Fantastic Four #1

fantasticfour1

Origin stories. By this point people are kind of sick of them and for good reason. When it comes to comic book movies, it appears that almost every movie has to have an origin story attached to it. Yeah that’s an over exaggeration but the fact is too many origin stories have been told the past twenty years for most folks to care about them anymore. They all follow a formula. If it’s done well you can forgive it, examples being Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Iron Man.

An origin story will make or break you. If you can’t snare in readers from the first story, they are not going to care what additional stories you have to tell. And why should they? If you’re characters are so boring in the first issue, what is going to bring them to issue two? That was the dilemma Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had with the Fantastic Four. Everyone knows the story by now. Stan was close to leaving comics for good. He told his wife his intentions and she challenged him to write a comic that he would want to read. The worst that would happened would be that he would be fired and since he didn’t want to stay employed there anyway, what was it going to hurt?

That challenge brought us The Fantastic Four. Comics to this point, while fun reads, thanks to the Comic Code, were to put it nicely simplistic. For proof, check out any of the great collections that DC Comics have put together for some of their long time characters and read their stories from the 40’s and 50’s. They’re stories that would not make good children’s books now. Just horrible, horrible stuff.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was a bit of a hard read by today’s standards. The story itself does not stand the test of time. But much like Love Me Do from The Beatles, you can see from the first page on the foundations of what was to come. The simple fact alone that the characters, while they had a deep seated respect for each other, didn’t really like each other in this issue, is great to see. Ben Grimm, from the start, is pissed off at Reed Richards for directly ignoring his warnings about going into space. And speaking of the space trip, if Reed Richards created the spaceship they used to get into space, why would the four have to sneak onto a military base in order to covertly go into space? You would think that if he built the ship, he could fly it into space whenever the hell he wanted.

I did not care for Sue Storm this issue. She wasn’t really given much to do apart from be invisible and challenge Ben Grimm’s manhood by calling him a commie for not wanting to go into space. They may have well just had her cluck like a chicken. They could have had her ask if he wanted to borrow one of her dresses because there was no way he was a man anymore. I get that this was the sixties and this time was NOT kind to women in fiction, especially comic books, but much like Amos and Andy or Bugs Bunny talking about getting Japs, you just cringe at how wrong they present her.

This is the absolute worst part about reading older comics because you can’t help but read the story through modern lenses. Me personally, I want the women in stories I read, or write (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/48189), to be strong. Sure, they can be damsels in distress. As a guy, it is instinct to want to save someone that is weaker than you. But seeing characters presented as nothing more than eye candy simple due to the lack of male genitalia is just simply a waste. There was so much more they could have done with her that they ultimately did over time.

The art work was crude but again, in the realm of comic history it is important work. Using the music analogy I used earlier, this very much was crude compared to later work that he drew. But when your work influences an industry like Jack Kirby’s work did, my god, that is a legacy worth having. At the end of the day, while more average folks may know who Stan Lee is, even more people know of and are conditioned to the work of Jack Kirby and the legacy he has in comics. The man was a legend. Admittedly when it comes to art I am not the greatest critic. I know what I like and don’t like and can pretty much say a lot of words saying one or the other. Little details that happen in art will slip by me. It is something that I am working on and reading a comic book a day has definitely helped in that regard. So for a novice with art like myself, there are not enough words I can put together that will reflect the impact Jack Kirby has had on comics and pop culture as a whole.

Bottom Line:

While this comic can be hard to read in 2015, you can not deny the impact this issue had on comics. The fact that the heroes in the story acted like real people, arguing and all, brought much needed reality to stories that bordered on inane. While I cannot recommend this as a must read comic it would still be something I would say you should own. No, not the original comic that is hard to find originals of and cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. I’m talking about heading to Marvel’s website, Comixology, or wherever you buy your comics and buy yourself this issue. While someone may have come along over time and did something comparable to what Stan and Jack did, they were the flag bearers. They ushered in the Silver Age of comic books with this issue. The world would be a much different place if we didn’t have this issue.

