The twelfth episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD officially takes us past the halfway point of the season; there are now more episodes behind us than ahead. You'd think I'd be relieved given how disappointing the show has been, but I'm actually worried that time is running out to make the show work.
This week; Agents of SHIELD goes back to school. But what do they learn?
On the list of things I'm a complete and total sucker for, outer-space westerns are up at the top of the list, right under comics about Batman punching a gorilla or crocodile. I love those things, and the more obvious the connection to westerns, the more I tend to love it. Cowboy Bebop? Great. Firefly, with its train robberies and galactic civil war veterans? Yes. Heck, I've even got a passing interest in BraveStarr, and that thing is so on the nose that it takes place on "Planet Texas." Seriously, you put cosmic six-shooters and I'm basically in, no questions asked.
Of course, it helps if the end product is actually good, too, and while it was the premise and a quick look at the art that got my interest piqued in the first place, Matthew Ritter and Adam Elbatimy's Nova Phase is every bit as good as I wanted it to be.
Directed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a theatrical extension of their award-winning work on Batman: The Animated Series which finds Batman on the trail of a lethal new villain for whose crimes he has been wrongly given the blame, and whose identity and motives strike hard into the heart of Gotham City’s protector. The film is equal parts mystery, action and romance, and enhanced by riveting music, truly emotional vocal performances and exquisite animation and art direction like no other American animated feature. Indeed, legendary film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert actually apologized to their television audience for not reviewing Mask of the Phantasm when it was released in theaters (lousy promotion caused them to mistake it for a compilation of episodes from the animated series) and heaped effusive praise on the film and its principals. The 1993 film remains the only animated Batman feature released cinematically.
This past Christmas marked the 20th anniversary Mask of the Phantasm, a film that’s arguably its creators’ most perfect expression of their enduringly influential vision of DC Comics’ dark knight — a vision that many believe is the most perfect expression of Batman in any medium. While Warner Bros. has yet to announce any plans for a high definition reissue or any other offerings connected with the special occasion, the film fanatics at Mondo — purveyors of extremely fine illustrated film posters and other cinematic celebrations — decided to honor Mask of the Phantasm with an anniversary event in connection with the famous Alamo Drafthouse of Austin, Texas, where they screened the film in its original 35mm format for a sold-out house last Tuesday, January 7. As always, Mondo came prepared with an extremely limited quantities of new screen-printed poster, and which serves as an update of the film’s original theatrical one-sheet and an homage to the aesthetic legacy of Timm and Radomski’s work.
Hawkeye has led the way for a solo title renaissance at Marvel. The publisher had of late placed an emphasis on team books -- mostly iterations of the Avengers and the X-Men -- and scaled back on solo titles, even reducing Spider-Man to just two books (one double shipping).
Then Hawkeye came along, and things changed. Thanks to the unique voice and style of the creative team, Matt Fraction and David Aja, a character who seemed unlikely to sustain a solo title became both a critical and commercial hit. Marvel has been trying to recapture that magic ever since, and the first of a new wave of solo titles hit stores this week; Black Widow #1by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto.
Q: What is Stan Lee's actual legacy? -- @TheMikeLawrence
A: I don't think there could be a more complicated subject to tackle in a single column than this one, because as an industry and as an art form, I think we all have a lot of complicated feelings about Stan Lee. Depending on who you ask, when you ask them and what he's been up to lately, he's a conniving credit-stealer, a shameless self-promotion machine, a "driven little man who dreams of having it all!!!" and got it by coasting on the hard work of others, or he's a charismatic innovator who got put into that spotlight because he's a natural showman, a smiling ambassador of the medium and everybody's friendly comics grandpa. And it's further complicated because you can't really talk about him without talking about collaborators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, either.
That's what makes him hard to talk about, even if you've spent nearly your entire life being aware of him. There's just so much to get through that's filtered through so many angles, and as a result, I genuinely think that he's simultaneously the most overrated and underrated creator of all time.
