It’s all about WAR(s)!

Right now, there are at least 3 wars raging in the big 2 universe. And I am just talking about the “regular” universe and not the various multiverses that they have.

War is one of the ultimate story telling techniques for companies with big and recognizable rosters.  It is a wonderful excuse to bring together their biggest names in a big showdown and milk the feel good (and cash) factor of the various brands for all they are worth. Kind of like WWE’s annual Royal Rumble.

Over the past few years we’ve seen lots of wars being raged. Civil War, Skrull Invasion, War of Kings, Annihilation War, Secret War, Secret War 2, Kree Skrull War, Sinestro Corp War, The Invisible War, Doom War, World War Hulk, Siege just to name a few. Even events like House of M, Blackest Night and Final Crisis though technically not wars, have the same factors as all the above mentioned storylines.

Comic War veterans (like myself) have come to realize that not all wars are created equal. For every Blackest Night, there is a World War Hulks. And we have probably come to a realization of what makes a “war” work and what doesn’t.

2 factors which make or break a “war” storyline for me are:

– the “time between installments” factor

– the “does anything that happen here matters” factor

Regular readers here will know that I think “Blackest Night” is the most awesome storyline since Huckleberry Finn, but it reaaaaaaally irks me that we can go weeks, even up to a month without any progress in the main story. I understand that is probably the publisher’s attempt to cash more out of this mega event, but having to wait so long for a fast and furious war just seemed wrong. This is what I think is the primary reason for the failure of “Siege” as well.

“War of the Supermen” certainly fixed the timeliness factor well. It is essentially a 100 minutes (yup you read it right, MINUTES) war and the whole story is over in 4 issues that comes out weekly. Pretty awesome, except for the fact that it does not pass the “does it matter” test. Sure the whole New Krypton concept has gone down the toilet and the fatalities were high, but New Krypton was a concept that is like the proverbial fish and overstaying guest. It stank because it has hung around beyond its welcome period. And at the end of the day, no matter how many Kryptonians die, we know that the primary ones (Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Krypto the Super Dog) and even the sub primary ones (Zod and gang) will live on. PLUS: the action sequences were quite crappy. They should have taken a peek at what the Green Lanterns were doing in Blackest Night.

Which brings us to the mess that is World War Hulks… or Fall of the Hulks… or whateveryouwanttocallit.

It is… in every sense of the word, a HUGE mess. Beside the awful story telling and horrible characterizations, it does not even have the decency to end its run early. The whole fiasco with Red Hulk and the Intelligencia started even before Siege and it is still ongoing. The gaps between each inconsequential installment of the series is painstaking and furthermore, the creators seemed to be under the pompous delusion that whatever happened here matter. I mean… Hulked out marines and… Hulked out heroes????? The Hulk brand can do A LOT better.

Anyone still intending to do a “War” story should really look at how Marvel is kicking ass in “Second Coming” for the X Men.

The action is fast and superbly furious. There is AT LEAST one installment of “Second Coming” every week and each installment progresses the story with new plot twists and casualties from the war. And the best part? They did all this without sacrificing the quality of the storytelling and the art.

The casualty rate in Second Coming is high and we have already seen the death of an instantaneously recognizable X Men, with numerous others suffering potentially career ending  injuries.

And the best part? Marvel does not seem like it is going to let up on the body count any time soon.

Say what you want about the overexposure and brand exploitation of the X-Men, but Marvel certainly knows how to protect the brand integrity of the X-Men. By telling stories of the highest standards when it comes to mega events like “Second Coming”. (Childish sidenote: I still can’t help sniggering at the title)

THIS is the way War should be done.

A special mention this week should go to The Amazing Spider Man. Almost 2 years ago, I was doing some serious bitching about the concept of Brand New Day. I am still not happy with the deus ex machina they used to annul the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, but I have to admit that much good came out of it. The whole “Gauntlet” mega storyline and its various mini components have worked superbly so far, and they would not have happened if Peter Parker was still happily, or unhappily married. I love the fact that they never let the “Spider Man” concept grow old and so far, managed to reinvent some of his older rogue gallery to make them more than the goofy concepts they were 30 years back.

My favorite panel of the week, however has to be this….

If only for the preview tagline.

I mean, seriously…

“Lobo PUNCHES PEOPLE WITH RINGS… hard”

Comics does not get better than this. *Excite*

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Hulk rules!