Holy F*ck Issue 2

Holy-Fuck-2-1 (1)

Imagine my surprise when I head to Twitter and see that I have a message from someone. I check it out and it was a message from one Nick Marino. It took me a moment to realize that this was the Nick Marino who made the comic Holy F*ck which I had just recently interviewed. He thanked me for reviewing it and hoped I would finish the series.

I have to tell you his tweet felt good. Knowing that someone who actually created a work that I reviewed and liked would take the time to thank me makes all this worth it. I loved the first issue. Sure I had some criticism but I think any piece of art can and should be critiqued. He doesn’t have to agree with anything I have to say mind you but as a writer myself, I can say that it is possible that as a writer you end up seeing your work through a bit of tunnel vision. You need new insight, a fresh set of eyes, to see things you’re not seeing.

Anyway, in honor of him tweeting me I figured I would finish each issue of the series and post my thoughts on the page. Independent comic artists need our support and if even one person were to buy a comic due to my thoughts than that would be another reason why this is all worth it.

Issue two picks up where we left off with Jesus and Satan making out. Once they break their tongue lock Satan gets down to business and explains that Isis and Zeus were behind a plot from long forgotten gods to bomb the Earth so they could save it which would have people worship them again.

From there we learn that Zeus and Isis have discovered that Jesus and Satan are together and they plan on doing something in order to stop them. They decide that kidnapping the nun that found Jesus would be a way to stop them. The nun is kidnapped when she heads to the store to pick up stuff for Jesus and Satan. Once they find out, they arm themselves to the teeth and go to find her.

As I mentioned in the previous issue, this is a simplistic story. While it deals with themes that could be explored more in depth, like a Charles Bronson movie from the 80’s, it’s quickly getting to the point where the shit hits the fan. I was a little hard on issue one in retrospect. Yeah, these themes could be dealt with in a little more depth but that’s not what this story is about. It’s there for the comedy. Yeah, it’s not something everyone will enjoy but that is the great thing about comedy. Anything can be funny, you just have to know who your audience is. George Carlin said it best so I will leave it for him to explain.

The artwork once again helps contribute to the silliness of the piece. If the art were drawn in the manner of religious tracts or something like that you would lost the impact of the comedy that is happening in the story. It is crudely drawn and quite simplistic but as I have mentioned, when attempting something out of the ordinary, you do it to serve the story you want to tell. If they drew it like a Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby piece, a lot of the humor would be gone. Having it drawn in the silly manner it is helps contribute to the piece.

Bottom Line:

I owe Nick Marino nothing. I don’t know him apart from the one tweet he sent me. And while I was a little critical of the first issue, I still love the piece overall. Issue two helps flesh things out a little more. You end up getting your feet in the world that is being presented to you which makes some of the shock from the first issue wear off. I stand by my comparison in the first review that this comic is like a fart joke. Again, fart jokes, when done right, can be quite funny. They’re not subtle. There’s no depth to it. But it makes you laugh. That’s what this comic does. Being that you get more acclimated to what is going on, this issue gets a better review than issue 1. I give the story a 7.

The art goes a long way toward making the story enjoyable. To play jazz, you have to know how to play standard pieces before you have the skills to improvise. The art in both issues so far is jazzy in that sense. It’s sloppy and it comes off like a kid drew it but with how it contributes to the overall enjoyment of the piece you know there was a lot of care in how the art was put together. I give the art a 9. The reason for the better review than the last issue is the sheer brilliance in how simple it is. If it were realistic or drawn to be like pictures in religious texts it would take you out of the story. This is good stuff.

Spider-Man: India #1

Spider-Man India

The Good:

While I certainly love the main characters everyone thinks about when they think of comics, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, there are also many more stories out there concerning characters we never heard of before. Then we have variations on stories we are already familiar with like this. Called Spider-Man: India, it speculates as to what the Spider-Man story would be if Peter Parker were from India.

At first glance I can see where some folks may shake their head and wonder why a story like this is needed. If a story is told well the first time, why do we need to say it again albeit from a different perspective? I contend though that while we are interested in the adventures of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, seeing how someone else would react to some of the same circumstances is much like seeing a new actor tackle a familiar character. There may be a lot of overlap in regards to how the character is presented but being that the character is ultimately different they can take the story in different directions.

