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Best Worst Joke From Jeff Parker, 2011: Thunderbolts 162

February 1st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Thunderbolts by Jeff Parker/Kev Walker/Declan Shalvey/Frank Martin is definitely my favorite ongoing Marvel comic, with Hulk by Parker/Gabriel Hardman/Elena Cassagrande/Bettie Breitweiser/Rachelle Rosenberg a close second. Parker and the gang delivered a lot of great moments over the course of all 12+ issues of Thunderbolts shipped in 2011, but only one scene instantly filled me with white hot rage and uncontrollable laughter simultaneously. Art by Valentine De Landro with Matthew Southworth, colors by Frank Martin & Fabio D’Auria.


Fear Itself: Thunderbolts hits comic shops and book stores today. A good starting point for the franchise is Thunderbolts: Cage.

Parker co-created a webcomic with cartoonist Erika Moen, too. You can see the last page of Bucko if you visit the home page, but you should click here to read the tale of the troubles that arise from trying to have threesomes. Learn well from the mistakes of young Bucko.

Jeff Parker, writer of these tales, is the greatest monster history has ever known. Someone stop him before he goes too far.

Thanks in advance.

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Read Jeff Parker and Erika Moen’s Bucko For Some T-Bolts T&A

April 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Noted funnybook writer Jeff Parker is making a big push to get a new title: “noted smut-peddler Jeff Parker.” From his Twitter, where he used Twitlonger to cheat and use more than 140 characters:

THE DEAL: Like all true artists, Kev Walker of Thunderbolts has no earthly ‘restraints’ and in the latest issue Marvel chose sagely to let balloons hide the contact between Satana and Moonstone on page six.

IF you would like to see that image sans dialogue, all I ask is that you help get the word out this Thursday on the webcomic BUCKO by me and @erikamoen . Spread the http://www.buckocomic.com/ link far and wide with vigor, and if (and when!) we pass our record number of site visits, I will twitpic that obscured file.

Here is the page in question, where Parker has written Satana as like a hyperactive genki girl from anime all hopped up on ecstasy and viagra. If I had the time, I’d photoshop in Moonstone going “Kyaaaaaa! -_-#” and maybe Juggernaut going “ch-ch-ch-ch-chotto matte!”

It’s pretty plain to see what’s going on, but sure, I’ll play your game, Parker.

The thing about Bucko is that it’s got a pretty impeccable creative team. Erika Moen did DAR for a billion years, at least in internet time. Her sense of humor is that right kind of lowbrow comedy that I like and her characters are full of personality (sorta like what I imagine old timey stage actors were like–very dramatic and intentionally overacted, but great for entertainment purposes). Parker’s been in the trenches for, I dunno, forever? Several years, at the very least. He made a splash with some good all-ages book at Marvel, then moved on to work like Agents of Atlas, The Age of the Sentry, a couple more Agents of Atlas, Underground, and Mysterius. These days, he’s writing what’re probably Marvel’s two best ongoing books, Hulk and Thunderbolts.

Bucko. Right. Let’s talk Bucko.

So: two creators who have established themselves in two entirely different lanes (corporate comics & webcomics) and are freakishly talented (poop jokes and talking monkeys a specialty) team up to create… what? Turns out, the answer is “a comic strip about Portland.” Moen and Parker’s comic is a murder mystery that begins when Bucko takes an emergency trip to the bathroom during an interview and discovers a dead body. The drama soon explodes (sorry), with a swirling mixture of threesomes (almost), stab wounds, corrupt cops, and a scathing exposé of the American penal system. Also there are jokes about fixies and Etsy.

All of the people I know in Portland (all… four of ‘em, plus I guess a couple of tiny dogs) demand that I move there. Thanks to Bucko, I now understand that this is a dirty, dirty trick.

It’s a really funny comic. Start here and work your way forward. It updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. One chapter’s done (21 pages worth of comics), and the second chapter is in progress. You should be reading it, if only so that Jeff Parker can fulfill another lifelong dream.

(read Thunderbolts too, by the way.)

