Thursday, March 03, 2005

Comics Stash

The Big Box has finally arrived, and its Evil Not-Twin-Brother Box is outside Spokane as I write this. No, I can't tell you what's in them - yet, but their very presence has caused me a lot of effort so far this week, and will cause spotty communications over the next week or so. However, it was a light week of comics as well, and I wrote the following before Big Box #1 arrived, Here's another spoilerific installment of Comics Stash.

Back when I was a lad, Marvel was the "simple" Universe, and DC was the "confusing" one. DC's stories took place mostly on Earth-1, but the Golden Age ones took place on Earth-2, which was the same as Earth-1 but Superman was around for WWII and you had things like the grown-up version of Robin and two Flashes and real old heroes like Mr. Terrific still hanging about. And there were Earth-3s, Earth-Primes, and Earth-Xs as well, which all led up to the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which solved the problem, except it didn't. Marvel, on the other hand, had the Marvel Earth, and while there were all manner of alternates out there, most of the tales took place in the same universe. This was before the "What If?" story explosion and various future timelines, back when the Avengers fighting JLA clones known as the Squadron Supreme was a big thing.

Nowadays, Marvel exists in a whole heaping handful of universes, all with analogues of your favorite heroes, so there's no bet who, what, or where your character is. Tales from the past, tales from the future, tales from the futures that no longer apply, tales from universes where Spider-Man is a kid again, tales from the past of that universe where Spider-Man is a kid again. Take a dinner plate, hold it out at an arm's length, and drop it. The resulting pattern on the floor represents the state of Marvel Continuity.

Let's start with the Ultimate Marvel Universe, generally a good place for re-imagining Marvel Characters (see previous notes on Ultimate Nightmare). Ultimate Spider-Man # 73 re-introduces Harry Osborn, son of The Green Goblin, giving him some basis to become the Ultimate Hobgoblin, and giving him multiple grudges against Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Pretty good. On the other hand, Ultimate Iron Man #1, written by Orson Scott Card (more stunt casting in the writer's department) robs Tony Stark of his humanity, turning him into a kinda-mutant when his pregnant scientist mom gets infected by a super-monkey virus while carrying him (don't you just hate it when that happens?).

Meanwhile, in an alternate timeline of the Marvel Universe from about ten years back, the bad guy Apocalypse took over the world to create the Age of Apocalypse. Supposedly this future was wiped out, but now its back for the an anniversary with Age of Apocalypse#1 of 6 and the Age of Apocalypse one-shot. Neither adds a lot to the original, except to show a world that rebounded incredibly quickly from the nightmare Apocalypse-world of the first series. Add to this Apocalypso Exiles #60, which sends a band of heroes, whose job it is to bounce between the various Marvel "What If" universes, into this particular dimension. I'm as nostagic as the next geek, but how can I miss it if it won't go away?

So I mentioned the Squadron Supreme, Marvel's pseudo-JLA from another universe. J. Micheal Stracynski (see the last "Comics Stash"), has re-imagined the characters so they are an entirely new universe (so now with Earth-Marvel-Squadron-1 for the old versions, and Earch-Marvel-Squadron-2 for the new versions). Doctor Spectrum #5 is the story of the Squadron's Green Lantern clone, who has an alien power gem mounted to the back of his hand. It is back story while the main tale continues elsewhere.

Marvel Team Up #6 is a relaunch of the old title, though it does not stop at merely teaming up X and Y. The Spidey/Wolverine teamup is tied into a Doc Strange/FF team up which moves to a Spidey/Wolverine's daughter team-up and now a Captain America/Blackwidow/Spidey/Wolverine's Daughter teamup. The big bads in this story arc have been a kid that explodes, a Tony Stark from an alternate future Marvel Universe where he turns into Doctor Doom, and a nasty badguy who stays in the background for the entire arc, only showing up to beat up Sunfire, who doesn't Team-Up with anyone. Its a bit of a muddle, and a good analogy for the core Marvel Universe.

The only Marvel book to stay in its home universe entirely this week is Captain America and the Falcon #13. And in this, an Evil Cap is running around acting like the Punisher working for the Neo-Cons. The Falcon is reverting to his urban "Snap" personality. And the real Cap gets shot in the head by a punk and dies. I'll admit I'm curious about how this turns out.

Over in DC, Justice League Elite #9 is grappling with the same problem as the Invaders over in Marvel - the team is supposed to play rougher than its parent group, but without the common ethics of being "super-heroes", the group has pretty much self-destructed. The team consists of heroes pretending to be villains, villains trying to be heroes, a villain trying to be a hero but turning out to be a villain, and Green Arrow, because Green Arrow is the Wolverine of the DCU and needs to be everywhere, every week. So far on the team we have one death, one suicide, one betrayal, one apparent betrayal, and a lot of carnage without a lot of upside.

Lastly, The Intimates #5 belongs to the Wildstorm universe, an offshoot of DC (The Authority lives there), and deals with a bunch of super-powered kids at super-powered high school. What I like about the book is that it comes with footnotes, making it the most text-heavy book of the lot, but pulls it off in a smooth fashion that works with the storytelling. The theme in this issue is one of teen suicide, and the characters handle it like, well, high school students.

That's it. Big Box has arrived - things will quiet down here for a little while.

More later, but later than you would expect.