I liked how the story was able to blend the familiar with the new location. Make no mistake, this is not a Miles Morales take on Spider-Man. This really is the Indian version of Peter Parker including having the names of the characters in the story sound almost phonetically the same as the characters we know. Sharad Devarajan did a good job of presenting pretty much the basics of the story we are familiar with in a new setting without making the characters seem out of place. The danger in a story told like this would be having characters that no one can relate to. Admittedly I don’t know too much about India. While I probably know more than most Americans, compared to the rest of the world my knowledge of that country and it’s culture is still laughably small. The writer though did a great job of blending in the familiar that I know, the Spider-Man story, and weaving it into almost seamlessly into a culture I know next to nothing about. The best stories are told in a way that regardless of where or when you read it you can find something about it that you can relate to. Like the original Stan Lee Spider-Man story. Going back further, like Mark Twain or Charles Dickens stories. While I am not comparing this story to the authors I just mentioned, Sharad deserves accolades for telling a story that does not require you to know about Indian culture to understand.

The same I’m sure can be said in reverse. I could see where someone growing up in India may not necessarily be able to fully relate to a teenager growing up in New York City. But Stan Lee and the other authors of those stories throughout the years have written Peter Parker in a way that I feel regardless of where you live you can relate to. Who cannot relate to feeling like an outcast? Who cannot relate to wanting to do the right thing? Who cannot relate to being awkward around the opposite (or same) sex? This author was able to tap into that sense of relate-ability in order for anyone picking up this issue could understand and care for the characters.

The art work was well done. While drawn in the classic style I really loved how they were able to draw such amazing environments. As stated, I have never been to India. The art though gave me the sense of familiarity that really helped get me lost in the story which is a great thing. I also liked how when Pavitr Prabhakar is first given the Spider-Man suit, it’s a blend of the suit we’re familiar with along with clothing that is native to India. It was drawn beautifully, nothing felt forced about it which did a lot to keep my interest in the story. If he suddenly dressed like the American Peter Parker I think I would have probably been thrown off. Basically, why would a teenager from India decide to dress like a teenager from New York especially when it’s been established that this teenager is from a small village. He’s incorporate the suit with his clothes. The results are perfect.

The Bad:

This story went along much too fast. I get that they probably knew from the outset that this would be a limited, four issue series and that they couldn’t go too in depth as much as they would have liked. But when you give a total of two pages to the reveal of the Green Goblin and give no further explanation as to how or why the action we were seeing was going on, it was easy to feel a little lost. I’m sure the other issues will dive into it more but I do think the intro of the big bad of the story deserves a little more attention than what they gave it.

It’s also established that Pavitr Prabhakar is a genius of some sort but you don’t know why. You’re just expected to accept it which if we’re reading an origin story, regardless of whether this is an original story or a different take on a story we are familiar with, we have to know what makes him special. People saying he’s special just doesn’t cut it for me. In both the original and Ultimate versions of Spider-Man, his work and interest in science is easily established without having to take three issues to explain it. They were able to show why he was special and not just have to tell people he was. I wanted to see what made him special and just didn’t see it.

I also think the story expected us to just accept that magic helped this happen. Why was Pavitr Prabhakar chosen to be Spider-Man? Magic. Why was Nalin Oberoi able to turn into the Green Goblin? Magic. The next issues I am sure will get into why things are happening more but the fact that we’re just expected to accept what is going on by just being told about it is frustrating.

Bottom Line:

I love different takes on stories. I love it when artists get creative and choose something we didn’t anticipate in order to get their story out there. Sometimes it can fall flat on its face. Sometimes, like Daniel Craig being chosen to be James Bond, it can reward you immensely.

This is a flawed story. It tells you a lot about what it going on when it should be showing you much more of the how and why things are going on. But for what this comic does right makes it a great read. The fact that me, as a 39 year old American white guy can instantly related to a young Indian teenager without knowing much about India or its culture is a great piece of writing. We’re all human at the end of the day but where we grow up can be quite different. To be able to break through the environmental differences and connect with the reader emotionally is some great work. I give the story an 8.