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Fourcast! 79: What David Read

March 7th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-David bought comics!
-Heroes for Hire 4, by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Robert Atkins
-Power Man & Iron Fist 2, by Fred Van Lente/Wellington Alves & Nelson Pereira
-Thunderbolts 154, by Jeff Parker & Declan Shalvey
-Joe the Barbarian 8, by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy
-You’ll never guess which one he wasn’t too fond of.
-Esther only bought a single book, so David gets to do most of the reviewing.
-Luckily, the Fourcast! is your number one source for digressions… so this one’s an hour.
-HOLLA.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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Best of 2010: Two Straight-up Good Comics

January 6th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Acme Novelty Library 20, Afrodisiac, American Vampire, It Was the War of the Trenches, King City, Parker: The Outfit, Pluto, Thunderbolts, Twin Spica, Vagabond 9


scott snyder & rafael albuquerque – american vampire

preview

With the sole exception of the first two Blade movies, vampires don’t really do it for me. I get the myth and the metaphor–blah blah sex blah blah corruption blah blah mores–but it just doesn’t click for me. It wasn’t scary, and really, it wasn’t even interesting. Thin, pale men and women sucking the life out of others because… why? Who cares? It took Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff to make me care, and imagine my disappointment when I went back to those Gene Colan books and found out Deacon Frost was some wack regular vampire.

Turns out that Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have the magic touch, because American Vampire is great. The central conceit of the series, that American vampires aren’t like European vampires, means that all of the stuff I hate about vampires, like the aristocratic demeanor and boringness, are left in the past. American vampires are newer, leaner, meaner, and more monstrous.

Skinner Sweet, one of the vampires the series focuses on, is proof positive. He’s a sadistic goofball, used to making money the easy way (meaning taking it from other people), and using violence to get his way. He’s casual, but there’s always that glint of menace lurking somewhere behind his eyes. Him and the European vampires don’t get along at all, and with good reason. He’s their antithesis. He’s gutter trash.

Snyder’s writing on the series is good, and Albuquerque’s art is great. He was talented before this series came out, but, in part due to colors by Dave McCaig, he’s a monster now. The facial expressions, layouts, action scenes, covers, and fashion are all on point. Albuquerque’s never looked this good, and I feel like he’s doing the kind of art now that you’ll want to sit down and examine later. What’s more is that he’s working in two different styles, and each suited to the time period he’s using them for.

McCaig’s colors are a huge help, and perfectly complement the mood of each scene. He even colors people differently–when’s the last time you saw white people in a comic with different skin tones?

American Vampire, from top to bottom, is well done. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Snyder was a writer worth paying attention to, and while I expected to like Albuquerque and McCaig’s artwork going into the series, I was stunned at the leap forward they took together.

jeff parker & kev walker – thunderbolts


preview

Let’s be honest here: Jeff Parker is hands down the best writer in Marvel’s stable. He’s been working the side books for so long, the Atlases and Exiles of the line, but Marvel threw him to the front and center of their universe in 2010. That’s a move that paid off big. He turned Hulk from the best art showcase since Solo into a comic with a really compelling story.

Thunderbolts is one of those series, and concepts, that I’m super fond of, so it wins the year over Hulk. It’s one of the few 100+ issue series that I’ve read back to front because I was so into the idea. I feel like it went completely off the rails once Nicieza left that last time and Ellis came on. It became too mean, too much about villains being villains rather than villains working toward redemption.

Parker and Walker righted the ship, though, and they did it with ease. They stacked the crew with some classic choices (Songbird, Beetle, and Moonstone) and some brand new faces (Juggernaut, Crossbones, and Ghost) and created a situation where Thunderbolts actually feels like a new comic again, with just enough of a taste of the classic run to keep old heads like me interested.

First off: Walker’s art is great. It runs counter to what I think of regular Marvel comics as looking like. He’d do a killer job on, say, Punisher MAX or something at Vertigo, but on a mainstream Marvel book? He’s a weird choice, but the perfect one at the same time. The way he approaches action scenes and character work gives Thunderbolts a feel unique amongst the sea of mainstream comics. It’s a lot more interesting than what you might expect to see on a book starring villains. It’s not shiny, but it’s not all faux edgy, either.

