Carla Hoffman dives deep into what to expect from Marvel in April.
Let’s take a moment, Dear Reader, to look forward to the future. I know, it’s been a while since we’ve indulged in this sort of thing, the idea that the next few months could be predictable enough to make plans accordingly, rather than surviving by the seat of our pants. But just in case the aliens don’t land, wild boars don’t mutate and dominate the East Coast, or that the comics publishing business won’t go belly up in a matter of weeks and lock down all new content from our humble shelves, let’s look forward into the past at the solicitations of April 2021 from Marvel Comics.
Carla Hoffman reviews ‘The New Mutants,’ the film based on the classic comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz.
I was terrified, you know. Despite having it marked in my digital calendar (a few times, really), despite my overblown excitement at seeing a lobby poster at the end of last year (‘this time, for sure!’ listed as the date), sitting on my couch in excitement through an online SDCC panel, I still couldn’t find myself to be excited, let alone relieved, that The New Mutants was finally going to be viewable to the public and streaming online.
Repetitive disappointment can do that to a person; the constant backstage chatter, the infinite new release dates, the literal fall of Fox Studios as an independent movie production company, mergers and major misspeaks by the director regarding casting, this movie felt destined to fail. It was Schrodinger’s Movie: as long as we didn’t see it, the film was either a hit or bust and for a long time, it was just better not to know.
So what was The New Mutants? Is the cat alive or dead? Is this the secret savior of the Fox-X Franchise or an ugly cousin they had every right to keep hidden from prying eyes? Keep reading and let’s see what we can make of it.
(SPOILERS: to discuss the movie means that we have to talk about the movie and all the twists and turns it takes. Find your own online digital copy and watch and read along!)
Carla Hoffman looks back at Marvel’s Empyre, both as a game-changing “event book” and from a story perspective.
With the world in flux, we can at least count on a major summer event to remain a constant for comic fans. Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night will keep our Big Two from their appointed rounds of throwing their entire universe (or multiverse, as the case may be) into flux to determine the definitive path for their respective companies. At least until next year.
Let’s look at this year’s Empyre by Dan Slott, Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti, and see if a comic can rock our world harder than real life already has. WARNING: spoilers ahead for the basics of the main Empyre series, so if you’ve read all six issues, grab your comics and read along!
Today, on The Grumpy Color! Movies, TV shows and how hardcore can you make Aquaman before he just starts looking like Rob Zombie? Let’s join our discussion, already in progress…
Tom Bondurant: So since we’re talking movies and TV, how much has the comics’ Marvel U changed to resemble the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Carla Hoffman: Not enough? I mean, it’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. We have a female Thor kicking butt and a Sam Wilson Captain America three separate Avengers teams that are nothing like the movie’s roster, all with their own agendas and purposes. Comics are brilliant in that it costs so much less to take chances with and do big radical shifts of character, tone and setting that the current ANAD Marvel shouldn’t look like the MCU. On the other hand, the Inhumans are now more prominent than ever in the books, more even than mutants were. There is, in fact, an Ant-Man solo series that has adjusted somewhat for the movie. Brian Michael Bendis is trying his best to write dialogue for Robert Downey Jr. It’s different enough, but not jarring. That being said, an Agent Carter series would be a no-brainer, don’t you think?
TB: Do you think the Marvel U books are helped by those sweet, sweet Star Wars sales?
CH: ARE WE EVER! I wasn’t going to mention that either, because I feel kind of bad that a good chunk of Marvel’s sales success is thanks to some really awesome Star Wars titles. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I could slap a sticker of Darth Vader’s helmet on a phone book and send it out the door, but Marvel is not treating these books lightly as a lot of really good creative teams are coming together for some pretty cool stories. The Force Awakens has blown the lids off of fanboy’s brains and we’re going to move a lot of Star Wars merch, that’s for sure. Let’s here it for our corporate Disney overlords!
TB: For that matter, how’s small-screen Marvel been treating you? Have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fall episodes turned into a warm-up for the second season of Agent Carter? I’m only two episodes into Jessica Jones, so no spoilers; but did it meet your expectations?
CH: This is kind of what I was getting at in an earlier question; I’m… not very good at keeping up with the small screen. I haven’t even finished Daredevil yet! But I have seen Aveggies: Age of Bon-Bon a dozen or so times, let me tell you…
Marvel has always captured a college aged audience, a groovier crowd if you will, and the new Netflix series are drawing that same set of eyeballs in a new and fresh way. Personally, I wanted to like Jessica Jones but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I felt that Alias had time for a much more likable and approachable character and didn’t get to that Purple Man punch until the end of the series. But at time same time, I don’t have to watch Jessica Jones to enjoy the MCU. Or even the M, err… NU? When Luke Cage gets his series, Jessica Jones can be there but under a completely different script and director, so maybe I’ll enjoy her more. It’s even a good thing that the show wasn’t a straight adaptation because fans can now (hopefully) go into a comic shop and get a book that has a familiar story, but more detail and rich artwork that enhances their Netflix experience. Something new, couched in the familiar….