The art work is frankly amazing. While I won’t say it’s on the same realm that Kirby and Ditko inhabited, the fact that the artist could seamlessly meld the visually familiar along with elements American audiences may not be familiar with is just amazing. The Spider-Man suit alone is a great example of this. I give the art a 9 for being able to help bring in readers from anywhere into a world that, though they may be unfamiliar with it at the start, they instantly feel connected to and love by the end of the story.

 

Captain Britain and MI13 Issue 1

captain britain

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Captain_Britain_and_MI-13_Vol_1_1

The Good:

With this issue we see that the Skrull invasion has graced the shores of Britain which makes sense if you think about it. It is silly that comic books through the years have shown numerous people trying to take over the world yet they only seem to invade America like this country is the center of the Universe or something.

We get a neat character in this story in John the Skrull Beatle. Seems a group of Skrulls came to Earth in the 1960’s and impersonated The Beatles. Paul, George, and Ringo Skrull are all dead by this point. John appears at the beginning of the comic to be in custody and close to being executed which turns out to be a ruse. He’s being used to expose members of the British cabinet that are Skrull infiltrators themselves. This Skrull is an ally of the British. The British sure like their aliens.

John the Skrull Beatle is a nice addition to this story. It adds a little depth to the Skrulls and makes them more than simply mustache twirling bad guys. What really makes me angry not only in fiction but what I see in real life is when an enemy is being made to be all bad. It’s Orwellian nonsense. I get that there are times where groups of people will band together against an enemy. I get that in America we have our fair share of enemies, most of which if anyone knew their history which is very much out there in regards to how this country has handled its foreign affairs will know is the end result of actions initially committed by us. Take America and the Middle East. Politicians from both the left and right are more than happy to demonize an entire region of people for their own gain. We have tons of people in this country who are so damn ignorant that for every legitimate bad person that is out there who SHOULD be feared, they imagine hundreds more enemies that aren’t there. They treat good people like dirt and guess what happens? Good people get angry and decide that hey, if these people don’t like me and wish me harm than I will harm them first. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. If we took the time to understand the whys of what makes legitimate evil people perform evil acts than maybe we can stop ourselves from creating more enemies from people who would prefer to just live their lives.

John the Skrull Beatle is a great addition to this story because it shows that not all Skrulls are evil. It shows that despite the actions of the invading force, there are good Skrulls out there that someday will help humans and Skrulls live in peace. If only they could get past this Invasion…

The artwork is pretty solid. There’s nothing sloppy about it. The characters come off the page as if they’re real. The external locations appear to be a real place and not a set from a movie. I especially liked how Faiza the doctor was drawn and the emotions she showed when she was featured in the story.

The Bad:

Maybe it’s an American bias here but I just didn’t care for this story. I didn’t hate it but I found myself bored. I just wanted it to end. Apart from the Skrull Beatle, there was no character save Faiza the doctor who I had any interest for. We’re supposed to care for Captain Britain in this issue and he was barely featured.

They should have given us a reason to care. Why is this character important? What makes him special? I get that most likely the character has been featured in other comics from Marvel. I’m certainly familiar with the name but other than that I know nothing about him or the world he lives in. I would think that someone writing a comic would do well to keep something like that in mind. Yes, you have to please the people who’ve read every single issue of comics made by Marvel ever but that group is not as big as movies make them out to be. There are people in my position who have a deep understanding of the basics of the major characters out there but the more obscure characters they need a little primer on before we’re expected to care about them. The main fault I’ve had with comics in general is when the writer assumes the reader knows a lot more than they actually do in regards to back story. I’ve made it clear that I don’t think every comic needs to be written as if that issue is the first comic ever read by a human being ever but you can have a happy balance where back story is written into the story in such a way that one is not going to punish the reader for not knowing something and two is written in a way that entices readers to want to know more about these characters. That did not happen in this issue and it suffered greatly for it.

Bottom Line:

This comic was a chore to get through. It wasn’t a bad read or anything like that. I just found myself apathetic to what was going on. If the writer cannot make you care about the people the action in the story is happening to, anything else they do will be for naught. Maybe if the characters were referenced in other issues in the Secret Invasion story I’d have a little more interest but as it stands I have to give the story a 3.