What makes it work, at least in part, are the team dynamics. Crossbones is just a douchebag, Ghost is a paranoid conspiracy nut but not 100% a bad guy, Moonstone is what Emma Frost wants to be when she grows up, Beetle is trying to do the right thing, Songbird is trying to prove her worth, and Juggernaut is just hanging out until he gets a chance to leave. The way they bounce off each other, sometimes as allies, other times as enemies, and always in interesting ways. It’s not just a situation where everyone hates everyone else, or a subset schemes against others. Allegiances shift and slip as the series goes on. Thunderbolts is just a good comic to read, executed well and perfectly pitched. You can see the thought that went into it, and that’s something I’m pretty happy about.

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Know the Ledge: Verisimilitude, Race, & Comics

November 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Verisimilitude is what makes stories go. Blah blah blah, you know this already. I talked about it a while back, pay attention. In short, getting close to the truth makes your story feel real. One way you can get close to the truth is by including little details and touches that hint at real life. They’re shortcuts, things meant to make you imagine a world beyond what you’re reading or buy into the world of the book in your hands.

Two examples.


Antony Johnston, Wellinton Alves, Shadowland: Blood on the Streets


Jeff Parker, Declan Shalvey, Thunderbolts 148

These two scenes have a lot in common. More than I realized when I picked them as examples, honestly. (I was just going for two that stuck out in my head as being fairly recent.) They’re both written by white dudes, though I think Johnston is British. Both scenes are set during Marvel’s Shadowland event, which features a Daredevil who has been possessed by the Beast from Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Elektra Assassin. They both feature black characters who rose to fame, or at least not-obscurity, by hanging out in the same general area. Misty and Luke are probably also the foremost street level black characters in the Marvel Universe, too, come to think of it. I mean, I like Nightshade and Shades & Comanche, but they couldn’t heat up the sales charts with a lighter and a can of gasoline. I’m not 100%, but both scenes came out in the same calendar month, too. September, yeah?

(The artists are Brazilian and Irish, respectively. I don’t think that’s the same at all, unless I massively misunderstood World History.)

One of these scenes is crap. One of them is pretty straight. I’ll get there, though. (It’s the Misty Knight one, spoilers.)

Another thing that the scenes share is that they’re trading on race for the purposes of a punchline. The Blood on the Streets punchline is about how effective the (nonexistent) race card is. Misty knows it, and consciously uses it. She flips on her Loud Black Woman switch, her dialogue drops out of the Queen’s English and into some flavor of black vernacular (“black woman can’t have no degree now, can she?”) and the awkward white guy has the stereotypical response, which is to give whoever is yelling about how racist you are whatever they want so that they shut up and go away. She doesn’t mean it, though, it’s just that it’s an effective tool. Ha ha ha!

The Cage scene plays around with racial politics for a bit of (honestly facile) wordplay. A ninja is impersonating his friend in an attempt to gain some intelligence. Cage’s response? “Ninja, please.” It’s a play on “nigga, please,” a bit of classic black slang (one, two, three, pause) that’s got a number of uses. Scorn, disbelief, whatever whatever. It’s flexible, and the joke here is the substitution of ninja for nigga. They look kind of similar, same number of syllables, and as used here, they are functionally the same. That’s the joke. Cage is always cool and collected, and this is just him showing that he saw right through the ninja. Two words that say a lot. Not funny ha ha, but funny heh.

Okay, so why is the Misty scene crap? I don’t have any science to explain why. I flipped through it in the store and put it back on the shelf. I saw the Cage scene in one of the online previews, went “heh” and continued purchasing the series. Both hit me in more or less the same spot. It’s fair to call that spot whatever part of me that likes racial jokes, I figure.

It goes back to verisimilitude, I think. Both of these scenes are hinting at some sort of truth. Misty Knight is using racial history to get her way. Cage is using a reclaimed racial slur to show how cool he is under fire. Both of these scenes depict theoretically black things. A kind of ownership of a very specific facet of American culture, or a freedom to express yourself about race in a certain way. Step back a level and Johnston and Parker are both depicting a culture that isn’t necessarily their own, which definitely requires at least a little bit of research and hoping for the best.

