Monday, February 9, 2015

New Comics Rundown: American Vampire, Star Trek/Planet of the Apes, Uncanny Avengers


Karen: I went to the local comic shop for the first time since December, and I actually bought some new comics. Yes, let the trumpets blare and the Earth shake. I only picked up four books (with tax around $16, unbelievable) but new books nonetheless. I thought I would share my thoughts about them with the BAB family, seeing as many of you are like me and don't buy new books often or at all.

First up, what inspired me to buy anything new was some favorable comments on the Back Issue Magazine Facebook page about this IDW series, Star Trek/Planet of the Apes Prime Directive. I picked up issues 1 and 2 and read them back to back. They're written and drawn by people I don't recognize (Scott and David Tipton, Rachael Stott) but since they feature two of my favorite franchises I decided to give them a shot. It's pretty amusing stuff. Kirk and crew (from the time of the original TV series) are on the trail of a Klingon plot that leads them through an interdimensional portal that leads to -the planet of the apes! They run into George Taylor, fresh from the shock of seeing the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the surf and he tries to convince them to help him wrest control of the planet from the gorillas (who are being supplied arms by the Klingons) but there's that darn Prime Directive in the way. It's a fun story. The characterization is pretty good. The art has that super-slick look that puts me off of most modern comics but the characters do look like their cinematic versions. I might even try to get the next issue -and that's saying a lot for me.



I also decided to try a DC book I had been hearing a lot about, American Vampire #6. Admittedly, I came into this on-going series knowing nothing about it. It's written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Rafael Albuquerque. I'm just about convinced that 90% of all comics are now manga-fied; the influence seems undeniable, with the big eyes, pointy noses, and overall sketchiness. It's not a style to my liking. This book takes place in 1965 but it didn't feel that way at all. Right off the bat there's some dialog where a character says "shut up" the way we now use it, to mean "You're joking" but I'm fairly certain that expression didn't come along til the 80s or later. Nit picky? Maybe. But there's nothing to give it a 60s feel. Maybe I came in at the wrong time. Anyway, what I did enjoy was the obvious effort put into developing background for the bad guy in the story (not seen in this issue), a vampire called the Gray Trader. A villain of mythological proportions, tied into modern events (nuclear testing in the American desert) -all stuff I can appreciate. I definitely felt I was jumping into the middle of a story and had no idea whatsoever who the characters were or what their reason for being was.  I suppose one can't expect to just pick up a book today and roll with it. This seems interesting although I don't know if I could get past the art enough to pursue it further. 


Finally, I picked up an issue of Avengers. But which Avengers -after all, there are so many of them. I grabbed Uncanny Avengers #1 -it had the Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver on the cover, so I figured what the heck? It's written by Rick Remender and drawn by Daniel Acuna -now those are two names I do recognize, if only dimly. Besides those three Avengers previously named, this line-up also includes the new Sam Wilson Captain America, Rogue, Doctor Voodoo, and for some reason, Sabretooth. Yeah. Sabretooth.



The story involves this team looking for Wanda and Pietro, who have gone to Counter Earth, which now appears to be under the control of the New Men,  animals mutated into humanoid form. The twins are looking for the High Evolutionary, apparently in search of answers, since they discovered that Magneto is not their father. The other Avengers travel to Wundagore Mountain, bickering quite a bit on the way, and once there Dr. Voodoo unlocks a portal to Counter Earth but is attacked in the process, and the Avengers are split up and wind up in different predicaments once they are transported. Some things I learned reading this issue: Rogue at one point had Simon William's (Wonder Man's) consciousness in her head, but doesn't any more; Havok and the Wasp were or are married; someone calls the Vision the 'Sorcerer of Science' - I don't know if that's a joke or not. 

This was a 'set-up' issue, to get the ball rolling, and it might be an interesting story. It's hard to say at this point. I've seen Acuna's art before and generally I like it -although again, it's awfully slick. I think the modern coloring just throws me. But it is not at all cute or sketchy. If I really wanted to get back into comics I might buy the next issue -but what with this Secret Wars coming up and the Marvel Universe being reborn or whatever, it seems like there's little point! 


32 comments:

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for sharing Karen, I might pick up that ST/POTA comic. As I type this, I'm imagining Shatner screaming "You maniacs!"

The whole "Wanda and Pietro aren't Magneto's kids" seems like part of a very cynical corporate strategy. Word is, Marvel is turning them into Inhumans because:(1)Quicksilver & Wanda are in the new Avengers movie and (2)Fox, not Marvel/Disney owns the rights to mutant characters. So they're wiping out 50 years of continuity in comics due to corporate politics in Hollywood. I don't lose sleep over such things (it doesn't wipe out stories I read and enjoyed) but there's something unseemly (for lack of a better word) about changing their backstory.

I don't buy many new comics, but I picked up the first 2 issues of Marvel's new Star Wars series. It's okay, the art's pretty good and they got Han right. But I'm not planning on picking up the new 'Secret Wars' either, I'm sure it'll be summarized all over the internet if I want to know what happens.

dbutler16 said...

Karen,

First of all, I applaud your bravery in going out an buying some new comics. It’s been a few years since I’ve done that. Second, I am with you and that the modern super-slick art does not appeal to me.

The Star Trek/Planet of the Apes does sound like fun. Havok and the Wasp married?! Oh my, I am out of touch! Perhaps not regrettably, though. “Sorcerer of Science” sounds like somebody thought that was a cool sounding term and decided to stick it in somewhere. I’d also agree that if the Marvel Universe is getting “reborn” (really?) then there’s not much point in jumping on board right now. Luckily I have no such decision to worry about – plus I use my Marvel Unlimited subscription to read Bronze Age stories.

Colin Jones said...

Taylor actually looks like Charlton Heston this time unlike the Marvel adaptation when they weren't allowed to use his likeness - actually, none of the human characters in Marvel's ape adaptations looked remotely like the film versions (even the mutants in "Beneath"). You can't call yourself a Marvel fan if you don't buy some new comics now and then - I mainly read Deadpool and some Guardians Of The Galaxy. I'm far more intrigued by the upcoming merger of the Marvel multiverse than I am by the next bloated, dumbed-down Marvel movie :)

Doug said...

Colin, count me among those who are not Marvel fans then. It's been well over a decade since my last new comics purchase, unless you want to count my recent buys of the Brubaker/Epting Cap tpbs. I still love the company's properties and history, just not the 21st Century output.

Karen's opinions on the art hold true for me -- even in the Cap stories (which so far I have found to be very good), the art is muddy looking and the stark white word balloons look like paste-ups rather than as a part of a blended page. And as to the seemingly constant changing of the characters and their backstories? Thanks but no. My memories can stay circa the late 80s and before.

And don't get me going on modern comic book covers. It's all a matter of opinion - yes - but just not to my tastes.

Doug

Doug said...

To follow up with a thought --

I still clamor for an Essentials type of reprint of the Planet of the Apes Marvel magazine from whoever currently holds the license, much as Dark Horse has done in getting all of the Savage Sword of Conan material back in print. Seems long overdue.

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

$16 for four comics. Yep, that's reason enough not to buy them (new) any more. And your description of what's going on in Avengers right now is like the final nail in the coffin.

I'm quite intensely interested in ST/POTA, though. Several comics fans/bloggers whose opinions I respect have been singing the praises of this series, so if it is collected and released as a tpb later, I may just get it.

Colin Jones said...

Doug, as a loyal reader of Marvel UK's POTA weekly I also longed for an Essentials type collection but to no avail. But last year I discovered a website called Hunter's Planet Of The Apes where you could read all the apes stories online as they appeared in the POTA weekly. Reading them on a computer screen wasn't ideal but it was fantastic to be able to see them all again after nearly 40 years nonetheless.

david_b said...

Ok ok.., I might just have to pick up that ST/POTA cross-over.. sounds like a hoot.

As for JA's comments on the 'cynical corporate strategy'.., couldn't.... agree... more.

William Preston said...

Regarding J.A. Morris's post about Wanda and Pietro: I know Marvel has had to wrest their backstory away from Magneto because of the split in the movie franchises, but I don't think they're Inhumans--unless they're going in a direction that's different than the one being established in Agents of SHIELD (Kree, alien DNA, terragen mist). It's clear from the end of Winter Soldier that Wanda and Pietro are the results of Hydra's experiments; they're referred to as the sole survivors, in fact.

Karen said...

