Holiday Catch-Up: Comics Mishmash

Figured I’d crank out one more game of catsup before the new quarter starts. Like I’ve said before, I’m going into the American comics world completely blind outside of things like movie and cartoon adaptations, so take that as you will.

The Amazing Spider-Man #666-675 (Spider Island / Vulture)

I’ve been following with Spidey’s Ultimate universe from start to finish (to uh… re-start), so I wonder what exactly I was waiting for to get me into the webhead’s main universe title. Well… guess it was a massive crossover event.

Not gonna lie—I’m usually not too keen on massive crossover story arcs. I remember reading one of the Crisis events for DC and feeling completely and utterly lost. Random characters popping in and out without much to do or say; references to events a billion issues ago; not to mention the expected techno-babble which is made even worse since I’m not even familiar with the universe or characters… it was just a bad first time.

Spider-Island is different.

The crossover works well in that it’s able to get new fans into the series right off the bat. You’re starting at the start of a new arc, where past interactions with characters doesn’t mean all that much outside of the slightly distracting but still not too bad overall little asterisk notes you get from time to time. The level of danger present is clearly on a grand enough scale to warrant the use of so many of Marvel’s heavy-hitters, but it’s executed in a way that you’re not swamped with so much information that you’re immediately turned off. There’s some kind of virus around the city that’s giving Average Joe’s Spidey’s powers, and it’s up to the original Spidey to bring a stop to it all before things get too out of hand. It’s a simple story at its core presented in a way that can get new readers immediately rooting for Mr. Parker and booing the baddie in Jackal, even though the most noteworthy thing he’s been a part of was turning off readers to the comic via the Clone Saga.

As for the following short Vulture arc, it works as a good short little story to get readers back into the (get ready for it…) “swing” of things. I don’t know why, but the Vulture’s always seemed like a good introductory type of villain to get the story running again. He’s nowhere near on the knowability level as the Goblin or Dock Ock, so the amount of danger he presents comes off as bad, but not too bad.

The Avenging Spider-Man #1-2

Yes, another Spidey title.

From Marvel’s description of the series leading up to its release, I was kinda getting the vibe of a Wolverine and the X-Men (the animated series) in that I didn’t want it all to be about Spidey with some random heroes shoehorned into the series. Though so far, it works. The writers are well aware that it’s ridiculous how many teams Spidey’s part of in the main universe (the Future Foundation, and the Avengers?) and they have him bring it up a number of times in a mocking sort of fashion as he lays the beatdown on the baddies… which looks excellent bytheway. The artwork in this series has been complimented so many times, but I feel like I have to bring it up anyway: the art in this series reminds me of the best mix of East meets West, with its clear attention to detail and nice full page spreads where everyone’s poses look just right—definitely a series to keep an eye out on.

Wolverine & the X-Men #1-3

… not to be confused with the animated series that goes by the exact same name.

Like Avenging Spider-Man, this title is the kind you’d buy because the cover just popped out to you. Unlike Avenging, it comes off as kinda meh.

The series is coming right off the heels of some kind f X-Men crossover I never read, but unlike Amazing Spider-Man, its mentions of past events just end up flying over my head and don’t work to push to plot forward in any way. Besides those, you’re presented with Wolverine who ends up being the head of a new institute for mutants, though many are reluctant to let him go forth with the idea. In the middle of an attack on the school, we’re also introduced to the kids that’ll no doubt make up the bulk of the cast and they’re equally aged villains.

In general, I feel like this series was just messily made all around. Besides the artistic stylings of things that give off a Teen Titans (animated, not comic) vibe, I couldn’t really get behind anything else. The writing reminded me of an American action cartoon on a bad day with the obvious character set-ups and cheesy (even for a comicbook) dialogue. Very much a series you’d pick up for the cover and not the plot.

Bakuman #1-161

Well, it’s been a while, but I’m finally caught up with the one current Jump title I actually care for.

With a manga about two kids following their dreams and making a manga, it does take an overly optimistic mindset. Then again, I don’t think I’d want to read about about a couple dropouts that quit on their dreams and go into the black market business. The duo that makes up the penname of “Ashirogi Mutou” seems to jump through the obstacles they’re faced with a bit too easily at times, as do the rest of their  manga-ka comrades that also happen to be around the same age as them. Not to mention, you’ve got the love interest character that’s decided to go into the voice acting business herself and doesn’t seem to be having too much in the form of any real trouble with making her dreams come true, either. On one level, it’s refreshing to see something to optimistic as to think that hard work alone is enough, but on the other hand, it just makes me want to roll me eyes every other chapter.

What really makes the series for me are the interactions between each character. Between most, it’s a rivalry in wanting to make a manga that ranks higher than the other’s. On the other spectrum of things, you also have the editors overseeing the manga-ka and trying to one up their fellow editors. It gives off a sort of “gods influencing the humans” vibe at times, which makes for an interesting read.