The truth they depict is the difference, though. Luke’s truth is simple and short. Two words and out. Rather than reminding you of a specific thing (“Boy, I sure do love listening to music on my Apple™ iPod MP3 Player!”), it reminds you of a general thing (“black guy you know that says nigga sometimes.”). Misty’s scene is much more specific, and therefore much more likely to be not-truth. Honestly, the race card as depicted always felt like a myth to me. Like, sure, ask somebody if something is because you’re black, and maybe, just maybe, in very specific situations you’ll get the results you want and be sent on your way. Any other situation, including basically anything between professionals, will get you scorned, mocked, and dismissed. In this situation, you’ll get noticed, which is a pretty crap thing to do when you’re illegally infiltrating a building.

And if I know this… Misty should know this. She’s ex-NYPD, currently a private eye, and most of all, a black woman in her late ’20s. I mean… c’mon. It works in movies, not in real life. Everybody knows that.

So the truth that the Misty scene is portraying felt false to me, and false in a way that actively conflicted with my ability to enjoy the story, or even take it on its own terms. It popped my suspension of disbelief like a balloon. The Cage scene felt right. It felt natural. I read it, kinda laughed at how corny it is, and kept it moving.

There’s no science, no hard and fast rules, no nothing. You have to swing for the fences and hope your details make the grade. It’s just like anything else to do with writing, I guess.

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Stop Jockin’ Jay-Z [Thunderbolts 147]

August 19th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Black people! Comics! It’s been a while, but I’m back for my crown.

There’s tendency in comics to write pretty generic black guys. You occasionally get the Samuel L Jackson Fight the Power Angry Black Fella types, but more often than not, you’re looking at a slightly watered down version of that same type. Sanitized Shaft. Diet Dolemite. Toothless Tommy Gibbs. Put Bishop (pre-mega murder spree), most depictions of John Stewart, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Mr. Terrific, and Steel in a room together. First, note their hair. Second, note their personalities. They’re all kind of really moral, upstanding human beings… but with an edge. Maybe they used to be mad at the man. Maybe they sometimes have flashy nods to whatever standard of blackness they were born into. Who knows, who cares, but a bunch of black dudes with basically the same moral compass is boring.

(Fully half of black women in cape comix, excepting Storm who has been kept in safety away from all things black up until recently, tend to pop into the snakecharming neck, nuh uh I know that chick didn’t just do what I just saw her do, tell me I didn’t just see that, super ghitto around the way girl stereotype a little too easily. The other half of black women in comics is Vixen, who is like Animal Man, but stuck in boring stories.)

There are no rules for writing black people in comics, and anyone who’d tell you otherwise is someone not worth listening to. In my family alone is a vast range of characters, some less than positive and some exemplary. Everything counts, everything is true. The thing is, sometimes people trip into pitfalls when writing black people, and black guys in particular. You could easily make a list of mis-steps.

One is slipping in slang. Slang is an intensely regional thing with several outside factors. I don’t talk like people from New York talk, but we do share some slang because of shared history or culture. Have you ever seen somebody write “crunked?” I can almost guarantee that person isn’t from the south, because “crunk” is its own past tense. You didn’t get crunked last night, you got crunk. Slang shifts and warps depending on where you are. You wouldn’t catch me dead saying “hella,” but I can’t quite scrub “might could” or “one more ‘gin” from my vocabulary. You seriously can’t just urbandictionary this stuff and expect to get it right.

Another way is by showing how ROUGH and TOUGH these guys are by throwing in some of that old “urban flavor.” Since they were raised on the streets they’re a little harder than some milquetoast whiteboy like Spider-Man! So they’ll slang it up, call somebody a @#$&()&, and then fist bump another guy right before hitting a villain with a yo mama joke or something. And sure, there’s that thing black people do where they nod at each other on the street (don’t front like you haven’t seen it and/or don’t do it on occasion) which makes our white friends ask “Do you know that guy?” in a hushed whisper. I can see how that’d cultivate this crazy idea that there’s a quiet coalition of people with a thug just waiting to jump out of their skin. But (wait for it) not everybody is from the cold, hard streets. Some folks are from the suburbs. Some folks are country.