TB: And — you knew this one was coming — their 55th anniversary is in 2016, so whither the Fantastic Four?
CH: Hoo boy. Dead? Reed and Sue and the kids, I think, are ‘gone’, leaving Ben in the Guardians and Johnny Storm kissing another man’s wife over in Uncanny Inhumans. It’s weird, but I’m kind of interested on seeing where they take Marvel’s first family without the actual family and how Human Torch and the Thing survive without the essentials that brought them together. Not that this is their first time at the solo rodeo, but there’s an expectation that these four characters are going to orbit each other. Maybe this time next year, we’ll be doing the think pieces and tributes that always follow a big change in the FF for an anniversary lap, then sale decline, then back on the shelf. Sigh. I’d say maybe a summer event is in order on getting the band back together, but you know. Civil War II.
Side note: Oh man, why I am this excited for a Civil War II? Just six months ago, typing those words out would have made me nauseous, but maybe it’s the power of the upcoming Captain America movie (I’ll get into that later) or the incredible job that Charles Soule did with the Battleworld book set in Civil War, but coming back to that idea or heroes conflicted over ideology based around current events, but this time not from Mark Millar or as clumsily done now that event books have more of a framework in modern comics, this is actually kind of exciting!
Maybe there is more synergy at work between comics and movies than I thought. Speaking of the big screen, are you ready for the grimace fest of the century? Superman vs. Batman! Wonder Woman is also here! And Aquaman… for some reason! Why not just call it Justice League and be done with it?
TB: It makes me very nervous that Warner Brothers is depending so heavily on a movie which they’re promoting (at least in part) with grim, serious photos of Aquaman.
CH: And a weird looking Aquaman at that! DC really can’t have their cake and eat it too with that design, you know. Either he’s the blonde guy in an orange shirt that everyone knows and loves or go whole hog and bring back the Old Man and Sea look from Peter David’s run and .. they’re doing the latter, aren’t they? I just took a look at a recent comic cover for Aquaman and yeah, orange shirt is in the trashcan. They have to balance the look of what’s on comic stands and what’s on the silver screen; there’s been a lot of that balance with Marvel so that when you look at the covers of the comics, you can right away know who is in what book…
TB: I did like the most recent trailer — the one that ends with Wonder Woman saving Batman — and I’m maybe looking forward even more to the Wonder Woman movie.
CH: Note how you didn’t say saving Superman as well. Those two make such a weird couple….
But yeah, I think it’s a bad idea to stuff Wonder Woman in a movie that has two huge personalities that should sort themselves out first, but that’s me. Over here. With a franchise that made sure to introduce all the big heroes in individual movies first before combining them all together. Because that sells more books and develops characters better.
TB: As for the title … well, the actual title is clunky and pretentious, and it only really works if you know it’s basically a “zero issue” for the Justice League series. It’s like The First Avenger subtitle, in that everybody just called that movie Captain America.
CH: They added in that First Avenger tag line to make sure a movie entirely focusing around a nationalistic hero played well in other countries, but point taken.
TB: I suspect the general public is about as aware of the Justice League in 2015 as they were of the Avengers in, say, 2007. Man Of Steel 2: Batman vs. Superman probably would have been better (if about as clunky), because this movie won’t be the Justice League. I don’t think you can call it a League until there are at least five members and a headquarters.
CH: But here’s the thing and I’m going to try to tie it back into comics as best I can without going full Hollywood on you here: I agree that it’s not the Justice League; it’s not even the Super Friends as no one in this movie seems very friendly. I think DC stepped into the role of Very Serious Movie makers with Batman Begins and held to it all through the Nolan trilogy. Stepping outside the ranks with Superman Returns didn’t fare very well, nor could it make a cohesive Cinematic Universe. When you go super serious, you’re kind of in all the way. So it brings about the problem you mentioned before, where when a comic is good and the characterization is what you want to see, it feels weird when you read another book with them in it and they’re practically a different person.
The faces change, the costumes are different, they might even be different people in some respects, but Marvel has this consistency that follows through comics to movies through tones of storytelling that is making this cinematic universe work. Mind you, we’re lucky that there hasn’t been any new actors replacing older ones yet (wait, Ruffalo replaced Norton; but I won’t count it), but you should know who that hero or villain is no matter where you see them.
