Bring Back the Mutant Magic!

wolverine

Guess Who?

Written By Desi LaSalle

Over the last two weeks, I have been reading a lot of old comics from my personal collection, primarily, The Uncanny X-Men. This title was one of the bestselling Marvel runs of the eighties and early nineties. I must say, it is truly sad to see how the quality of storytelling and art has fallen away from this iconic Marvel title. In my personal opinion, The Uncanny X-Men reached its highest point of success in two separate eras. The first one is from Uncanny X-Men # 112 – #143, by the team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne (my favorite!). We got the battles with Magneto, the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga, the introduction of Alpha Flight, Proteus and Days of Future Past. During this 32 issue stint we were treated to some of the greatest comic book stories and some of the most amazing art that we have ever seen in comics history. If you are just starting to venture into comic book collecting and you love the X-Men, this is where you should start. Not even the movie versions of these story-lines come close to doing them justice; that’s just how good they are. Forever etched in comic book history and definitely a hard act to follow, this run was virtually impossible to match.

hullo-kitten

Hullo Kitten

Yet, to our surprise, the second era of The Uncanny X-Men came about from issues #161 – #225, with various art teams at the helm of the title. Even so, the most outstanding work would come from the likes of Chris Claremont again, but with the help of artists such as Paul Smith and John Romita Jr. In this era we got  The Mutant Massacre story-line, The Fall of the Mutants, The Brood, The introduction of Rogue to the team, The Morlocks and Wolverine’s failed wedding among many great others. These two eras were the perfect blend of amazing art, storytelling and character growth. The beauty of these great comics is that you can read them two or three times and not get tired of them. These days we have various Marvel mutant titles out there and I only really like Old Man Logan and Extraordinary X-Men. They are still nowhere close to being as good as these two eras of The Uncanny X-Men that I have mentioned. There is also All New X-Men, but for me, the stories are weak and stale and the character growth is nowhere to be seen. The art in the majority of these new books are mostly sub-par, with exception to All New X-Men, which has Mark Bagley at the helm.

As a comic book fan it really saddens me to say this, because I love my mutants, I love me my X-Men, Wolverine is still dead right now in Marvel’s comic book continuity (our real Wolverine that is!). I find myself asking Marvel Why? How could this happen? Where did it go wrong? Most importantly, how can you fix it? To anyone that wants to see my point of view I cordially and respectfully invite you to read the comics that I have talked about in this article and feel free to come to your own conclusion. As a comic book fanatic, it pleases me greatly to know that you are going to have a very enjoyable reading experience, as for me, I will keep my eyes peeled and my fingers crossed hoping for Marvel to someday bring back the mutant magic! I just hope that the wait will not be too long!

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Of Hellish Proportions

Sir William Gull

Meet Sir William Gull

Written By Jake Garner

From Hell, another one of Alan Moore’s well distinguished series, really puts the ‘graphic’ into ‘graphic novel’. I recently decided to give the entire series another read as it had been a few years since I last took the gruesome voyage and journeyed through the streets of Whitechapel. Rereading the edition that was published in its entirety in 1999 rekindled my approbation for the book. I know I might be biased here as a huge Moore fan, the man’s writing is nothing short of pure genius, but there is something about From Hell that really sheds a mystical and magical light upon the legendary murders of Jack the Ripper. Perhaps one of the most notorious string of killings to ransack the late nineteenth century, Moore’s interpretation on the bloody fiasco gives the reader a look at the killings through the eyes of Jack himself, the monstrous Sir William Gull. For a graphic novel to be as successful as From Hell, it requires a writer that is willing to give his complete attention to its creation. Moore has done his research to say the least, not only in regards to the whole mythos surrounding ‘Jack the Ripper’, but the royal and Masonic elements that entwine themselves within the story too. For example, the title itself, From Hell, is a product of an original letter that was received by the authorities in the year 1888, containing the same title itself. Many historians believe that this letter is a genuine reaching out from the killer himself. There are so many Easter eggs that Moore incorporates into the story to give it a unique feel, drawing upon historical records and recordings along the way.

Netley and Gull

Netley and Gull

So how is the story actually brought to life? Through the work of Eddie Campbell of course. The artwork within the book is inimitable. I have never seen artistry work in harmony with the writing as efficiently as in the pages of From Hell. To be frank, it is drawn quite simplistically, in a sketch book way that brings the grisly details of the Whitechapel murders to life, almost like a biro pen scribbled on a clean sheet of white paper. Each panel gives us enough to draw upon as the reader, and the grainy feel to the art compliments the macabre tone of the story-line. For me personally, it is rare to see the writer and artist, of any given book, work in such synchronisation. Usually, either the artwork exceeds the story telling, or the story-telling trumps the artwork. There truly is equilibrium to be found within this graphic novel’s five hundred and seventy two pages, each of which is fantastic.

