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This Week in Panels: Week 213

October 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Why, hello! Big week of panels, including Two-Face’s lame-ass New 52 origin. Because who cares about Two-Face when Tomasi needs to push his forgettable female gangster character?

I’ve shown up in a couple little features at Den of Geek US over the past couple of days based on my Comic Con experiences. Here’s me as Wreck-It Ralph photobombing people and here’s me as Wreck-It Ralph just hanging out with other cosplayers with commentary by me as Ralph.

Help comes from Matlock, Gaijin Dan, Brobe and Space Jawa. Let’s get to it.

Animal Man #24 (Gavin’s pick)
Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque

Animal Man #24 (Matlock’s pick)
Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque

Avengers #21 (Matlock’s pick)
Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu

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The Higher They Fly, the Harder They Fall

March 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday, my badminton partner Chris Sims wrote a piece on the weekly comic tie-in Injustice: Gods Among Us, based on the upcoming game by Netherrealm Studios. For the most part, he and I disagree on it. I think it’s a fun series while he considers it one of the frontrunners for worst comic of 2013. The one thing we do agree on is the dire first three issues, though he certainly minds it a lot more.

The series tells the story of how Superman comes to take over the world in the name of the greater good, ultimately leading to a DC version of Civil War. Through the first three issues, we see the Joker devise a situation where after he shoots Jimmy Olsen in the head, he kidnaps Lois Lane and tricks Superman into killing her. He does this by dosing Superman with Scarecrow fear gas laced with kryptonite so that Superman thinks Lois is Doomsday and shoves her into orbit. And it turns out Lois is pregnant too. Then Joker blows up Metropolis. When in custody, Joker’s questioned by Batman and they argue over Superman’s integrity until the Man of Steel busts in and angrily puts his fist through Joker’s chest.

The whole “fridging of Lois” thing is what made me aware that the comic even existed, but I didn’t care to read it until seeing some panels from the fourth issue, where Green Arrow keeps Harley Quinn in custody himself so that Superman doesn’t execute her as well. Even Sims admits that that’s a well-written bit and has some positive things to say about the issues that follow. And yes, while I claim the series is worth checking out, I mainly mean AFTER the Joker plot.

That said, the discussion on the matter made me realize a state of comics that nobody really touches on. As unfun as Superman being tricked into killing his wife and unborn child is, I’m not all that offended by it because “fridging” or not, it’s a step that the writer kind of had to make based on years upon years of righteousness. It’s a fucked up thing, but it’s the double-edged sword that comes from the purity of comic book heroes. It definitely could have been pulled off better in this story, but it’s a necessary trope.

It makes me think about something Grant Morrison’s talked about during his Batman run. Over the decades, the way the Joker has been written has evolved into something nasty, both in the character’s context and in the writing context. He went from being a goofball obsessed with “boner crimes” to a man who’s killed more people than polio. He went from flying around in a clown-faced helicopter to cutting his face off and having it reattached like a Halloween mask. The explanation is that by figuring out the Joker and his crimes, Batman puts a cage over him. Joker has to think bigger and more twisted to escape the cage and Batman puts a bigger cage around that. It escalates and the next thing you know, Joker’s chopping his face up.

Every now and then, a writer will play with a superhero’s refusal to kill and see where that goes. Sometimes it leads to a hero deciding at the last second, “No, I can’t do that.” Sometimes they’ll be totally ready to do it until getting interrupted and realize later that it’s probably for the better. Then there are times when they really go through with it. Whether it’s a good story or a bad story, I don’t envy the writer who has to set up that plot development because you’re forced to go over the line.

When I think of superheroes who strictly don’t kill, the four who pop into my head are Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Each and every one of them has had at least one story that shows just what it would take to make them kill. Most of the time it’s a non-canon story that can get away with it easily (ie. Injustice) while other times it’s a canon story meant to be part of the bigger picture of the serial storytelling.

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This Week in Panels: Week 151

August 13th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Good stuff this week. I’m helped out by Gaijin Dan, Jody, Was Taters and Space Jawa.

