Guardians of the Galaxy: Anything is Possible

This is a movie that was made and did very well.

This is a movie that was made and did very well.

With the deserved success of Guardians of the Galaxy it seems that anything is possible when it comes to adapting comic books for the big screen.

I remember when they announced the first Iron Man movie there was some concern that the character was too obscure to be the subject of a blockbuster movie. Sure, Iron Man is an Avenger and a major Marvel property, but he isn’t Superman or Batman. Now, only a few years later we are in a time that long-time comic fans can only describe as ‘surreal.’

I’m not going to pretend that I am any kind of authority on the characters of Guardians of the Galaxy. I honestly pay very little attention to the entire cosmic side of Marvel comics, but when I was in the theater watching the movie last Friday night, I was still overcome with delight and disbelief at the characters and the world that I saw on the screen in front of me. Even seeing some random background players wearing Nova helmets was crazy. Seeing Guardians of the Galaxy trending on Twitter was crazy. Seeing Starlord action figures and Rocket Raccoon masks at Target was crazy.

All your favourites!
All your favourites!

The promise of a second Guardians movie is crazy. Guys, this movie made $95 million on the weekend! Not a decade ago people felt that if the movie wasn’t called Superman, Batman or Spider-Man there was no hope of it finding a big audience. Now we have at least three major comic book films coming out each year (from Marvel alone, usually), along with movies based on small press comics, and an insane number of television shows. By my count we are getting four new comic book based television series on major networks this year, along with a Netflix Daredevil series. Those will be added to some already excellent and popular comic book-based shows (and also Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). And I am sure I am forgetting some.

From what I have been hearing the reaction to the Guardians post-credits scene was extremely loud and enthusiastic in theatres everywhere. I am not going to spoil it, but, again, it’s an fairly obscure thing that is making movie goers yell “WHAT?! HOLY SHIT!!!” out loud in a movie theatre. I can’t remember the last time I heard a reaction like that in a theatre. Maybe when the old lady threw the necklace into the ocean in Titanic?

And this might be a bit of a spoiler re: the end of credits surprised, but it seems like Disney is making a point of correcting all of George Lucas’s mistakes.

And here’s the thing: there are a lot of great comic books too right now. That’s the subject for another post, but I want to put that in there because everyone is talking about comic book based movies and television, and very little is being discussed about the awesome source material. How many big comic book announcements came out of San Diego? Two? (Those Star Wars comics look amazing).

I actually feel overwhelmed by the comic book and super hero entertainment right now. I have a constant feeling of anxiety that I am going to die before the next big Marvel movie drops.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was watching Smallville out of desperation, and trying to convince myself that those Fantastic Four movies were any good. The stuff that they are making now is the stuff that we used to discuss as fantasy dream projects while working in the comic shop. A Daredevil show? A Winter Soldier movie? A pre-Batman Commissioner Gordon show? Not to mention one of the most popular shows on television is The Walking Dead (get that money, Robert Kirkman!).

I’m just saying a lot has happened since I stopped writing this blog.

Guys, they made a Winter Soldier movie!

It just feels like we are now free to dream up any (Marvel-based) movie scenario and it wouldn’t be impossible. A Heroes for Hire movie, perhaps? Set in the 70s, please? A Namor movie? A Dazzler movie? (I am dead serious about this. They need to make a Dazzler movie. Let’s make this dream a reality. A pop star super hero?! NOW IS THE TIME!).

Truly Outrageous
Truly Outrageous

Meanwhile DC is missing the mark across the board, except in television, where they are crushing Marvel. In the last decade or so they made three great Batman movies, one weird but likable Superman movie, one weird and upsetting Superman movie (that I didn’t completely hate, but definitely it wasn’t the Superman I was looking for), a criminally awful Jonah Hex movie, a pretty terrible and forgettable Green Lantern movie, a weird Constantine movie, an OK V for Vendetta movie, and Watchmen, which I would say wasn’t great or terrible. It just exists. I liked it in the theaters, I never saw it again, and I don’t really feel like seeing it again. There were some other forgettable things in there too, I’m sure. And on the horizon they have a Superman vs Batman vs Wonder Woman vs Cyborg vs Who the Hell Knows: The Dawn of Insanity movie. I have a few concerns about that movie, not the least of which is DC/WB’s baffling decision to just let Zack Snyder direct EVERYTHING.

Anyway, this is a terrible review of Guardians of the Galaxy. It was really good. I can’t adequately review it because I am too full of bewilderment and delight. You can read one of the other gazillion glowing reviews of it somewhere else.

