s developments in all his history. At least with his whole Punishment Spectre-lite run, just about everyone hated it. I thought the whole Frankenstein concept was interesting and fun and I’ve seen many agree with me, but I’ve seen just as many hate it with the fury of a million Nick Furys. My local comic shop for months had a bulletin board with nothing up it other than Punisher #11 with a sign over it saying, “DISGRACE!” I kept forgetting to lovingly lick the covers of whatever Punisher issue I was buying while at the register.

Since Matt Fraction took up the character in Punisher: War Journal, Frank Castle has become more and more involved in the greater Marvel Universe. Outside of Jigsaw being killed off (and then being replaced with another guy taking up the mantle several issues later), not much carried over into Rick Remender’s Punisher run other than his latest injection into the superhero scene. The problem was that the Dark Reign banner put Frank’s writing in a corner. With Osborn and Hood in charge of things, he obviously had to be itching to take care of them, but even as the protagonist, he can’t. There’s far too much plot armor to work through. So how does one write a story about Frank Castle being completely impotent as an unstoppable vigilante?

The first ten issues of Punisher and the one Annual take their time to get to something super-strong. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun bunch of issues, but the first five-issue arc is so closely melted into the second five-issue arc that there doesn’t appear to be much more than wheels spinning in place. There is one piece of interest in all this in the introduction of supporting character Henry Russo. Henry is a young hacker who tracks down Frank and makes himself the third man to take the role of Punisher’s tech-savvy sidekick. I really like Henry and want to see more from him. Thankfully, he’s gotten play in other stories like Deapdool: Suicide Kings and Anti-Venom: New Ways to Live.

Yes, yes. I’ll get to the next We Care a Lot soon. I promise.

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Good Reviews & Bad Reviews

September 2nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The thing about reviewing, critiquing, and talking about comics, or any media, is that there has to be two components to your text. You have to have facts and you have to have opinions. The facts are what is actually in the book– Superman punches a dude, Wonder Woman does something boring, Spider-Man cries like a baby. The opinion should be defensible and derivable from the facts that are in the book. “Batman punched a lady for no reason, I think that was pretty lame.”

There are wrong opinions, of course– ones that were created from incorrect or incomplete data, ones that don’t reflect reality, or (to be perfectly frank) ones that are just stupid. It’s possible for two intelligent people to come to diametrically opposed conclusions about a work, as in here, where I disagree with some very good friends of mine and one of my favorite writers about comics about certain elements of Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter. Different strokes, different experiences, different conclusions. All of that is fair.

I try to keep all this in mind while I write. I want to be sure that I’m not bringing something to a work that isn’t there. I keep this in mind when reading reviews, too. I learned from my time doing games journalism that a lot of reviews are objectively terrible and uninformative, which basically means that they are worthless.

All of this preamble is to say that Jesse Schedeen and IGN’s review of Starr the Slayer #1 is of poor quality, factually inaccurate, and not useful to someone looking for an informed opinion on the book. It’s crap, son.

The biggest problem with it, the most mind-blowing thing, is this:

Unfortunately, different doesn’t automatically equate to good. Writer Daniel Way makes the risky choice of communicating this story almost entirely through rap. Yes, you read that right. Instead of a standard omniscient narration, the tale of Starr and his creator is relayed through hip-hop rhymes. Suffice it to say, I’m not prepared to crown the writer as Mixmaster Way anytime soon.

Here’s the first page of the book:


I’m going to be charitable and assume that Schedeen has never heard rap, or else he’d understand that mixmasters are DJs, not emcees. I’m also going to assume that he’s a bit behind on his history reading, or else he’d recognize that Way is not using the art from the Bronx, but rather something that is centuries old, if not older. Do you know the classic The Tale of Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python’s Holy Grail? Way’s using a bard, or a griot, or a storyteller, a type of person who often used music or song to tell their story while trying to make some money on the side. “Busts mad rhymes on the street corner?” Nah, son.

Schedeen goes on to say that Way’s rap goes on and on (with a breakadawn joke), to the point that he feels the pages are cluttered and hard to read and he just stopped paying attention. And, sure, that’s fair– some pages have a caption box or two with like six words per box, that’s a ton! Other pages, something like ten of them, don’t have a caption box, or have just a single box on the entire page. That’s tough reading!

But Schedeen not paying attention? That shows in the review. He describes Corben’s style as being “significantly exaggerated here,” when, no, it looks just like his Cage work which looks like his Den work which looks like his Edgar Allen Poe work. It looks like a Corben book, and isn’t more exaggerated than any other one.

He says that Len Carson’s world warps and the fictional world intrudes on the real one. That’s a fairly liberal reading of the book, considering that the intrusion isn’t the sort of thing that develops over the book. It takes place over three panels and one page and close out the book. Not very slow, that. It’s far from a Telltale Heart situation, I think.

He goes on to say, “Starr’s world, by comparison, is a little bland and surprisingly devoid of violence and bloodshed at the moment.” Starr’s world is the one where all the action happens. One guy gets his brains busted out (with one punch!), another gets his face pounded into pulp, and three people straight up die. I can see how that would pale against… a playback of an old man’s failed career as a writer and all the fast cars he used to drive.