Into the Night

Into The Night

From Hell has come a long way since its original home at Taboo, a comic book publication that housed the first several issues of the series. Due to its success, Campbell and Moore moved away from Taboo and made the project its own entity. Between 1991 and 1996, From Hell was published within ten individual volumes. It wasn’t until 1999 that it was published as a complete trade paperback under Eddie Campbell Comics. Since then it has been published again in the UK and USA under two different publishers. Like a Whitechapel whore, From Hell has certainly made the rounds, though this isn’t a negative, just a portrayal of its popularity.

There are many themes to be found amongst the pages of From Hell, royal scandal, Masonic secrets, and most importantly, strange misogynistic murders. It would be quite unintelligent to give you guys some sort of synopsis of the story here. All you need is a strong gut and an open mind to enjoy the book, therefore, all I can suggest at this point is to fasten your shoes tightly and take a wander down the bloodstained streets of Whitechapel.

From Hell

From Hell

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We Want More R-Rated Superhero Movies

Deadpool

Deadpool Reserved A Seat For Your Mother

Written By Desi LaSalle

I  have recently noticed a lot of backlash against rated R movies, case in point: Deadpool, Batman vs Superman and Batman: The Killing Joke. I personally, as an avid comic book fan, have no problem with a superhero movie getting an R rating, as long as it is loyal to the source material. The Deadpool movie had a great marketing campaign aimed at an adult audience and it still made tons of money. The Suicide Squad movie that recently premiered with a PG-13 rating has been criticized because many feel that it should have been an R-rated movie, directed at an adult audience due to it’s source material. I find this very hypocritical. You are either damned if you do or damned if you don’t when it comes to critics and their reviews. The Killing Joke has been criticized because it’s an animated movie, but any comic book fan that has read the graphic novel knows that to be loyal to the source material there is no way that it could be PG! (Arghh!) I believe that there are many superhero movies that would be box-office blockbusters, even with an R-rating that would make tons of money and maybe even receive good reviews by critics that know nothing of the comic book universe or it’s rabid fan-base. I have compiled a list of possible superhero movies with great story-lines that would be box-office gold if done the right way, even with an R-rating, so here we go!

10) Conan the Barbarian (The King Conan Story-line)

9) Magneto  (Acolytes Story-line/Genosha)

8) Punisher: Warzone

7) Hulk (Berzerk/Planet Hulk Story-line)

6) Old Man Logan (In Development)

5) Venom (Maximum Carnage Story-line)

4) Lobo (origin)

3) Batman (Hush, Knightfall ,Death of Robin, Death of the Family Story-line)

2) X-Force (Origin)

1) Spawn (Origin Reboot Story-line)

Honorable Mention :   Justice League:Identity Crisis

Batman The Killing Joke

A Frame From Batman: The Killing Joke

If done the right way, with all the technology available today to make great superhero movies, I really believe these movies, with these story-lines in particular, would make awesome movies! I would get directors and producers for these movies that would have to be bonafide comic book fans, people that have a deep affection and respect for the source material and its fans. I have always believed that a great story should not be “tweaked” and a great origin should not be changed. The one big lesson to take away from the animated movie Batman: The Killing Joke, is that if the fans love the story, loved the graphic novel or the comic book they will show up in the theaters and they will pay their tickets no matter what rating it has.  I hope Sony Pictures, Fox, Universal, Warner Bros and Disney noticed this phenomenon, because the superhero movie craze is here, it is not going away anytime soon. If you do not believe me than just take a look at the box-office numbers and prove me wrong, and the biggest beauty of all is that there is a lot, and I MEAN A LOT, of great stories left to tell!

Batman Vs Superman

Batman Vs. Superman

 

 

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The Red Hood

Jason Todd

Jason Todd – The Red Hood

Written By Cadeem Lalor

When it was announced that Ben Affleck would write and direct a solo Batman film I was hopeful that we would finally see The Red Hood brought to the big screen. The Red Hood is a vigilante who uses deadly force to control crime in Gotham, which puts him at odds with Batman. The most interesting part of this story-line is The Red Hood’s identity, Jason Todd, the second robin. After being murdered by the Joker, Todd was resurrected and returns to Gotham. Although he ultimately wants to protect the city, he is heavily motivated by revenge against the Joker. Todd also harbours a level of hatred for Batman, since he knows Batman still couldn’t kill the Joker.