So: the New 52

I always get way too worked up when I'm reviewing something like this as it comes out, so with DC's September title push I decided to just sit back and wait until the first wave was over until I started spouting my opinions onto the e-webs. And then I got sick and ended up waiting another week. So: my final verdict after reading most of the new number ones? 

Eh. About the same. The ratio of quality to terrible comics is likely equal; the stupid changes to the barely-altered continuity are balanced by the interesting ones... and that's about it. 

Slightly more detailed breakdown:

Okay Comics:

Batgirl - Putting aside the various arguments against re-Batgirling Barbara Gordon, I thought this book did an okay job of doing so without completely pushing aside her time as Oracle. I enjoyed Stephanie Brown's book more, though.

Batman & Robin 

Detective Comics - I may be the only person I know who didn't react to that number one with violent revulsion. It was okay! Not great, just okay.

Static Shock - I missed out on Milestone entirely, so Static is basically a blank slate for me, character-wise. As such, this is the only book that I'm coming to as one of those new readers that this whole exercise if ostensibly aimed at. It's doing an okay job, though I do feel left out in the continuity cold more often than I should. We'll see how this'un goes.

Stormwatch - Could turn out to be terrible or decent, though the fact that the first issue gives no clue to that is troubling. 


Superman - Although reading about Clark Kent having to listen to Lois banging another dude is cold.

Good Comics That I Expected to Be Good:

Action Comics - Possibly my favourite of the whole bunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of Young Superman bopping around Metropolis in his homemade costume, getting up to his Golden Age-style social justice antics.


Batwoman - Could probably go in the next category as well.

Comics That Were Exactly the Same:

All the Green Lantern books - And these are the ones that probably needed rebooting the most. Keep the same concept, the Rainbow Corps, even the Black Lantern garbage, just trim away half a dozen of the times that the Guardians went crazy or died or both and this would be a much more accessible part of the DCU. All the reboot really did was require that things like Kyle Raynor rebuilding the Corps be dredged up again in order that the number ones have context. 

The Legion books - I love the Legion with all my tiny heart, but they're pretty dang mediocre right now.

Way Better Than I Expected:

Animal Man - This and Swamp Thing! Creepy horror stuff in the DCU! Delightful!

Aquaman - Not perfect (Brave and the Bold Aquaman would, of course, be the perfect choice) but fun. I like an Aquaman who will order up some fish and chips.

Flash - The last year of Flash has been kind of so-so, but this book appears to have done what Green Lantern and its pals so abjectly failed at: reboot the character to a point that he is interesting again. Plus, the erasure of Barry and Iris' marriage seems to have introduced some delightful plot fun, instead of being all weird and wrong like Clark and Lois'.

OMAC - Delightfully odd and fun! As Dave pointed out to me yesterday, it's not quite Kirby level, but Giffen and Didio (!) come damn close.

Superboy - As with Flash, this book looks to have stripped away a lot of the baggage of the last couple of decades and left behind some solid fun. Plus, it seems to be hearkening back to that Superboy character that was virtually the only good thing about Countdown: Arena.

Swamp Thing 

Wonder Woman - If DC's tactic was to entice new readers with minors in Classics, then this book is a resounding success. I mean, it's a fine yarn and a good interpretation of the character (still waiting for the pants, though) but a modern retelling of the age-old tale of Zeus knocking someone up and Hera trying to kill off both mother and baby in a fit of jealous rage? That is delightful! I am delighted!

Comics With a Lot of Potential (to be Favourites of Mine and Also to be Cancelled)

All Star Western - It's hard to go wrong with Jonah Hex.


Blue Beetle

Demon Knights - If pre-megalomania barbarian-style Vandal Savage ends up on this team and maybe even has a character progression toward the evil mastermind version of himself I will squeal with glee.

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE - Not quite as amazing as I'd hoped but all of the elements are there. I shall bide my time.

Men of War - Honestly, this one hasn't been great, but the idea of regular-style soldiers in a world full of super-humans has a lot of potential so I'm giving it a chance. This would actually make a more interesting WWII comic, but I guess that that doesn't jibe with the the whole idea of Superman being the world's first public super-hero. Which is kind of dumb, anyway.

Resurrection Man

Disappointingly Bad Comics

Batman: the Dark Knight - I love Batman, but this was just unconscionably bland.

Blackhawks - Another idea that works better in a WWII context. Heck, maybe if they'd gone the Lady Blackhawk-in-Birds of Prey route and played it as 1940s flyboys in a modern context it would have been fun, but this update to Top Gun 2099 is beyond dull.

