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Comics

Marvel Joins Amazon Prime Reading

Just a head’s up for anybody who likes to get their money’s worth out of their Amazon Prime subscription, Marvel is now partnered with Amazon to have their comics show up there (as well as some selections in Kindle Unlimited and Comixology Unlimited).  Those are cool if you already pay the extra subscription fee for either service, but even if you don’t, there’s some very good stuff to check out in Prime Reading.  Here’s my favorites:

Star Wars, Volume 1 and Darth Vader, Volume 1:  When Marvel got the license to publish Star Wars comics, they went big.  Assigning some of their best writers and artists (Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Salvador Larroca, John Cassaday, Adi Granov, and others).  These comics both follow on straight out of A New Hope, and they go a long way to re-establishing Darth Vader as the pre-eminent menace in that galaxy far, far away.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1:  If you haven’t read this yet, there’s no excuse.  Kamala Khan matters more than ever in our current political climate, a daughter of Muslim immigrants who fights crime not because of some great tragedy, but was inspired by other heroism in the world.  And the story is a ton of fun, to boot.  G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona made a great creative team (along with Stephen Wacker and Sana Amanat editing and helping to create the character).

Hawkeye, Volume 1:  I’ve evangelized this series before, so hopefully you’ve already read it, but here’s yet another chance.

There’s also some Iron Fist, Deadpool, the first volume of Alias (Jessica Jones), and a few other solid comics.  If you are already subscribed to Amazon Prime, there’s no reason not to use Prime Reading.

Categories
Comics

Marvel’s Biggest Missed Opportunity

It’s kind of shocking how quickly the tables have turned on the big two in the comics industry.  Just a few years ago, while DC was languishing under the “New 52”, Marvel was having a creative boom.  Whether it was Matt Fraction and David Aja bringing a fresh take to Hawkeye, their first headlining Muslim hero, or amazing women taking on important roles in their universe (Carol as Captain Marvel, Jane Foster Thor, SQUIRREL GIRL), things seemed to be looking up for the House of Ideas.  It all came to a satisfying crescendo with 2015’s Secret Wars event, which should’ve allowed Marvel to set up their new universe exactly as they saw fit.  Somebody dead that you need alive?  Go for it.  It was a golden opportunity.

So what went wrong?  To me, it comes down to one thing, and that’s the constant stream of events.  Crossover events can be fun, no doubt, but when you are ALWAYS preparing for the next big thing (and there’s 2 or 3 of them every year), you’re not able to do any justice to the stories of the individual characters.  A rebooted universe, renumbered and starting over to boot, should be all about bringing new readers into the fold.  The guy reading Spider-Man for the past 10 years is in, you know?  The grognards might roll their eyes at yet another renumbering, but as long as the book is still there and Spidey is still himself, they’ll stick around.  A new number 1 issue should be a jumping-on point for the MCU fans, or kids, or whoever it is you want to start reading comics.  But with the constant event cycle churning, you never give that new reader a chance to get to know the character before their life and story are interrupted.

Post-Secret Wars, you rolled straight into Avengers: Standoff!, with Spider-Women and Apocalypse Wars disrupting some of the Spider-centric and X-Men books.  That all led into Civil War II, a sequel event nobody asked for, which included some character assassination of Captain Marvel to boot.  But you barely caught your breath before the Spider-books were disrupted by another event, a Clone Conspiracy revival.  The X-Men and Inhumans fought, a bunch of monsters were fought, and then you may have heard about that whole Secret Empire thing.  It’s exhausting just to read all of that.  Imagine you are a new comics fan, how do you reconcile all of that?  If fifteen to twenty books every month have some event banner on ’em, and put the character building on hold for some other story, why would you keep reading?

I stopped reading comics as a teen mostly because of the event cycle.  While Infinity Gauntlet was classic, I got annoyed at having things happening across multiple books that I couldn’t afford to buy (and that was when comic books were only $1-$1.50).  Your choice was either to not know what was going on, or to stop buying.  What brought me back to comics was my friends raving about the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye series, which did it’s own thing and built a deep, interesting story about Clint and Kate.  It was funny, it was experimental, and I fell back in love with comics.  I branched out from there, but always with an eye to comics that had a solid running story of their own (Tom King’s The Vision series for example).  The thing is, whenever I might start to get invested in a more mainline comic, it would get interrupted and I would throw up my hands and decide to trade-wait it, or at least see if the event as a whole that was pre-empting my normal programming was worth it.  Spoiler alert:  most of them haven’t been, so I’ve pretty much stopped buying Marvel comics.  There are still some gems here and there (Black Widow, Ms. Marvel although she’s well and truly embedded in the event cycle now, one or two others) but most I’m content to wait for Marvel Unlimited to go on sale again to catch up.