In completely unrelated news, this Thursday is Rifftrax Live, where the MST3K guys will do a live performance that will be broadcast to movie theaters around the country. The movie in question? Manos: Hands of Fate, with a completely new set of riffs.

You should totally check it out. For the Master.

Meanwhile, panels.

Archer and Armstrong #1
Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry

Barrage #10
Kouhei Horikoshi

Batman #12 (Jody’s pick)
Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Becky Cloonan and Andy Clarke

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7 Elements: Carnage USA

April 15th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

The whole 4 Elements article concept is David’s baby. The four ties into the four in 4thletter and 4thletter comes from David’s name because he’s an egomaniac, an Eggo maniac and possibly a Lego maniac. You can also say that the four comes from there literally being four elements, but I’m pretty sure there are like a hundred of those things, so that’s definitely wrong.

This is David’s site and all, but Carnage USA is my comic. It’s a comic specifically made for ME. Me. Gavin Jasper. And since I’m Gavin, which starts with the seventh letter of the alphabet, that means I need to talk about the 7 Elements.

Carnage USA is the sequel to last year’s Carnage, both by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain. Carnage was the story that returned Carnage from his grizzly death of being torn in half in space by the Sentry back in 2005. It acts as a loose sequel to the character’s most mainstream adventure Maximum Carnage while introducing yet another symbiote anti-hero in Scorn. By the end of the story, not only is Cletus Kasady alive and reunited with his blood-red costume, but he’s also on the loose and nobody knows where he’ll end up next. All we know is that he has something bad on the horizon.

The plot of Carnage USA has Cletus venture to Doverton, Colorado, where he goes to a slaughterhouse and kills the entire stock of cows. The symbiote grows off the meat and expands to the point that he’s able to infect and assimilate the entire town through plumbing. A handful of the Avengers (Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Hawkeye and Thing) are sent to go deal with it and find a town of frightened human puppets before Carnage takes them too. Spider-Man gets away and the government goes to plan B… while trying real hard not to move to the dire plan C, which is to blow the county to kingdom come.

This miniseries helps support the idea that in comics, there are no bad characters, but bad writers. For such a mainstream villain who got his own popular videogame back in the day, Carnage’s death was met with little backlash. For years he’s been seen as nothing more than 50% shallow Venom mixed with 50% shallow Joker. Nobody’s ever really tried to write something decent with him and whenever he got the spotlight with his own one-shot, it was usually a bunch of gory dreck that didn’t do anything for me.

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This Week in Panels: Week 122

January 23rd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Hey people. ThWiP time again. This time I’ve got Was Taters, Jody and Space Jawa. Jawa is basically using this installment as self-promotion since I’m using a panel from his own comic project Robot Viking Ninja Pirates. Something he sent me a copy of a while back and I totally forgot to read it because I’m a total dickhead. Sorry, man.

Avenging Spider-Man #3 (Jody’s pick)
Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira

Avenging Spider-Man #3 (Gavin’s pick)
Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira

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Villains Reborn Part 1: Masters of Deception

December 29th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

In the prologue, I discussed the initial appearances of the Thunderbolts and the big hook of the series: a bunch of villains are pretending to be heroes in an attempt to exploit the world’s trust for personal gain. Months ago, I tried to get a friend of mine to read the series, but he’s a DC guy and was reluctant because he didn’t know any of the characters. Hell, I didn’t know any of the characters either! I mean, sure, I had heard of the Beetle before, but I only knew these characters as “those guys who became Thunderbolts.” Regardless, I figure now would be a good time to briefly go over our starting six main characters.

BARON ZEMO/CITIZEN V
Helmut Zemo

Helmut is the son of Heinrich, the Nazi supervillain who got the credit for Bucky Barnes’ death back in World War II. The news of Captain America returning, as well as the death of his father caused Helmut to seek revenge. At first he went with his own gimmick, calling himself the Phoenix. Cap handed him his ass and knocked him in a vat of Adhesive X, which scarred up his face something fierce. He’s since returned again and again as Baron Zemo, always aligning himself with fellow villains in hope of sticking it to Captain America. His claim to fame is the time he led the Masters of Evil into overtaking Avengers Mansion, where he had Jarvis tortured and messed with Cap by destroying his old pre-freeze belongings.