In this week's installment of the X-Men episode guide, I mentioned that there was a comic from the early '80s where Power Man and Iron Fist, Marvel's mismatched mercenary superheroes, battled against a slightly off-model version of Doctor Who's Daleks. It's one of my favorite old-school oddities, but it occurs to me that some of you might not know about this, and that is a shame. I can't imagine going through life not knowing about it. It's just not right, which is why I thought I'd step in and take everyone for a trip into the back issue bin to talk about how Luke and the Fist battled against the Dreadlox and then punched them so hard they were never seen again.
This is, and I cannot stress this enough, a thing that actually happened, and the amazing part is that it's actually even weirder than it sounds.
Q: Is writing comics with a lack of subtlety a good or bad thing? Or does it all depend on how it's handled? --@therealdealkern
A: This is a really tough question, because unlike a lot of things I write about, I don't have a definitive answer one way or the other, even though it's something I notice all the time. Looking back, it seems tricky to figure out why I love some things and hate others for what seems to be the exact same reason. I mean, I've got a reputation as someone who loves over-the-top stories and comics that have a complete lack of anything that even approaches nuance, full of blunt statements, raw emotions and names that couldn't be more on the nose if they were a pair of reading glasses.
And yet, at the same time, there are stories I hate precisely because they have that same lack of subtlety, or because they're eye-rollingly obvious. There's got to be a difference somewhere, right?
Yesterday DC Comics launched its new Batman: Arkham Origins - A DC Comics MultiVerse Graphic Novel app, which serves as a choose-your-own-adventure style motion comic prequel to WB Games Montreal's video game of the same name. Befitting of its status as a video game tie-in, this is a "freemium" experience. You download a free 8-page setup before reaching a fork in the narrative road and pay more (it's being serialized, you see) for the full range of story content as it's released. As a bonus, readers who pay to read halfway through the story get a code to unlock a new playable skin in the Origins game. Those who pay for a season pass get the first skin, plus an additional costume for Batman to wear.
In an interview with Wired, Hank Kanalz, SVP of Integrated Publishing at DC Comics, characterized the effort as an experiment. Financially, this model could prove to be a success -- especially with its downloadable content (DLC) incentives for hardcore gamers. Creatively? So far it leaves something to be desired.
Q: Can Santa Claus beat Superman in a fight? Can he beat Batman? --@byharryconnolly
A: You, Harry, have been affected by the cynicism of a cynical age. Any schoolchild could tell you that Santa Claus would never fight Superman or Batman, because they are all on the same side. Then again, I suppose that's why you didn't ask a schoolchild and instead went straight to someone who specializes in providing needlessly elaborate answers to yes-or-no questions about fictional vigilantes.
So today, on this wintry Christmas Week Eve, I'm going to take up the spirit of the holiday and give you the answer you asked for. The short version? Yes. Santa Claus could beat those dudes like government reindeer. It wouldn't even be close.
While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is in the midst of a creative renaissance at IDW, with the current series making our own Best Comics of 2013 list, the publisher continues to release reprints and collections of stories that had been unavailable for years. Recently, IDW released a new hardcover edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection, which was originally published in 2009 (the actual 25th anniversary) through co-creator Kevin Eastman’s Heavy Metal publishing house, re-mastering the artwork and providing some stories with color for the first time.
Unlike ComicsAlliance editor Caleb Goellner -- who seems to bleed green -- I’ve only read a few issues of the new series. I really, genuinely liked it, but felt like my memories of the original comics, if not the comics themselves, were better. For that same reason, I haven’t bought a single issue of IDW’s Classics reprints; just saw enough of the first collection to know that I didn't like the cold digital coloring. Really, I didn’t want to see TMNT with new eyes; I wanted it to remain great in my recollection, rather than diminished by the reality. I didn’t want to find out that literally the most important comic in my life was reduced to trash because of the passage of time and changes in perception.
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