The price point of the books still gets me. My husband says that I have unrealistic ideas about the price of everything, and I'll admit that I often still think everything should cost what it did when I first started paying for things (and only Taco Bell comes close to that!), but really, $16+ for 4 books? And all together, it probably took me just under 90 minutes to read them all. So I'm paying $16 for 90 minutes of entertainment. I can see a 2+ hour film for less. There's no way I could get sucked back into this hobby.I just couldn't afford to buy the number of books I used to, and knowing the way I am, I wouldn't be happy "only" buying 5-10 titles a month.

On top of it there's still the problems I have with the way comics are done today, but that's a whole different discussion.

The Star Trek/Apes book was fun. Pure "what if" goofiness. It looks like the next issue will feature a Khan-like confrontation of Kirk vs. Taylor. I get a mental giggle imagining Charlton Heston and William Shatner voraciously chewing up the scenery together!

Dr. Oyola said...

I pick up books every three to five weeks and usually spend between $35 and $60 - usually closer to the former. Lucky for me my LCS offers you $20 off for every $100 you spend (they keep track for you) = so there are rare instances where I walk out with my comics for "free."

I flipped through the ST/PotA book in the shop a few weeks ago and I liked the art and esp. the coloring, but it wasn't enough for me to get the book. I would read it, but didn't want to spend money on it.

Rick Remender is one of my LEAST favorite comic writers right now, and I think Uncanny Avengers is probably an example of some of the worst of Marvel's current stuff (though I really like Acuna's art). I am working on a Brother Voodoo (is he Doctor Voodoo now?) blog post, so I am tempted to check out Uncanny Avengers, but won't do more than flip through it in the store - he was dead until recently.

As someone who does still buy a fair number of contemporary books, I find the team books to be the worst.

I recommend the solo books that have a bit of humor and time to develop characters. Matt Fraction's solo Hawkeye book is great (about to end, so you can pick up the trade collections). The new Ms. Marvel is Marvel's best book bar none - that includes art AND writing.

The new Unbeatable Squirrel Girl book seems great so far, as does the new Scott Lang Ant-Man book (the latter written by Nick Spenser who did Superior Foes of Spider-Man, which was a FANTASTIC book)

I agree with Karen that the manga influence on a lot of artists can be hard to swallow - but for some artists these days that is just a phase they go through in their early days - look at Alphonse Alphona who does the incredible art for Ms.Marvel - his work on Runaways has long kept me from picking up that book despite raver reviews - but that was over 10 years ago and he is much better now (and inking himself helps).

The new Thor (with the mysterious woman Thor) is very good as well. Russell Daughterman draws the best frost giants.

Doug said...

Osvaldo --

I really appreciate your comments. While I don't see myself getting back into monthly comics due to price point alone, I do respect your opinions and treat them as sincere recommendations.

I love this community -- today's just one of those great conversations that this space was built to house.

Doug

Martinex1 said...

I fall somewhere between Colin and Doug in my modern comic purchasing. Over the past 5 years, I occasionally buy some new comics but I am continually disappointed. I am sure there are some gems out there (as it sounds the Winter Soldier storyline was decent), but I get a bit annoyed by the cost, the quickness of the read, and as many have mentioned the muddiness of the coloring. I picked up the recent Guardians of the Galaxy title (Guardians 3000 with the original team) and just felt the characterization was off from what I remembered, and it took me about 7 minutes to read.

Karen, the Star Trek/POTA book sound good. Do you feel the characterization, dialogue and overall read was more in line with earlier comic books or did you feel you just got a glimpse of the overall story (decompressed to the point of this air) on this or any of the other books? I am tempted to pick this up and the new Ant Man as well, since I have heard good things.

Regarding coloring, I really wonder if it will snap back at all to 4 color clarity. The recent books (for me almost to every example) seem to take place at night in a cave. When I see some of the original art, it is amazing how much was lost to the coloring. I don't really get the appeal. Although I know some fans looking at it from a different perspective consider the bronze and silver age as "cartoony" in its coloring.

I'm not sure if the storytelling is actually weaker in modern comics; it just seems more bleak. I blame that on the desire to be more "real" combined with the coloring and characterization that seems to adhere to the idea that nobody can be truly noble and every disgusting and disturbing action is redeemable (to the point to being heroic). Sabretooth on the Avengers (even though I admit I have not read this) seems a serious step even beyond Wolverine being on the Avengers. Bloodthirsty Villain and Captain America just don't mix in my mind.