The story features the almost timeless discussion of to kill or not to kill, which is also echoed with Marvel characters like The Punisher and Daredevil. It is this discussion that reveals that Batman has thought of killing The Joker. The only thing stopping him is the fear that he will never come back from it. He worries that he will kill every criminal if he allows himself to kill the one that deserves it the most. The Injustice story arc reveals how Superman’s murder of the Joker led to a downward spiral into outright tyranny and reading that series actually improves my experience of The Red Hood.

The Red Hood And The Outlaws

The Red Hood And The Outlaws

Aside from the moral dilemmas offered by The Red Hood, there is also the exploration of the relationship between Batman and Jason Todd. There is the obvious father-son dynamic in their early interactions. There is the saying that indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love. For someone to truly hate someone else there must be a feeling of betrayal or anger, which can be anchored in feelings of love. Some studies even show that love and hate involve the same neural circuits in the brain. The link between the two is epitomized when Todd confronts Batman on his inability to kill The Joker, arguing that it should be done since The Joker took them away from each other.

It has since been confirmed that the solo film will feature multiple villains and take place in Arkham Asylum. The Red Hood’s live action debut may still be a long way off, but there is some hope of seeing the story in DC Extended Universe (DCEU). We know that Robin is dead (presumably Jason Todd) and that Harley Quinn was an accomplice in the murder.  The Red Hood story can offer a triumphant return of Robin to the big screen. One that is action packed, but also poignant.

The Read Hood

The Red Hood

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Reboot Required

Two Halves In One

The Two Halves of One Man

Written By Desi LaSalle

Back in the early eighties when I was starting to read comics, there was one super hero that caught my interest. He had a great costume and a particular look, flames coming out of his head and he looked naturally powerful. This comic book title was none other than The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Man (1982), written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Pat Broderick. Firestorm was created in 1978 by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom, his identity was an amalgam of two people, high school student Ronnie Raymond and University Professor Martin Stein. In a nuclear accident, both Ronnie and Martin are fused into one being with amazing powers. He could re-arrange atomic matter, had fusion blasts, phase through objects and fly. Wow!

For an interesting twist, Ronnie was the one who physically controlled the body of Firestorm and Professor Stein acted as the voice of knowledge and reason. I loved reading this comic because I liked the interaction between Ronnie and Professor Stein while fighting crime, arguing most of the time and sometimes even joking. The back and forth banter was very entertaining. The art in this comic book title was very good and the stories were solid. I also liked the fact that he had very cool villains to attend to, such as Killer Frost, Hyena, Multiplex and Typhoon; they were all very interesting with very good origin stories, which again, is crucial for the success of any comic book.

Firestorm

The Fury Of Firestorm

Ronnie Raymond was a very relatable character struggling in school and having teenage problems with his girlfriend. Professor Stein had an alcohol problem, marriage difficulties and an intense desire to share his knowledge with his college students. At one point Firestorm’s popularity was such that he joined the justice league for a brief time, drafted in by Batman. The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Man  lasted for 65 issues before becoming Firestorm The Nuclear Man and becoming a fire Elemental ending in issue #100. The comic was later revived in 2004 for a brief stint and later on in the new 52, having Ronnie Raymond with high school student Jason Rusch become separate nuclear men and different versions of Firestorm. None of these comics could match the popularity and success of The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Man.

Unfortunately DC Comics has not found a way to make Firestorm a mainstay character in the DC universe. In the new 52 The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Man lasted only 21 issues, in part to weak stories and art in my personal opinion. I have always said that when a comic has a certain formula that works you should not change it, just evolve it to its ultimate expression. Firestorm is just another great superhero character that deserves another shot and a fresh new outlook with a great writer and a great artist. He has a great origin and great villains. DC Comics, that is now in its “Rebirth” stage, should take advantage and take Firestorm to the next level, because he has a great background and plenty of history in the DC Universe. All he needs is someone with the appropriate vision to reboot him, so I guess we just have to wait and see if our favorite nuclear man shows up again hopefully in his own series someday, I for one will keep my fingers crossed.

Firestorm 2

Firestorm 

 

   

 

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If She be Worthy!

The Lady Thor

The Lady Thor

Written By Desi LaSalle

Nine months ago I got a first glimpse of a new Marvel title; I saw a picture of a female Thor. She looked badass, but at the same time I thought to myself, is this going to work?Will a new Thor comic sell? Will the stories be good? I have to admit that after reading the first nine issues, the answer is a resounding YES!

Marvel has taken the creation of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby to an entirely different level, breathing new life and endless possibilities into this ‘Marvel Mainstay’ character. The first big surprise of this new series is Thor’s identity itself. She is none other than Thor’s one time romantic interest, Jane Foster, who is now stricken with cancer. Jane is an old and established character to the Thor comic book, though in recent times she has created new range of situations and scenarios for a title that had gotten a little stale. I have to congratulate writer Jason Aaron and Artist Russell Dauterman for doing a spectacular job on this title, to which I admit I have not seen or read in years. The new goddess of thunder has become not only one of Marvel’s newest and most popular characters, but also an internet sensation as part of this generation’s new explosion of female heroines within the Marvel Universe.