The biggest offender in my mind, though, is something that probably got widespread appeal back during the blaxploitation era, resurrected by Snoopy Doggy Dogg, and then it caught fire and died when Destiny’s Child dropped a single. I’m sure you know it–some variant of a guy going “SAY MY NAME!” It’s raw dog alpha male braggadocio, a way of humiliating someone by forcing them to acknowledge the fact that you’re better than them. If you’ve ever played Madden NFL 2004 and broke out an eighty yard run to TD off a ridiculous quarterback sneak with Michael Vick, you know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve done it yourself (I know I’m guilty).

It’s corny, it’s stupid, it’s cliche, and people do it, but I don’t necessarily want to read about it. It’s shorthand for Cool Black Guy, which really just means Black Guy Who Threatens People Other Than Me And Maybe My Friends, and that’s offensive, Mr. Charlie.

But.

Thunderbolts 147. Jeff Parker, Kev Walker, Frank Martin. Here’s two pages and the two spreads that follow them.


And well… they did my least favorite thing and they pulled it off. It’s not forced, it’s not awkward, and it’s honestly the most flavor Cage has had since the Azzarello/Corben CAGE mini from almost ten years ago. The setting, the timing, the violence, all of this is dead on. It’s perfect, it’s believable, and it’s fantastic. It’s not just “Hey, by the way, this guy is black, remember?” It’s a show of authority, it’s a big dog showing his charges exactly who the alpha male is around here.

I like Cage, but I haven’t like liked him in ages. He’s been pretty bland and neutered under Bendis’s run. It’s not that I want the old Cage, the Kurt Busiek/Jo Duffy Cage back, but I kind of do. This thing that Parker and Walker are doing here, though, is the best of both worlds without ignoring either of them.

Every story is true. But, if you’re going to tell some of them… at least put in the work and get it right, like these guys did.

All right? Peace.

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6 Writers: Jeff Parker

July 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Well, isn’t this perfect timing, what with Jeff Parker’s latest volume of Atlas just being officially announced as cancelled with its fifth issue?

You ever suddenly notice someone’s work? It’s clear that they’ve been working for years, but one day you just wake up, roll out of bed, and go “Oh! That guy!” That was me with Jeff Parker. I’d read a few issues of his Marvel Adventures work and thought they were pretty good. I thought his “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santron” story was pretty clever, the kind of story that quickly becomes a Thing On The Internet. I liked what I read of X-Men: First Class, too.

What really caught my eye, though, was his Agents of Atlas. It was the closest Marvel has come to doing DC-style comics in years. He dusted off an old What If idea and ran with it. Somehow, someway, Agents of Atlas ended up being a pretty good comic that avoided continuity porn and instead told a really solid story with a strong cast of characters.

Your average team book these days, your Avengers, X-Men, JLA, those kind of books, are coasting. They star characters we’ve been reading about for years and we fill in the blanks ourselves. They’re pre-fab comics, with all of the motivations and relationships built in. Have Wolverine talk about how he doesn’t have to follow your rules, bub, and make Spider-Man a whiny little shell of a man and you’re good to go.

Parker, though. He puts in work. If you didn’t believe in Jimmy Woo, smooth secret agent, before Agents of Atlas, you will after. Same for Marvel Boy, Namora, Gorilla Man, and whoever you care to name. A steady stream of banter, particularly out of Gorilla Man, keeps the fights moving along at a quick pace. In the downtime, the team bickers, argues, and reminisces about the old days. They make plans. They explore their world, and in doing so, make you believe in their world.

Team books require a deft touch, but Parker is one of those guys who knocks out team books like it’s nothing. The most important aspect of building a team is building the relationships between the characters. You can have James Bond, Catwoman, and Tarzan on a team together, but that thrill fades when you realize they don’t mesh at all. “Wouldn’t it be neat if…” only goes so far.

