No Effort Week: Death to the Uncool

January 24th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely at what was, at this point, the top of their game. From Flex Mentallo to We3 on through to All-Star Superman, this duo has proven to be one of the best in comics.
New X-Men: Riot at Xavier’s remains one of the best, if not the best, X-Men stories.

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I Got My Uzi Back Linkblogging

December 1st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

-I liked this post by Euge of War Rocket Ajax. It’s not about comics- instead it’s about the Clipse and their place in rap culture. Preorder Til The Casket Drops here, ten bones. It leaked this weekend, it’s dope, get on that.

-I talk about The ‘Nam Volume 1 TPB and a little bit about war comics history over at Comics Alliance.

-Tom Spurgeon wrote a holiday gift guide. Everyone else should just go ahead and bow down, this is extra thorough.

-Matt Thorn discusses manga translation and man, I pretty much agree with him. I’ve had my issues with overly faithful translations, and he does a pretty good job of explaining why. I think approaching a translation project as simply transplanting the language word for word is a huge mistake. There’s something exoticizing about that, too, which makes me a little uncomfortable.

This shirt is dope.

-Nina Stone’s Virgin Read is no more!

Look at all these Marvel characters Kurt Busiek co-created!

-Brandon Thomas wraps his New X-Men retrospective.

-Timothy Callahan is basically correct in his look back at Dark Knight Strikes Again.

-Jog talks about manga and Manga. Good thing to wake up to.

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Grant Morrison Ruined the X-Men

November 6th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Grant Morrison ruined the X-Men when he wrote New X-Men.

No, really, it’s true. Look at Marvel’s moves after he left the book. The very first thing they did was launch X-Men: Reload, a branding and soft-relaunch initiative that saw Chris Claremont put on Uncanny X-Men, Chuck Austen placed on the last two issues of New X-Men (where he cleaned up plots that were already perfectly clean), and Joss Whedon hired to write what turned out to be one long love letter to the glory days of Claremont/Byrne Uncanny X-Men.

Later, they reduced the total number of mutants to the low three figures, a huge change from Morrison’s population of millions.

Morrison pulled the X-Men into the modern day, not even the future, and Marvel’s move after he left was to immediately dial things back to 1982. It’s a baffling decision, and one that’s hamstrung the X-Men ever since. Whedon’s run went from mildly entertaining to stone cold stupid with a quickness (Space bullet, Professor Xavier in a truck, too-cute dialogue, pretty much everything after issue 12, though granted John Cassaday was awesome throughout), no one remembers Claremont’s run despite the Alan Davis art, Peter Milligan’s run was a non-starter, Brubaker was a tremendous mistake, and Matt Fraction’s run is a little too cute and sandbagged by Greg Land. The best X-Men run since Morrison left was the first year or so of the Mike Carey/Chris Bachalo/Humberto Ramos X-Men, which managed to match the writing with the art and tell a solid story. It was good, however, not great.

New X-Men was great.

“No question, bein a black man is demandin'”

The X-Men have often been seen as a metaphor for oppressed peoples, with black and gay people being the most common ones cited. Morrison looked at this metaphor, looked at real life, and updated the X-Men to reflect that. Being a mutant became cool in the same way that being black is cool. You can buy clothes and music made by mutants and be down. You can even hang out in Mutant Town after dark to show how open-minded and cool you are.

At the same time, that only goes so far– no one wants to be black, or a mutant, when the things go down or the cops show up. So when Xorn visits Mutant Town and ends up witnessing the death of a young mutant? The humans react the way they always have: with fear and bigotry.

Morrison turned mutants into a subculture, a logical extension of what happens when new elements are introduced into society. They were still oppressed, but they actually had some kind of culture to go along with their oppression. He gave them their own Chinatown, their own Little Italy, and made it a point to show that mutants, while not entirely accepted just yet, were more than just mutant paramilitary teams. There were ugly mutants, ones with useless powers, ones with hideous powers, and ones who just didn’t really care about the X-Men.