Yeah, no one knows what a Justice League is right now, but if you do it right, you will know its component parts well enough to handle a contrived title like the Avengers. And to be honest, Joe and Joan Q. Public know about a Justice League movie because there was an Avengers movie already released. We know the song and dance.
TB: I do notice (thanks to this handy chart) that Justice League 2 — where I presume they finish fighting Darkseid — is supposed to come out a month before Avengers: Infinity War 2, where I presume they finish fighting Darkseid knock-off Thanos. Something for the Grumpy Color 2019’s agenda!
CH: 2019!?!? Good grief.
TB: Getting back to comics — I know this will sound like the ultimate DC conspiracy theory, but bear with me. It almost seems like Marvel is using its commanding market presence to sustain an air of invincibility which can absorb whatever missteps it might make. Put another way, the combination of dominating top-sellers (including Star Wars) and sheer volume practically guarantees that Marvel will have a market-share advantage. Since that’s how we tend to keep score, Marvel keeps winning, and whatever it does either adds to its winning ways or at least doesn’t get in their way. It has much more room for error than DC does, so it can take more risks, and I would argue that those risks are minimized because of all the successes. Conversely, DC’s risks (Doctor Fate, say) are magnified because they’re seen in the light of overall market strategy, and each DC book has a greater responsibility to perform because there are fewer of them.
So my questions are 1) am I way off-base? and 2) will we ever hit Peak Marvel, where there’s just too much product coming from the House of Ideas?
CH: For the first part, I totally agree, but I don’t think this makes Marvel as bullet proof as that. Mistakes are made that can tarnish story lines and creative teams and books can tank hard (I’m giving ANAD about three months to sort itself out to what the stands are going to look like for realsies). Yeah, Star Wars is helping to keep the lights on, but I can’t really name a sure fire hit for my store off the top of my head. There was a time when Ultimate Spider-Man was just going to sell like gangbusters no matter what and now… well, Ultimate Spider-Man doesn’t really exist anymore and every title gets a new make-over every September, making longevity a thing of the past.
For the second part, no? Product I don’t think is the problem as series come and go rather regularly at this point. We keep sampling dishes and Marvel keeps taking the plates away, even the dishes we like and want more of (Mark Waid’s Daredevil could run for a thousand years, you guys). I think comics readers could get dizzy after awhile with the turn over rates and might yearn for a more regular ongoing series with less creative change-ups, but then boom! A new series will debut or suddenly NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME, etc. Comics are more malleable than ever and I think that’s going to change the way we read and consume them in some respects.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a perfect business model and everybody should try it but let’s face it, folks: it works at Image. Yeah. Think on that.
TB: Sounds like a good note to go out on! 2015 was wild and wacky, but at least it gave us plenty to discuss. Here’s hoping 2016 is at least equally eventful!
Right off the bat, I think Bendis is a terrible Dungeon Master.
For those of you who have played D&D or other cooperative role-playing games, you know how hard it can be for the person running your characters through their adventures and that some of those people fall into the horrible pitfalls of being bad at planning a story. There’s one particular pitfall I like to call the Firm Boot of the DM, for when the story needs you to go somewhere and doesn’t care if you want to or not. Say there’s a wizard giving you a quest for no other reason than exactly that. Here’s your quest, go on and go adventure. You, as a player, may have questions or concerns or want some motivations from that wizard, but nope! Wizard is wise and unknowable and invincible so don’t start any fights with him, just take your quest and go. There’s always some larger war that wizard has to fight or some terrible burden he must carry, so don’t expect this Wizard to help you, just leave him alone to do some other grander thing and figure what to do next by yourself.
At least Doom gives Iron Man a next plot point to get to.
I have a love-hate relationship with the comic works of Brian Michael Bendis. Wait, that’s too strong a sentiment; I have a like-meh relationship with his comics.
On one hand, Bendis is a well-respected, intelligent author who has reformed a lot of how comics are being written these days, done a few landmark runs with Marvel characters and has pretty much set the tone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other hand, reading his books gets redundant, feels like you are going nowhere and doing nothing, and is choc-a-bloc with blithe dialogue that feels less like impassioned superhero speech than something overheard by a Starbucks barista. They can be a slog to get through at times, because they rarely feel like there’s going to be a payoff at the end of the storyline. Jonathan Hickman can be a similar slog, but at least by the end of the Fantastic Four run, for example, you’ve seen characters grow, change and come out the other side as new people. Bendis just feels like he puts the pieces back too carefully or breaks them irrevocably.