The art work this issue was pretty good. It will not go down as the greatest artwork in comic history or anything but I don’t think that Jack Kirby was thinking about his work being the greatest thing since Mona Lisa when he was creating Captain America, The Hulk, and others. The work in this issue is drawn clean and especially for the doctor shows real emotion. I give the art a 6.

Fantastic Four #48 The Coming of Galactus

Fantastic_Four_48

Jack Kirby is a legend. Jack Kirby is responsible for the visual representations of pretty much any hero you can think of. The Fantastic Four. The Hulk. Thor. Iron Man. Darkseid. The New Gods. While Stan Lee may be responsible for the words that created the characters, without Jack Kirby’s illustrations we wouldn’t have such amazing images to place along with the words. Jack Kirby would have been 98 today so in honor of his amazing work, we’re going to discuss one of his most famous works.

Here is a summary of Fantastic Four #48. (http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_48) As always I’ll start off with what I think worked.

The comic in question was the standard 22 pages but if felt full. It felt like a real story unlike some comics today that feel like they’re highlights of a much bigger story you haven’t read yet. I really enjoyed the build up to the Galactus reveal. Building up to that reveal you really had the sense of the power the Fantastic Four was about to face.

It goes without saying that the dynamic between the Fantastic Four is great. I really loved that even with the writing of the time being a little melodramatic to say the least the relationship between the team felt natural. Compared to DC product at that time, Marvel had stories that felt like the characters were people you would actually encounter on the street. When Johnny Storm has to leave Crystal after Maximus fires off the Atmos gun, you not only felt his pain but you felt the compassion the team felt for him.

In regards to the negatives, I did not care for the story starting at the third act of a different story. I think that the goal of any comic should be a story that, while it may be a part of a bigger piece, should be enjoyed as a self contained story. You shouldn’t have to go back to the previous issues in order to get an understanding of what is going on. The story itself should be good enough to make you want to do that alone. At the very least I would have liked it better if the story at the beginning of the book tied into the main story they were trying to tell about the arrival of Galactus.

One other element I did not care for was the actual Galactus reveal. It’s been established that Galactus is this gigantic figure that has the ability to suck the resources of a world dry. The first image we get of Galactus however made him appear like a professional wrestler. (What’cha gonna do when Galactus runs wild on you?) Time has more than fixed this but seeing this was just kind of a buzz kill. The build up was so great that when the reveal came you’re thinking “Is that it?”

I also did not care for how Sue Storm was portrayed. Granted my reaction is based on 21st Century thinking and not how women were treated during the 1960’s. While it was great that a woman was included as a main character in comics especially during that era, the fact that they’re relegated to speaking stereotypical women talk is just annoying and takes you out of the story reading it close to 50 years later.

Bottom Line:

The story was pretty damn good. While it had its flaws the execution was top notch. I give the story an 8. The artwork I’m going to give a 9. Jack Kirby is the creator of what we see visually come every summer with each new Marvel movie and every week on the comic book shelves. The only reason I gave it a 9 was due to the Galactus reveal. If you get a chance read this story.

Now, it appears that Jack Kirby’s daughter has asked that folks, in honor of her grandfather, donate to a charity called The Hero Initiative. The charity in question has been set up to assist comic book writers, artists, and creators who have fallen on hard times. One major black mark on the comics industry is how they treat their talent. Take the creators of Superman, Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster. When Superman The Movie debuted in 1977, these two men were pretty much destitute despite the company that had paid them $130 for the rights to Superman making millions upon millions based on the character they created. Even today, the late Steve Moore, who wrote the comic Hercules: The Thracian Wars, did not have control over his work. He wanted no involvement with the movie that was later made starring The Rock and asked to not have his name associated with it. Turns out the producers and the comic company couldn’t give two fucks about his opinion and plastered his name as if he had supported the work.

Kirby’s granddaughter has started a special t-shirt sale to help support this charity. (http://kirbymuseum.org/) I encourage you to check the site out and if you can, purchase a t-shirt. The proceeds go to a good cause. Until next time…