Not to mention, all the details about this particular universe the authors aren’t delving into. The premise for each manga-ka’s series is enough to peak anyone’s interest, with titles like Otters 11 coming off as something that could work on adult swim if the idea were actually followed through in the real world. On another not, keeping in mind that this is the same team behind Death Note, it makes sense that the author is obsessed with having a solid timeline to the plot. You’re not told it often, but every now and then, you’re reminded the exact time period, up to the month, day and year, which leads to so many questions. The characters clearly mention other, older, manga titles and yet are able to top the top 5 on Weekly Jump’s list without having to worry about titles like Naruto, One Piece, or Bleach. For a while, I thought it was ridiculous to think that this oddball group of younger manga-ka are able to beat out such titles. Then I considered that the current time period the manga is up to is a time when all those series have long gone… what an optimistic series, this Bakuman is.

The Life and Times of Charles Xavier (or The Rise and Fall of Erik Lehnsherr): X-Men First Class Review

Before I even get to talking about the movie itself, lemme say that adaptations of any sort are able to still be just as good as the source material it’s based off of, even in the case that it takes liberties with the characters and their relations with each other. Just look at Batman: started off as a detective in bright blue and grey tights fighting crimes and adaption after adaption has changed the character to the point that his movies have been described as pretentious.

Like it or not, X-Men was one of the first comicbook franchises to hit during the new wave of big budget superhero movies. And regardless of liberties being taken here and there, each movie was at the least able to stand well on its own, taking an interesting spin on the source material. Now, nearly 11 years since the first movie hit the screens in the summer of 2000, X-Men: First Class—the second in line of movie prequels for the series continues to flesh out the movie mythos of some of the older characters, giving more insight between the characters of Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier.

With Erik’s backstory clearly being defined as taking place in the ‘40s in previous movies, not only has a clear time period been set, but so has the fact that in this movie universe, actual events from the real world are acknowledged as well. As such, the movie ends up meshing pieces of history (both in a textbook and pop cultural sense) with the general theme that’s been driving the franchise all this time: mutants. The film starts off with Charles and Erik’s separate stories, allowing viewers to get a good idea of their general upbringing and thus their separate yet similar ideals. As Erik begins to fall further and further into his obsession with revenge, you begin to feel even more for the character, anticipating when he crosses paths with Charles. Their odd-couple dynamic is played off in such a sincere manner that you really get invested in both of their causes, wanting to support both of them since you were literally shown where they were each coming from, but at the same time know that one must overcome the other eventually. The movie’s certainly not a bromance by any stretch of the imagination, but the budding friendship between the two is still clear.

While the other mutants in the film aren’t the same “First Class” as the original lineup from the comics, each still has something to add to the table. Besides the future Magneto and Prof. X, there’s a young Mystique, who as expected has real body image issues due to her mutation. However, regardless (or maybe even because) of it, she has quite the bubbly personality at times, making for an interesting character to interact with the more serious Charles and Erik, to say the least. There’s also something of a relationship between her and a young Beast, who only wishes for mutations to be hidden from public view. Yes, their relationship isn’t “canon,” but it makes sense in the context of the movie. Other additions to what eventually results in the first mutant team are Angel (played by Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and girlfriend of Ben Foster, who played a different Angel in X3), Banshee (played up as a comic relief character, but has his moments in fight scenes, too), Darwin (the one black guy that sadly serves as the role of the one black guy), and Havoc (pointed out by my sister to be Lucas Till from that one Taylor Swift music video). The team works well together and isn’t nearly as angsty as the mutants in the previous movies, this time more anxious to come to the rescue without the fear of any persecution yet, which makes for a fresh take on things.

As for the baddies of the movie, I don’t know exactly what it is, but they each give off something about themselves that screams the old Superman movies from the ‘70s. Maybe it’s the slightly-flashier-than-others outfits, or the fact that they spend their time scheming while in the luxury of a boat or a men’s club, or the fact that they’re clearly not as young as the film’s hero’s, but not old enough to play off the whole “youth vs. geezers” theme… whatever it is, it works well for the movie, which doesn’t come off as trying too hard to tell the viewers just exactly what time period it is.

But like most good prequels, the movie especially works on the level that the viewer’s seen at least some of the previous movies in the franchise. Knowing the fates of most of the characters from the later movies, First Class does a particularly good job of setting everything up, establishing each character at a vulnerable point in their life, for the dramatic fall that concludes everything, either destroying the characters in a literal or mental sense. And once the dust is cleared and the sides are clearly established, you can’t help but be pumped, even fully knowing what direction things go.

As a whole, I’d describe the movie as “fun,” but that’s not to lump it in with other (crappy) movies that I’d describe as such just because the plot itself sucked so hard. On the contrary, X-Men: First Class plays to its strengths without coming off as too preachy or a full-on action movie. I’d say it undid the rep of the prequels caused by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I never even bothered seeing that movie after all the hate it got.

%d bloggers like this: