We Care a Lot Part 23: Red Jelly

June 11th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I admit that I’ve been putting this one off for quite some time. It’s only natural, since it means having to read Maximum Carnage for the first time in about fifteen years. For a while, I didn’t even intend to review this story since it’s been covered to death across the internet, but then I realized that my take may have its own flavor. After all, I’m a guy who likes Spider-Man, loves Venom and tolerates Carnage. That last one already puts me on a different path from most reviewers.

Carnage falls into the category of, “It’s not the character that’s bad but the writing.” Carnage can be in a great story, I’m sure. We just haven’t seen it yet, though the Carnage miniseries (originally going to be called Astonishing Spider-Man and Iron Man until Marvel realized they could lure more readers in by naming it after the long-dead villain) has certainly had its moments. In preparation, I read through Carnage’s original story arc in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #361-363, which isn’t at all an offensive story. The Micheline/Bagley joint mostly acts as a way to both remove Venom from his status quo where he peacefully lived on an abandoned island while believing Spider-Man to be dead as well as giving Venom an excuse to fight alongside Spider-Man against a threat greater than both of them.

This idea, which I’m sure sold like gangbusters, was made fun of in the pages of the Ren and Stimpy Show #6 when Spider-Man made a guest appearance to fight a mind-controlled Powdered Toast Man.

This was written by Dan Slott, who would go on to create Anti-Venom and a bunch of gimmicky Spider-Man costumes. Pot and kettle.

So anyway, Carnage was a decent enough villain for his initial story. If they kept their cool about it, he’d probably be more accepted by your average comic fan. Instead, they went nuts over how this was the best idea Marvel’s come up with in years. The covers would literally say that Carnage was so awesome that they had to put his name on the cover twice! It was this thinking that made Marvel brass believe that a lengthy Spider-Man arc spanning all his books should be centered around this supervillain.

After reading Maximum Carnage, I felt that it had a lot of similarities to the Clone Saga. Part of it is the innocent idea of taking a character who’s been taken off the board in a previous story and bringing them back for the sake of telling a bigger, better story. Due to the hype behind the character, many issues are dedicated to telling this story. Too many issues.

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Black History Month 2011: Marc Bernardin

February 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

from women of marvel. art by romina moranelli(, whose style here has a little bit of humberto ramos-ness to it, but who also has a skinny style i dig a lot).

Marc Bernardin
Selected Works: Top Cow First Look Volume 1 TP, Genius #1, Monster Attack Network, The Highwaymen

There are a lot of different types of comics. Comics with crazy high concepts, cheesecake comics, autobio, and on and on and on. There’s this other lane I enjoy, too, which are basically just comics for the sake of being comics. Straight up comic books, no gimmicks. These are the sort of books that you can give to anyone, because they aren’t hinging upon decades of history. They get in, they get out, and you’re left entertained.

Marc Bernardin, with his writing partner Adam Freeman, is good at those kinds of comics. A quick flip through his ComicBookDB profile reveals a more or less even mix of original work and corporate comics, including a movie tie-in miniseries. The thing about this collection of one-shots and minis is that they don’t get to hinge upon past history. At best, you have a status quo you can tie into for a little extra punch, but you don’t get the momentum you would from delving into continuity porn.

You have to sit down and make your story good enough to be worthy on its own merits. Bernardin’s had eight(ish) pages on the low side of things, and six on the high side, to make his readers into true believers. That means that there’s no time at all to screw around. Bernardin (and Freeman!) uses a deft mix of humor, big action right out of the gate, and fast pacing to keep you hooked. On top of that, his books tend to be aware of the medium and genre they’re working in. There are little nods and hints toward other books or franchises, just enough to let your mind make the connection, but not so much that it interferes with the book.

Bernardin writes straight up comics, and that counts for a lot to me.

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This Week in Panels: Week 66

December 26th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome back to another week of panels. Again, I’m joined by my usual panel of panel panelists in David Brothers, Was Taters and Space Jawa. Pretty full week this time around so let’s get to it.

Azrael #15
David Hine and Cliff Richards

Batman, Inc. #2
Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette

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The Cipher 06/16/10

June 16th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

amazing spider-man presents black cat #1: words by jen van meter, art by javier pulido, colors by matt hollingsworth, letters by joe caramanga, cover by amanda conner, and cover colors by christina strain.

North beach leathers, matching Gucci sweater… Gucci sneaks on to keep my outfit together, whatever, hundred for the diamond chain. Can’t you tell that I came from the dope game?