Firestorm - Could still be good! The concept of Firestorm being two super dudes who merge to form an even more super dude is an interesting update of the idea, and the character interaction was decent, but my god did the last third of this book fall apart. It was not fun to read, nohow.

Justice League - Bland, bland, bland. A terrible showcase of the new line.

Justice League International - Highly disappointing considering how fun Generation Lost was. I'm sticking with this one, but it'd better pick up and be entertaining soon, I'll tell you.

Mister Terrific - I didn't enjoy the art, which is admittedly a personal preference. More troubling was the hamfisted way in which Terrific was written as a "smart" character. He came off more as someone with an overinflated opinion of themself that they enjoyed expressing, while the purported smartness was in actuality merely mildly clever. Boo.

Suicide Squad - Hey! Terrible character redesigns and decent art plunked into a plot lifted directly from an issue of Checkmate from 2006! Read about people being tortured! Hooray!

And the Most Disappointing Book: 

Red Hood and the Outlaws - Because reinventing Red Hood and Speedy as Bro Vigilantes is actually an amazing idea. Both characters work perfectly as fringe characters who have terrible pasts but have put things behind them (finally). If there's one thing that my love for Archer has taught me it's that a super-competent dick is a very entertaining character indeed. Only problem is, Scott Lobdell looks to be getting in on the act as a third bro, and instead of providing the boys with an interesting foil along the lines of Archer's Lana Kane he just plopped Starfire in as a super-powered sex toy, reducing the team dynamic to two dudes doing the Eiffel Tower over a Realdoll. Huzzah.

But Enough of This Bullcrap:

Do you know what came out this week? Casanova! Chew! I, Zombie! Invincible! Moriarty! Skullkickers! Sweet Tooth! A new Axe Cop trade! Plus the first issue of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, which looks amazing, as well as very violent! Hooray!

John Buys Comics: More Terse Than Usual Edition

Bit of a sparse week for me, comics-wise, so I have but three observations, one per book. Not that I only bought three books, that is. I just have three observations and they're spread out over three books. Yeah.

Young Justice No. 1 - Though I haven't yet seen the cartoon that this is spun off of, I was quite fond of the original Young Justice book and so trying this out seemed like a good idea. I am going to blame the fact that I found it completely incomprehensible on my lack of prior research - everything seems to make sense, after all, but it felt like I was missing some essential bits of information for not having the show under my belt. Actually, come to think of it that might be a good thing: comics based on other properties are often lacklustre precisely because they're constantly summarizing and paraphrasing what has come before. So I guess I'll just suck it up and watch a cartoon like a man. And shut my fat mouth.

Green Lantern No. 62 - Halfway through, Hal Jordan has a weird prophetic dream that indicates that one of Earth's Green Lanterns is going to die, or at least go away (be "lost" in the words if not the tense of the Guardian who indicates it). Anybody want to start a pool on who that'll be? Because I have a shiny golden dollar coin that I will bet on John Stewart.

And finally:

Dungeons & Dragons No. 4 - I'm trying to decide which of these is more likely to be the case, that all floating, talking skulls are hilarious or that I have only ever encountered hilariously-written floating, talking skulls. In either case, this book continues to capture the joy of a good game of Dungeons & Dragons in a way that both delights and, uh, delights again. 



John Buys Comics. Uphill. In a blizzard.

 It's true! It snowed so hard yesterday Wednesday that I got to leave work early, but I still trudged off to Strange Adventures to buy the comical booklets that I love so dearly. Plus I got some D&D miniatures. And also I stopped on the way home for some beer. Hell, if I'm going to get snowed in, lose power and gradually freeze to death I might as well go doing what I love.

But everything turned out all right! And I still got to keep the comics! Oh what a world we live in. Here are some of the stand-outs:

Oh hey, it's the DAYTRIPPER TRADE, YOU GUYS. Yes, that one series that I've been going on and on about for the last year has come out in trade and of course I haven't reread it yet, because I drank some of the beer and fell asleep early. But trust me, it's great. If you've read Casanova or Umbrella Academy then you know what Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are capable of art-wise, and it's at least as great on a storytelling level. It's... the story of a man's life, told as a series of defining moments and punctuated by the finality of death. There, that's my succinct sumary. Does it tempt you? It should tempt you. Read it, damn it.