Schedeen again:

In discussing this book, Corben has revealed that he, Way, and editor Axel Alonso constructed the story in the “Mighty Marvel Manner”, which essentially means that Way constructed a basic outline, Corben drew the issue, and then Way filled in the dialogue afterward. This certainly isn’t a common approach anymore, and for good reason. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to make the writing stand out in this art-centric comic, Way has needlessly burdened the script with unusual narration and pointless homoerotic humor.

The homoerotic humor thing– there’s one gay “joke,” though it’s more of a metaphor (first panel, first page, above), so that’s a stretch. I’ll grant you unusual narration, though, and we’ll chalk the homoeroticism up to taste.

The Marvel Way thing, though, is kinda clearly due to a misunderstanding of how the Marvel method works. When you’re working with a talent like Richard Corben, a guy who has been creating comics that are consistently better than the average since before I was born, working in the Marvel style isn’t that bad of an idea. It gives him a chance to deliver a beautiful book that’s paced according to the art, rather than the story. The thing about the Marvel Way not being common any more is straight up untrue– George Perez reportedly uses it, Kurt Busiek has used it on recent projects, and it’s a pretty viable way to do comics to this day.

Boiled down, Jay-Z already said what I’m trying to say: “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?” This review feels like Schedeen skimmed through it and guessed to fill in the blanks.

I read Starr the Slayer and thought it was pretty fun. A solid B/B+ right now, with definite room for improvement. It’s a Conan story that takes itself exponentially less seriously than actual Conan stories. A guy drinks “roofinium” before being sacrificed, there’s a strain of dark humor throughout it, and the song is bawdy and funny, kind of like the first scene in Romeo & Juliet.

It’s a comic that works. Way’s script doesn’t trample over Corben’s art, and Corben’s art is Richard Corben: the bomb. It’s immature, but it’s also funny. I read it, I liked it, I’ll cop the inevitable hardcover. It’ll go on my shelf next to Richard Corben’s Edgar Allen Poe books.

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We Care a Lot Part 15: Way Too Hard to Comprehend

July 20th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Last time on We Care a Lot, I discussed Eddie Brock’s cancer retcon. Before that, I was talking about Daniel Way’s Venom on-going series. To refresh your memory, the Venom symbiote is on the loose up in Canada. It killed off all of army girl Patricia Robertson’s friends and is on its way to a more populated area. Robertson is allied with an alien life form named the Suit, who fights with a cell phone gun. They are being antagonized by a pair of spy chicks who want Venom for themselves. Although they have already been killed, another couple of them have popped up. Venom has finally settled on a host that he can live off of forever.

And that’s where we left off. Venom #10 begins with the Venom-controlled Wolverine attacking Vic and Frankie’s ship and forcing it to crash. The two suit up in their armor and reveal to the reader that they’re probably into each other sexually. Of course they are.

They don’t last a minute. Frankie is stabbed to death by Venom-Wolverine and Vic stumbles upon her doppelganger’s corpse from earlier. She realizes that she’s nothing more than a clone, puts her gun to her head and pulls the trigger.

The torso remains of the Suit give Patricia a new cell phone he has created. He says that he placed the original in a special place and that the new phone acts as a detonator. Venom-Wolverine busts in after her and she presses the button to activate the first phone. As we see, after Wolverine was knocked out by that nuke, the Suit tore open his chest and shoved his phone in there. Now the cell phone goes off, electrocuting Wolverine from the inside and forcing off the symbiote.


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We Care a Lot Part 13: Way Out of His Mind

June 29th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

The badness that stapled to the 90’s is well-documented, but it’s interesting to see the stages that followed it. In the present, we’re in the phase where failed 90’s ideas are being brought back. Onslaught got his own miniseries and an appearance in Ultimate X-Men. Bendis wrote the Ultimate Clone Saga and now Ben Reilly is set to make some kind of comeback. Azrael is back in the Bat-universe. The latest Superman/Batman arc was a one-sided version of Amalgam. Carnage is slated to make a return. Some of these come off as a writer deciding that maybe he could do justice to the idea this time. More often than not, it’s just another bad example of comics cannibalizing its past.

But during the late-90’s/early-00’s, Marvel was in the middle of its great purge. Seeing something like Ben Reilly or Onslaught namedropped was rare. They were trying to wash their hands of every concept that went wrong during that decade. Because of that, Venom downright vanished. After Howard Mackie’s questionable use of the character, Venom wouldn’t appear for a couple years. Unfortunately, he returned in a very bad way.

The 18-issue run of the series began in June of 2003, under Marvel’s Tsunami imprint. The imprint was supposed to be more geared manga readers, whatever that means. The comic series was written by Daniel Way. Now, let me get my thoughts on Daniel Way out of the, er, way.

It’s easy to hold a grudge on a comic writer if you hate a comic they wrote. Lord knows I do it with Jeph Loeb. Way has certainly written some comics I didn’t like outside of this. For instance, if you’ve ever read through Agent X, you might recall that one issue late in the series which is meant to be the anti-climactic finale until Marvel later decided to bring back Gail Simone and UDON to tie up loose ends. That was Way’s issue. Ouch. Adding to that, I’m not much of a fan of “Wolverine uncovers secrets over secrets over secrets”, otherwise known as Wolverine Origins.

That being said, the guy has written some good-to-great stuff. His two Bullseye miniseries were fun. His Nighthawk miniseries was pretty rocking too. Dark Wolverine is already off to a great start. Of course, how could I not mention is stellar run on Deadpool? It’s a comic that gets better by the issue.

But while Daniel Way has certainly grown as a writer, there’s still this mess.

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