You know who I love? Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. Up until her reintroduction in Amazing Spider-Man last year, courtesy of Joe Kelly and Mike McKone, she’d hadn’t had any substantive appearances in a Spider-book in a good long while. She’s been one of my favorite characters since I was a kid, but not for any particular story. She was in my first comic, ASM 316, but all she did there was get dissed by Venom. Not exactly a selling point. But no, I like her because she’s got a great visual, with the white hair, black costume, white gloves and shoes, and tufts of fur. I like her like I like Domino, I think. Her bad luck powers are neat and allow for some fun action, but the real key is that she’s a thief. Heist stories are some of the best stories, and hopefully Van Meter’s story in Black Cat is going to be a good one. I’m feeling optimistic. The team is pretty fantastic all around. Javier Pulido is an astonishingly good artist, Matt Hollingsworth a great colorist, and how crazy is that Amanda Conner cover? Check the preview here. Four bucks is less than optimal, but I’m curious. We’ll see how I feel at the shop.

Looking at the other stuff on my list… this is a surprisingly large week for me. Amazon-wise, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 9 arrived yesterday, Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 11 is due in today. 20th Century Boys is kicking up now that Urasawa has gotten around to answering questions, but the last volume definitely had two scenes that featured someone going “Oh no! It’s YOU!” without actually showing us who it is. That was massively frustrating, but hopefully we’ll get to see who it is in this volume? Ult Spidey I preordered when it was cheap, and it completes the last run of Ultimate Spider-Man. After this… I think I’m out. The new stuff isn’t clicking like it should. It has its moments, but not so many that I want to keep buying it monthly. I might check out the first couple trades a few months down the line, see if my opinion changed.

Floppy-wise, I’m looking at Amazing Spider-Man 633 & 634, Atlas 2, Hellblazer 268, Heralds 3, and Unknown Soldier 21. That’s the end of “Shed,” the beginning of “Grim Hunt,” a Jeff Parker/Gabriel Hardman joint, a Shade the Changing Man guest spot, more from the Kathryn Immonen/Tonci Zonjic superstar team, and more from the sadly cancelled book about a lone soldier battling himself and others in Uganda. This is the best week I’ve seen in a good while. I’m juggling a few things, but I figure I’ll have a post on Unknown Soldier up soon. Whether it’ll be about this week’s issue (which is about the life and times of an AK-47) or the series as a whole, I’m not sure.

Other notables: Brightest Day 4 is the first appearance of the new Aqualad, Seven Soldiers of Victory, Book 1 is the first hardcover collection of the fantastic Grant Morrison-led megaseries, and friend of 4l! Ian Brill’s Darkwing Duck launches.

Oh yeah, I did a few movie reviews over at Tucker Stone’s spot. I watched four Akira Kurosawa films at New People here in San Francisco and you guys get to reap the whirlwind.

What’re you buying? What am I missing? What did you like? Check out this week’s books here. Anybody else have characters where they like the idea more than the actual execution on the page? I can’t think of a single great story with Domino, but I like her nonetheless.

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We Care a Lot Part 19: We Are the Worlds

December 3rd, 2009 Posted by Gavok

One of the themes of We Care a Lot has been that Venom has been written so differently over the years, including stories coming out at the same time. A good deal of the frustration comes from how all of his stories are one shared continuity. People disagree, but I love continuity. I think, when done right, it adds a special dimension to stories and empowers them.

But what of other continuities? The alternate realities and all that? Hell, you can do all the damage you want and it won’t have any affect. Have Gambit as the third Summers brother? Sounds stupid, but go ahead. Have Batman kill the Joker? Go for it! Have Richard Fisk become Daredevil? Sure, why not? Because at the end of the day, Gambit isn’t a Summers brother, Joker’s still kicking and Matt Murdock is still wearing crimson. If you can make a good story out of it, even better!

So let’s look at Venom in the other worlds. This will be a two-parter, followed by a similar look at alternate futures. What better way to start than Marvel’s go-to series for alternate storylines and one of my personal favorites: What If!

I’ve covered What If issues like wildfire before – and I do plan to reprise my Top 100 list a bit after the new batch or releases are finished – so I won’t go too in-depth. The first alternate story for Venom is What If the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man (#4 in the second series) by Danny Fingeroth and Mark Bagley.

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“Could ya see yourself with a Spider workin’ harder than 9 to 5?”

September 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until it comes back.