These Are The Days of Our Lives

The soap opera was a huge part of the draw of Claremont’s, and everyone else’s, X-Men, Morrison included. However, where the previous soap operas tended toward being the status quo (Rogue and Gambit’s will they/won’t they, Scott and Jean’s alternating marital strife and bliss, Storm being aloof and faux-queenish, Iceman being an idiot), Morrison took them and forced actual change.

Jean Grey embraced her amazing powers, rather than being afraid of them and found true peace and confidence. Wolverine goes from a beast of a man to a man who has figured out how to keep the beast under control through discipline and poise. Emma Frost found love. Magneto found out what it really takes to change the world. And so on.

My favorite change, though, is Cyclops. He went through something horrible and traumatic, and after, he didn’t feel the same. He felt like he didn’t measure up to the storybook romance that he found himself in, and was worried about not being perfect enough for his (in his eyes) perfect wife. And it hurts their relationship, they grow apart, and he eventually finds someone else.

It’s a bad thing, but at the same time, believable. His friends warn him off, tell him he’s being stupid, and he still does it. And when the missus finds out, what’s he do? He leaves to get drunk. He reacts poorly to a situation he simply doesn’t know how to handle, and ends up adventuring with Wolverine.

And you know what? It works. It pulls Cyclops away from being the stick in the mud, generic leader type he’d been for years. He even sticks to the Marvel blueprint: he struggles with a personal problem, makes a poor decision, and somehow ends up sticking the landing.

Grown Man Business

Grant Morrison made the X-Men grown-up. He eschewed stereotypical supervillain stories until the tail end of his run, and even those stories were layered with a depth of character and nuance that kept them above generic megalomania. When Magneto nearly destroys New York as the culmination of his big plan, he’s forced to confront the fact that the personality he created to further his plan, the healer Xorn, is better liked and more effective than he could ever be. No one wants Magneto any more. Magneto is old and busted, Xorn is the new hotness.

That’s what Morrison’s New X-Men run was about: the new. Mutants as subculture, the changes Beast has gone through, Wolverine fighting against his true nature, Jean loving herself and her powers, and Magneto joining the X-Men and doing more good than he ever did before. All of that is pushing the X-Men toward the new.

The X-Men, moreso than any other franchise, needs to be on the cutting edge of culture. The oppression metaphor practically requires it. Morrison put them right out there, threw a bunch of new ideas and philosophies into the mix, and created something amazing.

And ever since, Marvel has run screaming from it. Major developments were dialed back, retcons applied, and hands waved. The X-Men line, post-NXM, has been, to be kind, a complete mess. It’s finally found focus recently, but New X-Men? That was years ago.

They would have been better off embracing it wholeheartedly, rather than depowering all the mutants, reinforcing 15 year old status quos, and generally putting out bad comics. Morrison laid the ground work for a whole new generation of X-Men comics. We could’ve seen the tales of a new class of New Mutants who had no interest in being soldiers, explored mutant subculture in-depth, examined how humans react to having a brand new and vibrant subculture evolve right under their noses, or even just shown an X-Men team that didn’t solve all its problems by hitting things really hard.

The seeds for all of this are right there in New X-Men. But, we’ll never see it. Marvel got to the end of NXM, recoiled, and ran in the opposite direction. Now we’re just left, once again, with re-runs of our grief. The potential for the X-Men to be more than they were, and are, is gone. It’s sad, but it’s true. After New X-Men, the franchise took a hard turn into a brick wall.

Marvel hasn’t totally run from it, though. You can still buy the series in three handsome softcover volumes. I absolutely recommend it. It’s definitely my favorite X-Men story.

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Fourcast! 22: Six Fun Twists and Turns

October 26th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

This is a different kind of Continuity Off, as Esther and I break down six plot twists and turns that we’ve enjoyed over the years. 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental is our theme music, of course, and here’s a few of the stories we’re going to ruin for you:

-The Last Days of Ted Kord
-The last great X-Men tale (New X-Men, if you disagree you are objectively wrong)
-The connection between Hitman and Punisher
-Batman buying girlfriends
-The Death of Jack Murdock
-Superboy Prime punches.

Listen carefully.