And in a completely different part of the comic spectrum, it's the Superman 80-Page Giant! Despite my abiding love for Superman, I almost passed on this one but heck, the Batman one was a hoot and this one followed suit. I mean, neither was perfect, but all that matters is that I am smiling at the end, yes? Here are the highlights: an amusing Bizarro take on the current Superman storyline, a completely awesome Jimmy Olsen yarn, Perry White's adopted son Keith re-entering continuity after maybe fifteen years and me still not being sold on bearded Jor-El. Headband Jor-El 4-evar, yo.

Oh god, so tired. This is all you get. Sorry 'bout that.


John Buys Comics, Unnamed Edition

I was absolutely positive that I would write an epically spectacular John Buys Comics last night. I'd read everything (for once), it was a good week full of good comics, I had these little cheesy shortbready things to snack upon... conditions were perfect. Then, disaster: my package from Topatoco arrived and I was powerless to resist the allure of Problem Sleuth and theMachine of Death. Curse my ways!

But who can blame me for loving Problem Sleuth (and by extension MSPaint Adventures)? I certainly can't! Why, brilliantly foolish comics and olde schoole adventure/puzzle games are two of my very favourite things and Andrew Hussie blends the two into something delightful. The closest thing to a criticism that I could think to level at the thing is "it's very long." and when you get right down to it, that's more like a bonus feature.

As for the comics that came out this week as opposed to several months ago, it was reminiscent of my Best of 2010 - Action Comics, Generation Lost, The Sixth Gun, Skullkickers - and they were all just as great as usual. Plus, in a callback to the Best of 2009, the trade paperback of the excellent Cursed Pirate Girl came out this week, and let me tell you again: this is one of the most original comics to come out in years, on a couple of levels.


The story of a cursed girl who gets swordfighting lessons in her dreams and follows a talking parrot on a fantastical voyage beneath the sea to find her missing pirate father (gasp) is good enough, but Jeremy Bastian's art hearkens back to the sort of intricate line drawing that started cartooning off in the first place, way back in the political cartoons in the 1800s. Except you can actually read the writing in all of the bubbles and rather than being about, say, an obscure bit of Victorian social satire, it's all little girls fighting monster octopi and murderous buccaneers.

Also new this week: Off Road by Sean Murphy!

Okay, not quite new. evidently this first came out in 2005 or so and I missed it completely. This is a shame, as I should have known about Sean Murphy years ago - between this and Joe the Barbarian he has very quickly found a place in my heart. The plot? Three guys (Trent, Brad, Greg) go offroading in Greg's new Jeep, get stuck in a swamp and have a hell of a time getting back out. It is, yes, the classic Dudes Get Into a Sticky Situation and Learn a Lot About Themselves and Each Other story, but it's a very satisfying example of the breed. It's always a joy to find out that someone whose art you dig can also sling a tale, and Murphy has definitely made the list.

John Buys Comics - A Sea of White

DC Comics' theme cover month has had a somewhat jarring effect on me this week, in that it starkly outlines just how many of their books I'm buying. I guess I'm enjoying them all, but it's still weird. Especially as the only two books I feel like talking about this week are from other publishers.

First, from Dark Horse, it's BPRD: Hell on Earth: Gods, the latest mini-series in the second mega-arc of the series. I think. Look, I don't have to fully understand the structure to love the books, okay?

As you might expect, this book continues the tale of the horrorfication of the Hellboy Earth, only instead of being told from the perspective of the folks on the front lines trying to stop bad things from happening, this series is focusing on the regular folks who are trying to live in a world in which several major cities have been destroyed by Lovecraftian abominations, where monsters haunt the darkness and civilization is starting to fray. Now, despite my love for these books it's been a long time since I've gotten terribly creeped out by them, so the visceral feeling of helplessness that can be conveyed by protagonists who don't have an army of researchers to tell them what's going on, who don't know much more than that everything is going to hell and that they are unable to do anything about it, is extermely compelling.

Meanwhile, Image released Infinite Vacation this week. It's not a new broad concept - regular Joe tries to discover just Who He Is in a crazy high-concept world - but that's not a bad thing when it's handled right. Good news: this one seems to be!

Main character Mark lives in a world/continuum of worlds in which travel to alternate dimensions has been perfected, and in which you can swap lives with other versions of yourself via a smartphone app and a chunk of change. Only now he seems to be the target of multiverse-wide murder, plus he's met a girl who doesn't subscribe to the life-hopping paradigm. 

So: murder, romance and intrigue across an infinity of realities. I can definitely get behind that, especially if Nick Spencer and Christian Ward keep up the quality writing and drawing, respectively.

If that just seemed to taper off there toward the end, well... it did. I left off finishing this until it got late and I got sleepy. Tragedy abounds. Good night!