Zemo has no powers, but is an expert swordman and something of a scientific and tactical genius.

Baron Zemo is driven by his thirst for world domination and the belief that he is superior due to being a Zemo. Different writers seem to have different takes on how much he takes after his father. Can he be described as a Nazi or just the son of a Nazi? Does he feel that he’s superior because he’s Aryan or strictly because of his bloodline? Even a recent issue of Thunderbolts delves into this with Jeff Parker suggesting the latter. Personally, I like to just think of him as being a straight-up Nazi who likes to use people who he feels are inferior. It adds more emphasis to a lot of his later moments, from the subtle (the end of Thunderbolts #100) to the not-so-subtle (the last issue of Zemo: Born Better). I’ll get to those far down the line.

MOONSTONE/METEORITE
Karla Sofen

Karla was the daughter of a butler who worked for a rich family. While living at the mansion, she became best friends with the family’s daughter, exploiting her for her wealth. After her father’s death, she was removed from the cushy mansion life and her mother worked to the bone to keep them afloat. Karla was disgusted by her mother’s behavior and swore never to slave for the good of someone else. She became a talented psychiatrist and moonlighted with some bad people, ultimately leading her to convince the supervillain Moonstone to hand over the Kree artifact (the Moonstone) that gave him his powers. As the new Moonstone, Karla antagonized the likes of the Hulk and the Avengers.

Oh, and going by Brian Reed’s run of Ms. Marvel, she murdered her mother and convinced some of her patients to kill themselves. A little overboard for her depiction? Possibly, though Busiek has her doing some shady actions that land near that level.

As Moonstone, Karla is able to fly, has super-strength and can phase through walls. When using her Meteorite guise, she uses that last power at a minimum so as not allow anyone to figure out her identity. Her manipulation skills are so top tier that even Loki’s like, “DAMN!”

Moonstone is driven by selfish comfort. She’s the kind of person who would pretend to be lifting her corner of the couch while you end up putting in the brunt of the effort.

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This Week in Panels: Week 116

December 11th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Why, hello there! We’re back to having thicker weeks of comic releases and now’s the part where I do the thing that I do every week around this time. Coming up with stuff to say for this opening paragraph after two years plus is hard.

This week it’s me, David Brothers, Space Jawa and a special appearance by 4thletter alumni Thomas Wilde. Now if only Hoatzin would start tossing some panels at me.

Action Comics #4
Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Sholly Fisch and Brad Walker

Animal Man #4
Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

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This Year in Panels: Year 2

September 21st, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this crap for two years. I just did the 100th installment of This Week in Panels a month ago, so this is less of a big deal, but whatever. This Week in Panels has been about me and people who read this for whatever reason picking out panels that best represent the comics we read. What is the comic? Sell it with one panel without the context. Let the readers figure it out.

Going with what I did a year ago, I decided to do a little look back at the past 52 weeks. The challenge is to showcase a panel from each week without double-dipping on the same series. Let’s see what the last year have given us.

Amazing Spider-Man #664
Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Max Fiumara

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5
Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #2
Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle

Batman and Robin #15
Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

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So Here’s 4 Minutes of Green Goblin Weirdness

July 20th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

While all the bloggers are at San Diego, the rest of the freaks are apparently in New York City. Except for me. I’m in the suburbs, about a half hour drive from New York City. That’s close enough, right?

I’ve talked before about my experience of seeing Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Again, I say that I can’t in any good conscience call it good, but I can call it incredibly worth watching due to being too strange to exist. Words are only words, though. Finally, I have something to show you.