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Bullpen Bulletins

April 20th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Quick hits while I’m at lunch at work:
ITEM! Jog wrote a great review of The Spirit over at Comixology. He pins down a lot of what I liked about the movie, and even calls to attention a few things I completely missed, like Spirit’s inability to commit to women means that he also cannot commit to death, who is personified as a woman.

ITEM! I talked about Models, Inc. and Marvel Divas a Saturday ago, wondering if the former had been bumped for the latter. I realized shortly after the post went up that it’s 2009, we have the internet, and you can just email people and ask. I emailed Paul Tobin, asking if the series had been canned, and got a very nice response back. In short, the series is in moderate limbo, but is being reworked. Mary Jane is out, but the series is going to be set in the modern Marvel U. There’s no schedule for it yet, but it isn’t erased. So, cool! I can’t wait to see it. I’m very, very skeptical of a 3.99 price point for any comic, but Models Inc. is just the kind of series I’d like to see more of.

ITEM! I still don’t care about Marvel Divas, though. Doesn’t sound like my kind of book at all.

ITEM! It’s a good week to be Jog, because he also talked about some French comic or something yesterday. (It’s Metabarons.)

ITEM! The only Dark Reign book I’ve really liked so far is Elektra. Zeb Wells and Clay Mann told a fun story of a ninja assassin coming back from the brink. It’s light, but fun work. The other Dark Reign titles? Ehhh. Norman Osborn has been replaced with Snidely Whiplash, and is suddenly the guy who will order people to shoot down a commercial aircraft just to see if maybe the new Iron Maiden (dumb name) is worth bothering with. The Hood is suddenly monologuing his evil little heart out while torturing subordinates, making him a cut-rate Kingpin. I don’t know, it’s just coming off overall lame.

ITEM! I liked Fear Agent, but Rick Remender’s Punisher? I can’t do it, man. I think Punisher really probably died with Ennis to me.

ITEM! I have a similar problem with the X-Men. Mike Carey’s first 12-18 issues were really very good, but the last great run was Grant Morrison’s, at least on the writing side.

ITEM! Speaking of New X-Men, here’s the last word on sexy comics, from New X-Men Vol. 5: Assault on Weapon Plus:


Actually, I was thinking about how weird and sexless and unarousing this is.

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My Scott & Jean: Knowing When To Let Go

March 30th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

from marvel’s New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow, words by grant morrison, art by marc silvestri

My Scott & Jean is accepting change. Opinions change, people change, stories change, characters change, and comics change. Gambit and Rogue had a “will they or won’t they?” relationship when I first started reading comics. Cannonball was on the verge of becoming a great leader. Iceman was learning just how powerful he really is. Scott and Jean were going through relationship troubles. And so on.

When things last that long, they stagnate.

New X-Men was the last great X-Men story. It told a tale that of drama, death, and revenge that, in the end, was solved by love. Jean Grey is basically the main character of Morrison’s New X-Men. Despite having grown apart from her husband after he went through some serious trauma, she loves him. She’s grown-up enough to let the relationship go without any drama or mess. She laughs, and tells her husband to live. It was easily the most mature thing to ever happen to that relationship, which has been fraught with Claremont-style fairy tale love and forced drama.

It’s over, let it be. It’s time for something new.

I’ve got no interest in Green Lantern: Rebirth, Flash: Rebirth, the return of Babs Gordon as Batgirl, Johnny Storm and Iceman being dialed back to being idiots because writers are too lazy or too infatuated with the first time they read them (whatever happened to that friendship, anyway?), Cyclops going back to being cold and aloof, the X-Men going from thriving minority to endangered species, or any of that crap. Leave 1985 in the past, because we have been there and done that.

Stories shouldn’t last forever.

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What If? What Then? The Comic I’d Like to See

April 12th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

The next Comics from the 5th Dimention column should be up soon. The big drawback about writing for PopCultureShock rather than here is that you can’t have your stuff up instantly. Them’s the breaks.