And I just cannot get my head around Havok and Wasp. I may pick it up just to figure out how that exists in anything other than "What If ...."

Oh well, my age is showing... now get off my lawn!

d said...

Funny. I LOVE modern coloring. Yes, some of it is too dark - but wasn't that always the case?

When modern coloring is clean and bright (as in the Hawkeye series for example) is beautiful and really helps the story-telling.

Go to this post on my blog about Hawkeye. The post may be about critiquing is representation of Bed-Stuy, but the just look at the panels I included. I LOVE the coloring (and heavy ink line, too)

Dr. Oyola said...

That above post is me. . .

Martinex1 said...

Those Hawkeye pics do look nice. I like the flatter clean colors. I think these harken back to my likings. I don't like the glossier, "photo realistic", shady style use in many books. For example the faces in the Hawkeye samples, look like a single tone; I have seen numerous books where they try to add depth to the face, cheek bones, eye sockets, etc and it somehow does not look right to my eye. The "painted" styling does not work for me. I like the flatter basics and unobstructed inking. I think that is clear in the Hawkeye examples; I also see that in the recent Silver Surfer. But Avengers and other titles look like its filtered through sun glasses.

Anonymous said...

Ant-Man! Ant-Man! Ant-Man, read it and remember why you used to buy comics...Why they (Marvel) launched it now though is a mystery? This book would have been great as a foundation stone of a New Universe...where all the characters whose film rights are not owned by Disney don't exist - yes, even the FF!!!

Dr. Oyola said...

Oh, I also recommend the new Star Wars series - it reminds me of the old Star Wars series, but not in a dated way. . .

Plus, it takes place btwn Episode IV and Empire - so there is a lot of room to play.

Edo Bosnar said...

Martinex beat me to it, but yeah, I was going to say that those Hawkeye panels look nice precisely because they resemble the "flat" colors of yore.
Anyway, Osvaldo, I've been hearing/reading nothing but good things about the new Ms. Marvel and am quite intrigued. I'll probably be keeping an eye out for inexpensive copies of tpbs some time in the future...

Humanbelly said...

Y'know, Osvaldo, the penciling style somehow reminds me just a little bit of Paul Smith's (it was Paul Smith, right?) work on the X-Men a couple of decades ago-- but with the much heavier ink lining that you like. And you're absolutely right about the less-layered coloring process--it would just clobber this more minimal style of visuals. Smart editor on the job with this-- steering away from the trend and serving the visual storytelling.

The point in your article, there, is a good one, too. I wonder if it actually is an issue with the writer, though. Could there be touchy political-correctness mandate in play here, y'think? Marvel hasn't always had an easy time with it's depiction of racial/societal diversity (or non-diversity when called for, actually). For years&years&years&years one of the most racially/culturally diverse groups an urban youth in Marvel NY could belong to was a street gang or informal crew of young toughs. The melting pot, at least, was alive and well while it beat you up and took your wallet. . .

HB

Karen said...

Martinex -The ST/POTA comics were definitely well researched; they knew both franchises well enough. I didn't feel as though the writer quite had the voices of the characters down enough to completely convince me, but that's an issue I think that arises when you cross mediums like this.It was close enough that I still enjoyed it. As far as style of storytelling goes, they certainly were not "decompressed" - it seemed to flow reasonably to me. The art seemed rather basic and the coloring, rather than being muddy, was perhaps too bright if anything.

Regarding the Avengers, it's disappointing to me that the publishers of the books feel the need to conform to the films. Just because Wanda and Pietro can't be mutants in the movies is no reason to discard what I think is a pretty nifty heritage. Regardless of whether the cinematic duo turn out to be Inhumans or not, it seems wrong-headed to tie the books back to the films, as I don't think that people who are fans of the films wind up reading the books, by and large. It just disrupts things for the comic readers, who do go to the films, and actually support both products, but wouldn't have any difficulty understanding why one version is different from the other.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think the only person who could out-ham Heston on the "damn you all to hell" line is Shatner!

I think Marvel started trying to get the comics and movies closer to each other to generate sales and avoid confusion (which explains the new Ant Man comic...to tie into the upcoming movie), but as Karen said, most movie fans aren't going to rush off to the nearrest comic shop no matter good the movie was.

Mike W.