Your leader needs to serve a purpose that the other people on the team cannot. Each team member needs a gimmick, but if it’s cheap, it doesn’t work. Each character needs a point, and stereotypes aren’t good enough any more. We’ve read about rebels and sticks in the mud forever. Rebels are boring. Wolverine is boring. Atlas doesn’t have a Wolverine, and it doesn’t need one. Instead, it has a death robot that’s hiding a few secrets. It has a temperamental Atlantean princess. It has a goddess who should probably work on the friendly fire some.

I can think of a fistful of team comics Parker has written that were worth reading. Exiles put a new twist on an old series and made it interesting again. He played around with off-kilter versions of heroes we already know and used the fact that they were different to play around with what we expected to see happen. This was another series that was here and then it wasn’t, but I liked what I read. It was equal parts funny and fun, the sort of comic that fans claim they want and then do not buy because Spider-Man isn’t in it.

Thunderbolts is off to a rip-roaring start, simultaneously subverting our expectations for characters and plots and reconnecting us with old favorites like it was a comic book family reunion. This is just the latest example of Parker pulling strings on a tattered and beat up old idea and finding something new and interesting to do with it.

The new Atlas shuffles the story around some and comes up with a 1950s paranoia-inspired take on the team. It pushes the creepiness of the team, this kind of vague fifth column uneasiness that has been circling in the background, right to the forefront. These are powerful people who do not necessarily have what we would consider our best interests at heart. Jimmy Woo inherited an ancient organization that had been used for crime for quite some time. He wants to do good, but inertia is a tough thing to counter.

I eat this stuff up. It’s always nice to find someone new to follow, and it’s even nicer when they rarely ever let you down. Parker is a guy I watch because his sensibilities and style of writing click so well with what I want out of comic books. He likes making the old new again, and not just by slinging references in your face or bringing it back to 1985. It feels fresh. The latest stab at Atlas is gone, or will be soon, but his next project is Hulk with Gabriel Hardman and Elizabeth Breitweiser. Hopefully this gets him the name recognition that’ll let him write whatever he wants without fear of cancellation. This stutter step stuff is for the birds.

(This is the third writer in a row I’ve written about who is also an artist.)

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Fourcast! 51: Spelunking

June 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-You Made Me Read This! returns!
-A cave-centric comic book podcast! Yes!
-We have some very kind words for Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground
-Here is the Steve Lieber photo David incorrectly described.
-This is also a You Made Me Watch This!
-Esther made David watch a movie about women and caves. It was called The Descent.
-The Descent was directed by Neil Marshall.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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4 Elements: Thunderbolts 144

June 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Thunderbolts 144 was written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Kev Walker, colored by Frank Martin, and lettered by Albert Deschesne. It was an excellent read, and a good introduction to the new team and status quo. I thought about doing a full blown review, but how boring would that be? Instead, I’m trying something different. Maybe we can make this a regular thing. Here are four things the team behind Thunderbolts 144 got right.

Luke's been around.

Luke Cage knows people. Luke spent most of his almost forty years in the game toiling in obscurity. He had a long-running series that ended in the ’80s, a couple of less-than-good revivals in the ’90s, and spent the first five years of the 2000s playing street level crime games. A nice side effect of his middling career is that Cage built up a strong network of friends. The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and several other heroes have interacted with and befriended Cage over the years. He has a reputation and he’s got a deep Rolodex. While Spider-Man and Ben Grimm built their varied friendships off the back of Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, Luke’s time as a nobody ended up being an asset.

Cage went from penny-ante hood to grown man gone straight to framed for dealing heroin. He was technically a fugitive when he began his Hero for Hire business. He took on the trappings of superheroes to make a little cash. The only thing that kept him from being Black Booster Gold is that he was after money, rather than fame.

Despite his inauspicious beginnings, Cage ended up being a great hero. He hooked up with several street level heroes and started fighting crime to do good. He cleaned up his building and his neighborhood. Later in life, he joined the Avengers and soon found himself leading the team. He spearheaded a charge for the Avengers to do more than fighting world-class villains. When Captain America came back and found himself in charge of the superheroes in the United States, he had one choice for the guy to help rehabilitate the villains on the Raft: Luke Cage.