I plan to one day write my own comic series. I’m currently trying to move my gears forward on that. That said, I still find myself thinking about what kind of DC or Marvel-owned series I would love to write if I had the chance. Stuff like an Eradicator on-going where he stations himself in Coast City as a way to make up for and investigate the human feeling of guilt he suffers from his failure to protect the city from Cyborg Superman and Mongul. Or a Juggernaut series where he’s on the run from SHIELD, all while showing the parallels of the Superhuman Registration Act and being the avatar slave of Cyttorak.

There’s one comic concept that came to me the other day. What If occasionally had sequels, most of them not very good. Having read so many issues and having some of them so nestled into my memory, the continuity nut in me always compares some issues to events that happened after the release date. Sometimes it’s just to laugh at the continuity screw-up, like how Alicia Masters in What If the X-Men Lost Inferno was really a Skrull and the writer didn’t know it yet. That revelation gums up her part in the story.

Sometimes I realize how much more interesting stories become when you toss in delayed retcons and new pieces of canon. For instance, there’s the issue What If the X-Men Had Died on Their First Mission, where the New X-Men team (Wolverine, Storm, etc.) go to Krakoa to save the original X-Men and they all die. Xavier beats himself up over it, Moira comforts him and eventually another X-Men team is created. It was a good story, but compare it to what we know now. Deadly Genesis showed the other X-Men team that died fighting Krakoa. When they failed, Moira was angry, so Xavier erased her memory of the events. Put the two stories together and it’s pretty fucked up. Xavier deserves to feel bad. His Krakoa mission would have cost him three X-Men teams, totaling at 17 mutants. Then you have Moira trying to keep him from being suicidal, not knowing what a bastard he really is because the son of a bitch removed it from her memory.

What would have happened when Vulcan came back to Earth, not only forgotten, but now without his brothers? Now that would be a sequel issue worth reading.

I think back to other What Ifs that lead to a new status quo and how vastly different things would have been if they continued the story and met up with the events that were destined to happen. I think a handful of them could make for a good limited series.

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Black History Month 06: Wu-Tang is For the Children

February 6th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

“I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children.”
–Ol’ Dirty Bastard

There aren’t a lot of black youths active in comics these days. Just a cursory, generous, and off-the-top-of-my-head count comes up with Natasha Irons, Night Thrasher (II), Debrii, Patriot, Prodigy… who else? DC’s got a stockpile of fashionable pretty little indistinguishable blonde girls and dark haired male sidekicks and that’s about it. We’ve got a fistful of grown-ups, and Luke Cage is leading the Avengers and playing the Captain America role (whoa), but what about the kids?

I had some harsh words about Patriot a while back, and I stand by them. His origin makes him a sucker and a weakling on a team full of people who have overcome exterior problems without falling victim to interior ones. I recently reread Young Avengers after a friend gave away the two trades and I still can’t get into it. It rubs me raw.

Patriot is an interesting character, because a young black male wearing the flag, even (or especially) now is rife with story possibilities. In a lot of ways, it flies in the face of logic. In others, it makes perfect sense. Ed Brubaker did a good job briefly discussing those issues in his issue of Young Avengers Presents. How do you reconcile history and the ideal? Do you even bother trying? Patriot is the grandson of a man who was pretty much tortured and ruined by the government who is represented by the flag he wears. What about that?

David “Prodigy” Alleyne from New X-Men is a character that I liked a lot. He had clever powers and was kind of a modern-day non-irreparably lame Doug Ramsey type of kid. He could absorb the knowledge, but not the powers, of anyone who he was close to. Then House of M hit and Kyle and Yost took over the series and bodies started dropping and I stopped reading.

But, I mean, before all that? He seemed pretty cool, even if he was only ever on maybe ten covers out of fifty-nine of the New Mutants/New X-Men run. (Yes I counted.)

I want a spectrum of characters. I want to see that young black kid who is all about fighting the power and bringing down the man. I want to see that kid who might not have grown up as poor as his other friends and has some guilt over that. I want to see that black girl who had to fight twice as hard as everyone else she knows to get half as far. I want to see those kids who reflect the people I grew up with, who run the gamut from this, to that, and the third.