One of the best parts of Spider-Man’s supporting cast are the female characters he meets, befriends, and sometimes dates. Glory Grant, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane, Betty Brant, Liz Allan, and probably a dozen others. They ran the gamut from weepy and hot-for-teenager Lee/Ditko-era Betty Brant to determined Gwen Stacy to party girl with a heart of gold MJ.

While Aunt May and MJ’s Aunt Anna were both pretty much cut from the same cloth, with Aunt May being a little more frail on occasion, the rest of the women came from all walks of life, and the series benefitted from it. One woman who is absolutely in my top three, though, is Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat.

Felicia brought a more realistic version of the Clark/Lois/Superman love triangle to comics. In a world where you honestly have a choice between the heroic hot dude and the shlub who just kinda stutters a little, who in the world would choose the shlub? Felicia is an attractive cat burglar and lives the high life. When Spider-Man reveals his identity, all she can say is, “Put your mask back on!” It’s Spider-Man she loves, fabulous man of mystery and amazing hero, not Peter Parker, Dude Who Worries About His Rent.

Felicia brings something to the Spider-books that MJ or Gwen never could. She’s got abilities that raise her above the level of “normal comic book girl.” Her bad luck powers are only icing on the cake for her agility, general physical fitness, and ability to plan a crime. She knows the risks and enters into them of her own free will. Her fun-loving nature, too, provides a wonderful contrast to Peter Parker’s constant gnashing of teeth.

She was actually in my first comic, though she jobbed to Venom there. Amazing Spider-Man #316, the beginning of Venom’s big comeback tour. She comes looking for Spider-Man, not knowing that 1) he’s married and 2) moved out. Venom catches her while she’s in Spider’s old apartment, beats the snot out of her, and leaves her in tears. Great going, guys.

Amazing Spidey #606 brought the Black Cat back into the Spider-Man family proper, with her first appearance in the flagship book since Maximum Carnage. Do the math: that’s 16 years. She showed up in various miniseries and probably Spectacular or Web Of, but Amazing is the Spidey book. Seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Luckily, her return to Amazing Spider-Man is also a return to form, as she reminds me of the character that I loved back in the day.

From Amazing Spidey 606, words by Joe Kelly, pictures by Mike McKone, with Chris Chuckry on colors:


Welcome back, Felicia Hardy.

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Fourcast! 15: The Sinister Six

September 7th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental brings us in as we discuss our three favorite Batman and Spider-Man villains, and just what makes them so great. Esther’s got Bane, Catwoman, and the Riddler, I’ve got Norman Osborn, Black Cat, and Doc Ock. There’s a surprised amount of similarities in our picks, even though we surprised each other.

After that is the Continuity Off to end all Continuity Offs, as Esther explains Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Hawkwoman, and Hawkworld, and I… well, give it a listen.

Grab the Fourcast! via RSS or iTunes.

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We Care a Lot Part 16: Toxology Report

September 1st, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Venom was certainly making himself known in late 2004. Not only did he have his ongoing series and his role in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, but Marvel decided to give him top billing in yet another miniseries! This time, we got Venom/Carnage, or Venom vs. Carnage. At least, the latter is how it appeared in the solicits, but the former is how it shows up in the book. I mean, I guess the slashed one makes it easier to type, but adding “versus” makes anything sound cool. Would people be that interested in “Freddy/Jason” or “Aliens/Predator”? No. Not at all.

Venom/Carnage came out in September, 2004, only weeks before the Venomous storyline, which would seemingly kill off Eddie Brock and make Mac Gargan the new Venom. A couple months later, Carnage would be flown into space and torn in half by the Sentry in the pages of New Avengers. So why would they be making a miniseries about these two characters who are about to be changed so radically? Why, it would be for an introduction!

The series is written by Peter Milligan with the art by Clayton Crain. Crain’s style is very unique, looking like an ultra-glossy wax museum made of CGI. His human characters can look very off at times, but when someone’s face is covered and they’re in costume, they look pretty rocking. This goes double for the symbiote characters, such as Venom and Carnage on that above cover. The symbiotes get by on being made to look cool and this guy makes them look cooler, so give them a minseries, why not.

From writing up these articles and having to reread these stories, I think I’ve noticed a hiccup in the storytelling process. In the Spider-Man story The Hunger, it ends with the Venom symbiote saying that it’s pregnant. Daniel Way’s Venom series ends with Venom becoming a huge monster that’s meant to unleash some kind of world-ending output that can’t be described. My own educated guess would be that Toxin, the character this installment is about, was meant to be that offspring. Only, Peter Milligan was plotting Venom/Carnage and thought, “Eh… fuck it, we’ll make it Carnage’s kid.”

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