Marvel’s comic books are in fairly dire straits right now – a gimmick Spider-Man issue was number 1, but beyond that, the top 25 is dominated by DC.  Star Wars comics are helping Marvel from being totally embarrassed in the top 100.  When DC can put both double-shipped Batman comics ahead of every Marvel comic but the aforementioned gimmick Spider-Man, you need to make changes.  Some suggestions:

  1. Pare down the lineup.  Marvel released 94 different comics in March.  There were seven different Avengers or related books if you count Great Lakes Avengers (and I’m not counting the Avengers cartoon tie-in book).  Deadpool (or a Deadpool-adjacent character such as Deadpool the Duck) appears in at least 5 or 6 books.  Doctor Strange was in 3!  If you love a specific character, it’s ridiculous to try and follow them.  Trim it down.
  2. Let the stories develop.  I would put this to Marvel as a challenge – the next time the universe is rebooted (and you know they will), let all the comics go one full calendar year telling their own story.  Let the characters shine and develop a following before smashing them against a planet- or universe-destroying entity.
  3. Retain your talent.  Tom King.  Tim Seeley.  Sam Humphries.  James Tynion IV.  It seemed for a while in 2016 you couldn’t go a week without someone new signing an exclusive deal with DC, many of whom had been creating for both companies.  Tom King and Sam Humphries were huge losses in particular.  Marvel has their own stable of talent, but you can’t keep losing creators without it affecting quality.  The same 6 people can’t write all your books, especially if you are releasing 100 a month.
  4. Count the trades and digital sales.  I know they look at the sales, but they are still mostly concerned with monthly sales at your local shop.  Sorry, but not everyone goes to the local comic shop for individual floppy issues.  Especially since they aren’t particularly collectible in modern times.  I much prefer sturdier trade paperbacks, as I share a lot of my comics with my kids.  I also have quite a few in the digital format from various sources (Comixology/Amazon sales, Humble Bundles, etc.).
  5. Keep the diversity going.  Any media is improved by having other viewpoints, so efforts need to be re-doubled to engage with and retain writers and artists of color, women, and LGBTQ+ creators.

Look, as quickly as things went south for Marvel, they can turn it around.  They’ve got a built in audience thanks to the MCU that would love to engage with them, and they only need the content to be there.  This time next year, the roles could be reverse – or we could have a new golden age where Marvel and DC are both high quality at the same time.  Imagine that!Marvel versus DC

Categories
Comics Review

What’s New on Marvel Unlimited – May 22 to May 28, 2016

Every week, Marvel adds new comics to their Marvel Unlimited service. Sometimes it’s new stuff – most series they publish get issues added about 6 months after they are released in shops – and others it’s older comics. But there’s always something interesting and I will point them out weekly.

Starting thing this week is the new Ms. Marvel #1.  Kamala has everything she ever wanted (mostly).  She’s an awesome superhero, an Avenger even, hanging with the likes of Tony Stark, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander.  But Kamala learns that once you go public, you’re no longer in control of your image.  And sometimes that shady real estate developer using your face to pave over your neighborhood just might be hiding something more sinister.  G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ian Herring are your creators.

Next up is Star Wars: Vader Down #1.  If the prequels’ take on Lord Vader depressed you, this should cheer you up.  THIS is the Darth Vader who stomps onto Rebel ships and chokes the life out of anyone in his way.  Just check this out.  Jason Aaron, Mike Deodato and Frank Martin Jr creating based on an overall story arc by Aaron and Kieron Gillen.

VaderDown1

Lastly, you have Spider-Woman #1, starring Jessica Drew…pregnant??  It’s a cliched twist I admit, but it’s handled in a fun way here.  I definitely want to see what’s coming next.  Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez.

Other comics of note:

  • Star-Lord #1 – go back and see how young Peter Quill lied, cheated, and stole his way into space.
  • This week’s 90s nostalgia is thanks to a bunch of X-Factor issues getting added.
  • The Astonishing Ant-Man #2 for more Scott Lang adventures
Categories
Comics Life

The “For Boys” Problem

MattieCapSweatshirt
My girls!

This is my daughter, Mattie (and the back of my other daughter, Eva).  The girls have taken on my love of comics, mostly due to the show Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  M is wearing her new Captain America hoodie which may be her new favorite possession.  Upon seeing it in the store, Eva squealed “Daddy, do they have a THOR ONE???” but a quick check of the racks showed that they did not.  Hey, his last movie came out a while back.  So I did a search for ‘Thor hooded sweatshirt’, and the first link went to the Disney store.  As soon as the link loaded though, I rolled my eyes.  “Thor Costume Hoodie for Boys” it says.  The thing is, for a kid that is under say, 10, hoodies are all pretty much the same.  I had no problem buying that out of the ‘boys’ section, but a lot of people would avoid that.  Online, it shouldn’t even BE a problem.  Just tag it for both and drop the “for boys” out of the name.

It didn’t get any better when I scrolled to the bottom of the page.  Six more related items, all hoodies for Marvel heroes (and R2D2), all “for boys”.  The Thor character page for girls is desolate, with a Mr. Potato Head toy, a set of figurines, and Disney Infinity 2.0.  Last I checked, glasses, wall clings and books work the same for either gender.

BoysHoodies

I find the lack of Thor stuff for girls particularly funny right now, as Thor in the comics is going to BE a woman in just a few weeks.  Cosplayers of both genders have been dressing as Thor forever.  Women and girls go to comic book movies, they work in comic book stores, they read comics.  Why don’t the companies making this stuff get that?  There are sources for stuff at some of the more niche sites on the web, but most folks aren’t going to WeLoveFine or SuperheroStuff.  The girls who want to wear this now are the ones who will pick up a Spider-Man comic on a whim when they get to be teens, and will be filling Tumblr (or whatever fills that role in 10 years) with GIFs of whoever the next Hugh Jackman, Chris Evans or ScarJo is.

I hope this gets better.  DC and Marvel both have some really great books starring female heroes they could get more gear out there for, but sometimes your daughter just ends up loving Captain America, despite how many times you read Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel around them.  Let’s support it, okay?