He really does. I mean I do realize that people’re making fun of him for his  ultra stretchy purple pants. But that just means he’s sharing good company with Nacho Libre, right?

nacho libre, talking, stretchy pants

For a character that might or might not still be in current comic continuity, it was one hell of a movie. It IS obvious to everyone that the stakes of obscure characters tend to rise drastically once their movies hit the big screens, right? Where were Blade and Elektra before their big screen debut? (yes, I know, Elektra might’ve been a Skrull, but still..)

hulk

Anyway, Hulk boasts big action, gratitious amount of explosions and the use of cgi to a pornographic extent (what’d you expect? He IS a big green giant) but unlike other shows it doesn’t lose itself in the visual overload. *cough* Superman Returns *cough* In an either or situation, a mediocre story trumps top notch cgi, anytime.

And at the centre of Hulk was the story of Bruce and Betty, the story of Thunderbolt and Betty, and of course the story of Bruce and Emil around which the movie revolves. While Iron Man was a fun watch, it was a story of, well, ermm… a super rich man defending his money with his shiny, new toy. (don’t be mistaken, I’m still a fan of Iron Man) (a lil brainless popcorn dun never hurts anyone).

hulk

My point? Marvel’s been doing a pretty swell job of churning out epic, fun  (and slightly deep?) flicks that are accessible to the casual audience while not alienating it’s (hard)core audiences: pimply fan boys. Whoohoo!!

I know Lee Ang wanted his version of Hulk to be a tribute to fan boys everywhere and for the style of the show to be faithful to the genre (guilty confession: I am one of the rare fans. Gamma transformed poodles and all) but this Hulk is so much better. Both as a film and as a Easter Egg hunt for nerds (like me). It not only pays tribute to the comics but the old television series as well.

Hulk, TVhulk, lou ferrignohulk, lou ferrigno

I’m still deciding which got me more excited, Getting the old Hulk in as a security guard or that McGee was a campus reporter who captured the Hulk attack with his mobile. And one particularly nice touch is of course, the appearance of Stern and his eventual fate. Leader, anyone?

hulk, gamma poodle

Very nice indeed.

By the Power Cosmic

I had the scare of my life.

Just finished Annihilation (Marvel’s space event of 2007) and thought that I’ve finally *gasp* grown out of superhero comics. I bought book 1 and 2 of the trades based on reviews of how it totally redefined story telling of space adventure stories.

I’ve not been much of a fan of space adventures/sci fi stories in the first place but thought that this’ll be  as good a chance as any to try it out.

Annihilation, novaAnnihilation, silver surferAnnihilation, super skrullAnnihilation, ronan

First off, the art (or at least cover art) of the entire series is to die for. Seriously, they’re gorgeous! And the story telling and pacing ain’t bad either. I’m not that familiar with Marvel’s pantheon of space characters (I think they’re pretty lame. I mean, seriously… Ronan the Accuser??) but it was still pretty cool to see a newer, streamlined Drax the Destroyer (see!) tear (literally) Thanos a new one. Of course no one expect THAT to last for long (reference: Super Skrull) (actually, reference: any comic character that’s been dead. I’m looking at you, Uncle Ben!)

Thanos, Drax, Annhilation

So what sucked so badly about the Annihilation series then? The interior art? Not really. They’re not exactly Mignola or Ross standard (ah… The pleasure of geeky name dropping. Being a nerd rules!) but they’re alright. The epic fight scenes are believeable (well…as believeable as any intergalactic fights between super powered beings can be) and not too messy. You can still make out who was on the receiving end of who’s power blasts.

My main gripe was that at the end of book 2, I was told that it was only book 2 of 3! That’s right. To follow the whole series, I’ll need to buy 3 not too cheap trades (setting me back almost 100 bucks) which is a reflection on the industries over bloated and kinda exploitative marketing mechanism. The last calculation for anyone who wanna follow the full story of DC’s “Final Crisis” or Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” was AT LEAST US$115 and US$317 respectively. Shocking!

Annihilation book 3

At that point, I was all but ready to swear off super hero comics.

Then I watched “Hulk” in the cinemas and was reminded why spandex (in this case, stretchy purple pants) rocks. (also, as of now, “Secret Invasion” is living up to all the hype)

Did I mention my wallet’s gonna be dry?