"Will He Save The Galaxy--Or Destroy It?"

 Somebody better take Marvel Comics’ collective temperature—are they feeling okay? Deadpool didn’t appear in a single comic this week! For that matter, there weren’t any major releases at all in the X-Men franchise (except for Giant-Size X-Men Forever #1…are those crickets I hear?), or Spider-Man (there was a Spider-Girl, and a $1.00 reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #546), or Batman (well, Batman Confidential, and Joker’s Asylum: Riddler), or Superman (a Superman/Batman Annual featuring Batman Beyond doesn’t really count, does it?). It was just one of those weeks that comes along every once in awhile, where the biggest release is a Serenity one-shot. There were only a few things that really excited me this week, but we’ll get to them in a minute; in the meantime, have some random observations on the new comics for the week of June 2, won’t you?

 -The house ads for Marvel’s Shadowland event would seem to indicate that this whole Franken-Castle experiment is coming to an end sooner rather than later—they depict a bearded, but non-monsterized, Punisher blasting Spider-Man with a shotgun. I remain a big fan of the sheer insanity of making the Punisher into a Frankenstein, but I’ll be just as happy to see it end within the next few months. I really enjoyed that first arc, but extending it beyond those six issues might be a mistake (although not as big a mistake as re-titling the book Franken-Castle! That’s just asking for trouble).

 -Is it me, or do Mouse Guard and Mice Templar seem to come out on the same week more often than not?  When they do come out, I mean—both are pretty infrequent.

 -Avengers: The Origin by Joe Casey and Phil Noto is a miniseries that is taking five issues to re-tell a story—Avengers #1 by Lee and Kirby—that took 22 pages to tell in 1963. The same week that the third issue of this re-telling drops, Marvel releases the first issue of Avengers Prime, which reprints a Walt Simonson story from 1989's Avengers #300 that recaps the same events…in seven pages.  It’s the new math, folks. Just go with it.

 -I’m the last LBW contributor to get on board with this, but I have finally gotten caught up with Jeff Lemire’s excellent Vertigo series Sweet Tooth. I opened each new issue with a mixture of excitement and dread, wondering what the hell is going to happen to poor, antler-headed Gus and his hulking protector (maybe?), Jepperd. This week’s issue ten continues to unravel the mystery of Gus’s unnatural existence in another beautifully hand-crafted, heartbreaking issue. A great book, and unlike anything Vertigo’s ever done before.


All right, enough of all that. The two things I was most excited about this week had a lot to do with my own personal nostalgia. One was Dark Horse’s brand-spanking new Omnibus reprinting the Marvel Star Wars series. I was kind of embarrassed at how much I was looking forward to this one. The original Star Wars comics were among some of the first comics I owned, and in the days before DVD or VHS, they were how I used to get my required fix of the Force and all that jazz. They were pretty goofy, but I read them until they basically fell apart, and I was pretty excited to revisit them in this new volume. It didn’t hurt that I’ve been on a bit of a kick lately, having just read J.W. Rinzler’s extremely in-depth chronicling of the making of the original movie (this led to me buying the DVD set again—something I swore I would never do!—when I found a copy of the boxed set that contains, as mere second disc extras, mind you, the original, unaltered theatrical releases of the original trilogy). The Omnibus edition of the original Marvel run contains the first 27 issues for 25 bucks, so it’s not much of a financial risk. So far, I’ve only read the first six issues—which adapt the first film—and, surprisingly, they hold up pretty well! I mean, they’re totally ridiculous, of course, as you would expect a mash-up of old-timey Star Wars and Seventies Marvel comics to be. But on the other hand, I love both of those things, so why wouldn’t I love this? I can’t get enough of how scripter Roy Thomas imposed the Marvel style onto George Lucas’s vision; for example, issue five is titled Lo, The Moons of Yavin! The covers are a study in foolishness as well;


Seriously, Luke, if you can see the Death Star in the sky above you, you’re done, son! Listen to Han, he knows what he’s talking about. As if to hammer home the Marvelness of these proceedings, Luke even calls Uncle Owen Uncle Ben at one point. Seriously! But still, the art by Howard Chaykin and Steve Leialoha is cool, eschewing the photo-reference overload made popular in most comics adaptations since, and it’s interesting to see how the finer details of the larger Star Wars universe hadn’t been nailed down yet—Jabba the Hutt appears on Tattoine as a yellow, whiskered humanoid (suck it, Special Editions!). I don’t know how much I would recommend this collection for anyone who wasn’t already a Star Wars fan or didn’t grow up reading these comics, but I’m certainly getting a kick out of them; I may have to do a series of posts about the subsequent issues in this collection, if it turns out there’s anything interesting to say about them. They’re a nice historical reminder of a time when the Star Wars universe was still pretty uncharted territory, when pint-sized fans like me were hungry for any new information about all those crazy planets and aliens. Of course, a lot of the characters and ideas that were introduced by writers like Thomas and later, Archie Goodwin and David Michelinie, were eventually paved over to make way for more “official” novels, videogames, cartoons, Special Editions, sequels, and, heaven help us, prequels, but unlike a lot of the revising of history that Lucasfilm has indulged in over the decades, this stuff is still readily available. One final note—was Marvel trying to equate Luke Skywalker with Bat Lash on the cover caption to issue #1?


The other big release for me this week was Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1 by Jim McCann and David Lopez (the team who reunited Clint & Bobbi in New Avengers: The Reunion). This new ongoing has the on-again/off-again couple, well, on again, teaming up romantically and superheroically to fight superterrorists and other assorted baddies. I had high hopes for this one, as Hawkeye is one of my all-time favourite characters (and he’s had a rough couple of years, to say the least), and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is a fun, fast-paced issue with lots of action, humour, and intriguing subplots involving Mockingbird’s family history and a potential team-up of two of the pair’s classic nemeses (well, one is a cool new take on a classic one, but still). There are lots of fun shout-outs to stuff like the original 1982 Hawkeye miniseries and the duo’s tenure in the West Coast Avengers, but none of it is impenetrable to new readers—in fact, this double-sized first issue comes with a handy backup feature where the heroes playfully narrate each other’s complex together-and-separate histories. This is good to have on hand, when both of your leads have been dead at least once (twice this decade for Hawkeye!). Unlike the similar Green Arrow/Black Canary series from a few years back, this book doesn’t collapse instantly under the weight of tons of ongoing continuity--McCann’s script hits the ground running in its own direction and has a sense of fun, romantic adventure about it. And I seriously hope someone at Marvel has David Lopez chained down, because this guy has some chops. This is one gorgeous-looking book, all smooth lines and easy-to-follow action.

This is probably my favourite thing to come out of all this Heroic Age jazz right now, and I hope it sticks around for awhile (especially with this particular creative team on board). I do have one small complaint--I'm really tired of seeing the word rape in mainstream superhero comics--Bobbi drops it in reference to her ordeal at the hands of the Phantom Rider back in West Coast Avengers. If you must, it's possible to allude to this stuff without typing what has become the most overused "r" word in comics since "retcon"; Young Avengers Special #1 was a perfect example of this, where we know that something awful happened to Kate BIshop in the past, but it's never explicitly stated or shown. This is a pretty minor complaint, though. It was a pretty great comic otherwise.