Garett said...

Thanks for the review Karen! I'm going to check out the Star Trek/ Planet of the Apes book. Like Edo, I'll wait for the tpb.

Martinex1 said...

I am going to have to check out the Star Trek/POTA.

Regarding costs of comics, I ran some quick numbers. If we started with $0.25 books in 1975 and ended with the $4.00 each now, there was an approximate compounded 7.2% increase each year through 40 years. That seems exorbitant.

To compare, the $0.52 gallon of gas in 1975 would be over $8.00 now and the $11,000 mean annual income would be ~$177,000. (I think I did those numbers right).

I would not mind going back to newspaper print paper if it kept comic book costs down. I have to believe that paper (and overhead) are a huge amount of the costs. Newspapers have increased in cost nowhere near that level. And just consider how much junk mail we get printed on glossy paper in full color. I don't understand the costing, but I'm not in the business. I just believe it keeps many people out of reading comics.

Redartz said...

Osvaldo- I too am enjoying "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl". The story tone is light, the artwork as well; it reads like a 'comic' rather than a collection of movie stills. Another current publication I've found interesting is "Afterlife with Archie". The premise is a bit odd for an old Archie fan at first, but the book is as good as the reviews say it is. Love the art and coloring by Francesco Francavilla; has a real old-school look to it, and appropriately creepy.

Karen- kudos to you for trying a few new books. Like most here, I partake very infrequently of current comic output. Based on your comments, I may have to try that ST/PoTA book...

Dr. Oyola said...

Redartz,

I was so disappointed with Afterlife with Archie! :(

I gave it a try, but it isn't Archie to me if it isn't in the house-style. I wanted a serious horror book done in the style - kind of like how they did with the bizarre, but bizarrely good, Archie Meets the Punisher.

Anonymous said...

Karen, I'm with you - on the very rare occasion that I check out my LCS, I usually end up buying mostly Bronze Age Marvel/DC stuff with one or two modern comics thrown in as an afterthought. I remember one time the saleslady said some of the newer comics were on special but I still ended up only buying the pricier vintage stuff!

Of the three titles you bought, the only one that looks even remotely interesting to me would be the ST/POTA series. It'd be a real hoot to see Spock talking to General Urko! Yes, Shatner and Charlton Heston together in a scene too!

As for modern comics being too mangafied, yeah I'm not a fan of that either. While I acknowledge manga as a legitimate artform with millions of fans worldwide, it's never been my cup of tea. If I wanted characters with oversized eyes, sharp noses and ultra stylized poses, I'd read Richie Rich!


- Mike 'live long and kill those apes!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

J.A. Morris said...

I just read that Len Wein is undergoing heart surgery today. I'm sure he wrote at least one Bronze Age tale we all enjoy, so wish him well on Twitter if you're feeling it:
https://twitter.com/LenWein

Martinex1 said...

Len Wein wrote one of my favorite FF stories in Fantastic Four 187 and 188, in which the team battles Klaw and Molecule Man. The George Perez art of course was tremendous, but this was an introduction to the FF for me and I really liked the characterization and how much story he crammed into 187 in particular. He is a solid story teller.

Humanbelly said...

Len had a great, long run on Incredible Hulk. Not groundbreaking, perhaps, but he captured the Hulk's voice just perfectly-- had such a great feel for what I always loved about that incarnation of the character. He was also the writer on board for the transition from Trimpe to S. Buscema-- having a nice run with both artists. And both artists have spoken about what a delightful collaborator he was-- really pointed him out as a particular favorite.

He will always be first-rate in my book-- hope his recovery is swift, and that he gets a fair share of indulgences (heart-healthy, mind you. . . )

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

Yep, in his own way, Wein made quite a contribution to the comics of the '70s and '80s that we all love so much, both as writer and editor. I wish him all the best and a rapid and complete recovery...

Anonymous said...

I liked Uncanny Avengers too....I did a review on the Avengers Assemble site, but I don't think anybody goes there too much anymore (except humanbelly and myself)....

I was surprised how much I liked Brother Voodoo on the team...not very surprised at how I thought Sabretooth was out-of-place.

So I went from NO comics on my pull-list, to Uncanny Avengers, Star Wars (I loved it) and I guess Darth Vader, too.

And of course Back Issue is my favorite periodical!!!!

starfoxxx

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