I started reading comics almost twenty years ago. (I am not that old I just started reading early, shut up.) Why is the landscape barely different at all? Milestone Comics was how many years ago now? I mean, can a Brothers get a black Teen Titan who isn’t a) Cyborg and b) a shrinky bee girl? This is the pre-eminent DC teen team, you mean to tell me that they can’t get a quota kid or two to fill out the ranks? Farm some kids out of the Boys & Girls Club? I mean, blonde girls got it made! There’s one with every power under the sun! Why can’t I have a spectrum of characters to look at and show my little cousins?

“Hey, check this guy out! He’s pretty cool, right?”
“What’s his power? He looks aight.”
“Um, he got beat up so he took drugs so he could get revenge on those guys, and then decided he wanted to be a hero.”

Yeah, that’s not the business.

We’ve got a few characters. Making more isn’t even hard.

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Sometimes you miss things…

July 22nd, 2007 Posted by david brothers

You know how you can read something, enjoy it, and then read it again and enjoy it on an all new level?

Check this sequence from New X-Men #145.

nxm145-19-20.jpg nxm145-21.jpg nxm145-22.jpg

Here’s Wolverine’s monologue at the end there:

Nah. see, I just found out WHO I am and WHAT I am… and… well, let’s just say some of us were BORN to kill and RAISED to kill and that’s the only damn thing we’re any GOOD for.

Everything else is just LIES we tell ourselves.

You’re asking me about the purpose of LIFE, you fucking genocide machine? It’s like this…”

He presses a button and basically attempts suicide.

At first, this was just a cool scene. Wolverine talks about his life and the pointlessness of it and then takes out the bad guy.

I was talking with some friends online after the (dope) Isotope party tonight and we somehow got onto the subject of New X-Men and how it tried to push the X-franchise in a new direction. Then we went from talking about all the off-panel fights and then onto metacommentary when it hit me. This scene is a direct commentary on the X-Franchise in specific.

You’re created for one thing. Bred for one thing. You will never, ever be anything more than that, and trying otherwise is just lying to yourself.

True? False?

Food for thought.

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Joe Q: Villain or Menace?

June 14th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been putting out vinyl since ’93 and never looked back once
And y’all trying to chase me
You don’t innovate because you can’t innovate
It’s not a choice despite what you might tell your boys
Keep your identity crisis under the table
I always knew who I was and I’ll always be more famous

-El-P, “We’re Famous”

“What the fuck is DC anyway?” Mr. Quesada said, stoking the fires. “They’d be better off calling it AOL Comics. At least people know what AOL is. I mean, they have Batman and Superman, and they don’t know what to do with them. That’s like being a porn star with the biggest dick and you can’t get it up. What the fuck?” (Paul Levitz, DC’s president and publisher, declined to comment for this story through a spokesperson.)
The Observer, 04/28/02

Joe Quesada, EiC of Marvel Comics, gets a lot of crap.

To be honest, a lot of it is deserved. Marvel has done some bone-headed stuff under his rule. Losing Grant Morrison, the Heroes for Hire thing, giving Greg Land work, almost firing Mark Waid, and so on. I’m sure you have a laundry list of reasons to dislike the dude. He’s got a big mouth, too, and doesn’t hesitate to open it.

But, and here is the rub– it’s his fault that comics are so good right now. Let me explain.

There is a philosophy that a president, I think it was President Rickard, used to have. Okay, it was Truman and I was reaching way too hard for the Prez Rickard joke. Anyway, it’s “The buck stops here.” In other words, if you’re the boss, all the bad crap that happens is your fault, whether you had a direct hand in it or not. It’s a way of taking responsibility for things that your organization does. It’s also a way of blaming the head guy in charge for everything and anything.

Turn that around, though. Doesn’t the head guy in charge deserve some credit for the good things, too? I think so.

Joey da Q is not the best guy around, I won’t deny that. Marvel is hardly perfect. But, he’s trying, and I can respect that. Obviously, the credit for these decisions should be shared with his editors, the creators, Bill Jemas, and Dan Buckley, but Joe Q should get a slice of that, as well.

This is pretty long, and I cover a lot of stuff, from comics to sex to race to dissing the competition, so click through.
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