Think it through: the man who is the equivalent of Superman in the Marvel Universe, with all the prestige and respect that role entails, goes to Luke Cage to get the job done. Steve Rogers respects the hustle.

Steve Rogers gives speeches. Tony Stark is arrogant. Thor is stuffy and pompous. Spider-Man is obnoxious. Wolverine is gruff and borderline rude. Hank Pym is eager for approval. Songbird is judgmental. Luke, though? Luke’s a man of the people. He’s casual. To the point, sure, but Luke’s genuine. There’s no artifice, no trickery, and no drama. He’s not your average superhero. If there’s something to say, he just says it. No beating around the bush. Real talk, no gimmicks.

Luke is fearless. Scared money don’t make money.

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Atlas #1: “My three-dimensional fade is clean cut”

May 21st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I like a lot of crappy characters. It comes with the territory, I think. Everybody has those weird little crap characters they like. More specifically, though, I’ve got a perverse fascination with crappy black characters, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has read more than ten words of this site before. I mean, I’m just saying that I [slang term], [rap reference], [animated gif of someone shaking their head], y’know?

But there’s something I love about all these characters that were just dashed off back in the day. Moses Magnum has the greatest name in comics, the kind of name you just steal outright if you ever get a chance. Hypno-Hustler has a great name and backup singers. Shades & Comanche are the down-on-their-luck scrubs that litter every story about the hood. I don’t even have to defend my love of these characters, either. There are people out there who want to read about people whose only power is “I shrink.”

One crappy black character I never liked, though, was Triathlon. Delroy Garrett was introduced in Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s Avengers, in a story with Moses Magnum no less, but I never took to him. He was boring. He had some weird Fake Scientologist entanglement, his costume was ehhh, and his powers were lame. Oh, you are as strong as three guys? Congrats, I’m happy for you. Learn to shoot lasers or use a sword.

Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman, though. Those guys looked to be featuring Delroy Garrett in his new role as the 3-D Man in Atlas. I couldn’t even really say that I was skeptical. I think I knew he was going to be in the book going in, but Parker has rarely done me wrong. I liked his Agents of Atlas work both times around. They were pretty clever and deftly written little books, weaving into and out of Marvel history without feeling like a Crisis or a history lesson.

This week’s Atlas #1 is the grand return of the Agents of Atlas. The first series (which had fantastic covers) was an introduction and establishment of a status quo for the Agents. The second series placed them squarely within Marvel’s Dark Reign status quo, kind of like how the second Runaways series tied in a little closer to the greater Marvel Universe.

This third one, though, feels like something different. It also stars Delroy Garrett as a has-been hero. He made some hard decisions during the Skrull invasion, and the aftermath of those decisions is that he has been completely ostracized by his peers. He’s looking around for a new career in Los Angeles with his actress girlfriend when he runs into trouble. Garrett ends up being accused of murdering one of his mentors, on the run from the police, hunted by some mysterious entity, and suffering from vivid nightmares. The nightmares point directly toward Atlas.

The tone of Atlas is something like ’50s paranoia, like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There’s a creeping feeling of mystery and danger that runs through the issue. Everything Delroy trusts is either wrong or broken, and his one lifeline is a comatose old man. He’s one man against the world, with no friends and no allies to speak of.

As befitting the tone of the book, the agents haunt Delroy. They appear in nightmares, news reports, and as silent characters up until the end of the first story. They infest his dreams and while they don’t come across as villains, exactly, it is clear that Atlas isn’t your same old super-team.

This book was excellent. Hardman and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s art was appropriately moody and subdued, Parker’s dialogue and pacing were on point, and (pregnant pause) it made me a fan of the 3-D Man. His new status quo works for me in a way that Triathlon never did. I never thought that would happen, but what can you do? I picked up the first issue on a whim, rather than waiting for the trade like I usually do, and it paid off huge. Huge enough that I’m buying it monthly from here on out. Check out the preview at CBR and go pick it up.

Looks like next week is going to feature another Jeff Parker bullet to the dome, too. Good show.

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