This Is The New Thor

The New Thor

Marvel seems to have realized this because it did not take long for the new Thor to appear as a member of the All-New, All Different Avengers. Among the many memorable events that have already occurred in the pages of The Mighty Thor, the first that comes to mind is seeing Jane Foster as the new Thor in battle with the original Thor (now known as Odinson), fighting against Odin himself, Frost Giants and Malekieh. The new Thor that we are getting now is a brash, fearless and sometimes unpredictable female heroine dealing with how to use these new powers, testing those power’s limits and dealing with the cancer that is consuming her when she is in her human form. As a reader this series is a delight, from issue 1, where we see a female lift the hammer of Thor on the moon and be transformed. We are immediately taken to a roller-coaster ride of a story-line that not only has remained fresh but also very entertaining.

It is great to see a new comic book title that is so good to actually be selling well also, while at the same time receiving the critical acclaim that it deserves. I truly hope this series has a very long run, there are many ways to go story wise and I can’t wait to see what happens next. It has truly been a very pleasant surprise due to the lack of good comic book titles these days. Marvel comics has wanted to have a badass female heroine for a long time, it sure seems they have finally found one, just as awesome as the inscription on Thor’s hammer “WHOSEVER HOLDS THIS HAMMER, IF HE BE WORTHY, SHALL POSSESS THE POWER OF THOR!”. I have to say without a doubt, that she is indeed worthy, so check this comic out, you are missing something special.

The Ever Changing Jane Foster

The Ever Changing Jane Foster

 

 

 

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100 Bullets

100 Bullets

100 Bullets 

Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading the much hyped Joker by Brian Azzarello’s much hyped Joker, I found myself somewhat disappointed by it. The concept was great and since The Joker is my favourite villain, I was happy to explore his madness more, but the ending felt incomplete and the overall story wasn’t as engaging as I hoped. 100 Bullets was highly recommended and I figured that I would give it a shot. The entire series runs for 100 issues and I purchased the first volume, which includes issues 1-19.

Now I have a better idea of why Azzarello is a revered author. The concept was what motivated me to buy the comic, revolving around separate stories where people are given an opportunity to take revenge on someone who has wronged them, armed with irrefutable evidence and a gun with 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. This revenge is facilitated by a man known only as Agent Graves.

While the concept is interesting, the comic could easily falter with poor execution. The toughest thing to initially accept was the artwork, which I felt paled in comparison to works like The Walking Dead or Transmetropolitan. Like Joker, some panels are amazingly detailed and well-rendered. Meanwhile, several others looked poorly done. I remember that I felt the same way about the art for the first few issues of The Walking Dead, and I wondered if I might get more used to the art as the story progressed. For the most part I did, but I still feel like the artwork is one of the weaker aspects of the comic.

100 Bullets #92

100 Bullets #92

Another issue that seemed to carry over from Joker is the way that minority characters are generally depicted. Most of the characters we meet in 100 Bullets are poor ones, so I initially tried to dismiss the ebonics and the stereotypes as being indicative of class, since it also crosses racial lines. However, Killer Croc (who is black) also has similar lines in Joker. Maybe we can argue Croc also grew up poor but the dialogue ends up sounding stale and forced when the writer shoehorns slang into every other sentence. One of Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing is to use regional dialects and slang sparingly, but that isn’t the case here. Series like The Walking Dead handled such dialogue better with characters like Tyrese and Axel, making it flow more smoothly.

With the negatives out of the way, I can say that Azzarello still manages to craft a great story. As the issues continue, the different storylines and characters become more connected. We learn more about Graves, his allies, his enemies and it starts to become clear that the people getting their shot at revenge are likely pawns. Since each issue generally revolves around a different character, with appearances or references by others, one of the biggest challenges is to keep each story as engaging as the previous one. Azzarello accomplishes this well, introducing our new character and their predicament quickly. The stories then snowball from there, from a case study of one person, into a larger exploration of this world. The dialogue is well written when it’s not weighed down by slang. Azzarello also allows the plot’s full details to be revealed slowly. We know who our character is and why they want revenge. Everything else, such as Grave’s goal, is only hinted at piece by piece. We get the feeling we will know all at some point, but we also know that we won’t be learning until near the end of the tale.

The series isn’t perfect and since it won an Eisner award, my expectations are high. However, I am excited to see how the story wraps up.

Travis Clevenger

Travis Clevenger

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