Now, since I’ve seen the show, there was a major upheaval. The show was shut down and rewritten because Julie Taymor is fucking crazy and had some overly-strange/stupid ideas in there. A lot of the bad stuff was removed. For instance, everyone loved Patrick Page’s portrayal of the Green Goblin, yet he was killed halfway into the story and only appeared for the rest of it as an illusion meant to torture Peter. In actuality, the true villain of the play was the Greek mythological character Arachne. Now they’ve scaled back Arachne’s role considerably and gave Green Goblin the keys to the villain throne. This in turn caused them to drop a musical number where Arachne sings about… well, shoes. Yes, really.

To make up for this void, Bono and Edge created a new song for Green Goblin which Rolling Stone described as, “the Grinch singing Lady Gaga, with an Abba-esque chorus.” WOW. That rose up my list of shit I needed to see.

Luckily, the Late Show with David Letterman had a Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark-based show where he had Edge and Bono as guests. Check out the final segment of the show.

There’s so much insanity in there, I don’t know where to start. I’ll just let you enjoy it as you repeat viewing it a dozen or so times.

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We Care a Lot Part 24: The Antihero’s Journey Concludes

July 9th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s so weird to see this article come full circle. As I said long ago in the prologue, We Care a Lot gained its genesis in a series of posts in a forum that no longer exists. David Brothers was new to blogging and asked me to join him many years ago, citing that I’d be able to repost my Venom essays, finish them and write junk like it. I may have done that latter part, but I never could get back into writing about Venom. At the time, the character I once loved and saw things in that few else ever did had become a dummy used in various stories that for the most part weren’t very good. Unlike the “weren’t very good” stories from the 90′s, these stories actually went and destroyed my interest in him.

Look how far everything’s come since then. As Venom, Mac Gargan became a major star in the Marvel Universe for quite a while, got his own miniseries and was a wheel in one of Marvel’s top selling books at the time. Now Venom is worn by Flash Thompson and stars in his own comic that has definite staying power (I was going to say that it has legs, but, well…). Eddie Brock has been reborn in a new form with appearances in Spider-Man’s main comic here and there, as well as an upcoming Venom crossover. Carnage has come back from the afterlife with a couple miniseries that make the character kind of sort of worth reading. Not only did his return give us yet another symbiote hero character who will fall off the face of the Earth, but a preview of Carnage USA suggested that there’d be some kind of task force made of obscure symbiote characters only remembered by me, the people who’ve read these articles and maybe six other people. I can only hope.

The whole Venom Family is thriving and comics have evolved in the way that modern writers have a better grasp on what to do with these guys. I’ve seen a lot of criticism on Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, but I can’t fault him on his use of Anti-Venom. The dude just plain gets it. Or he at least gets what I get.

I suppose with Venom, my enjoyment of the character has been almost defining for me. I know some people online might consider me “the Venom guy”, for better or worse. I never set out to make readers fully agree with my delight with the character/concept, but I at least wanted to make them understand where I was coming from. I hope that I’ve at least succeeded in that.

He’s a Silver Age concept painted with a 90′s extreme paintbrush. Look at the whole symbiote idea. Tell me that that isn’t a Silver Age idea that nobody got around to using until they were decades too late. It’s a plot device that writers continue to pull new tricks out of their asses for (might I remind you that symbiotes can kill people through the internet?). Yet in the end, it’s Eddie Brock who anchors it all. I’m not one of those fanboys who wants him to be Venom again because, “That’s the only way it can be.” No. I’d rather he be Anti-Venom forever.

When done right, Eddie is someone that writers have yet to scratch the surface of. He isn’t like the Punisher. He may kill and justify it, but he isn’t dead inside. In fact, he’s more optimistic about what he does than most superheroes in their saner exploits. He thinks he’s right and sometimes he is, but he’s occasionally capable of understanding that he’s wrong and can indeed agree with logic every once and a while.

Over the years, Venom has been treated like the redheaded stepchild of Marvel. Tossed around from writer to writer and making appearances that treat him as more of a money-making accessory than an actual character. He’s been in some good stories, he’s been in a lot of bad stories and he’s been in a few incredibly terrible stories. I recognize that. I’m not blind.

I also recognize something else.

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