The Elephant Princess Redhead Penguin Dog Edition
by KC Carlson
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Although this one’s probably too big not to talk about, Marvel’s upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event will be close to just printing money for the House of Ideas. But it also stands a pretty good chance of being a good read considering the talent that’s lined up to tell the tale. Writers are Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman, and Ed Brubaker. (Architects all!) Artists are Frank Cho, John Romita, Jr., Olivier Coipel, and Adam Kubert. It starts off in March with a 40-page #0 issue (order NOW!) by Bendis, Aaron, and Cho that sets up everything for the 12-issue, bi-weekly main event.
The story revolves around redheads. Hope Summers (the first mutant born after House of M/Decimation and star of Generation Hope) and the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) are the featured players in AvX #0. Wanda has been mostly off-camera since House of M, except for Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. (The promotion for AvX kinda spoiled the ending of that series, although Marvel probably hoped that it would have been all wrapped up before now.) And it’s been rumored that a certain Phoenix Force may be involved in the main event, triggering rumors of a third flame-haired female appearing — who is the real elephant in the room — and completing the redhead trifecta.
Considering that two out of these three characters (Hope’s pretty new, still) have been both beloved and battered by Marvel storytellers over decades of appearances, and that the story will be using some of those more controversial (some decades-old) storylines of the past as touchstones, and that these current writers weren’t named “Architects” for nothin’ — well, it looks like Avengers vs. X-Men is one of those stories that could provoke both brickbats and bouquets, as well as taking the Marvel Universe into a completely new and different place. For it to truly succeed as a modern classic, it must have at least as much real closure as forward momentum. ‘Nuff said.
BTW, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade is being collected in full, in a 248-page hardcover edition (with extras), just before AvX comes out. Other current series that will apparently be helpful to know about beforehand will be Fear Itself and Schism, as well as older events like House of M and even the original Death of Phoenix story. (Homework!) If nothing else, Avengers vs. X-Men will be rewarding to those fans who have been looking for answers to long-standing questions. Will we get them? I dunno, but I trust most of the guys writing this to at least tell a great story!
MORE AVENGERS! ALL THE TIME!: As if Avengers vs. X-Men wasn’t big enough, there’s an Avengers movie this summer! You know what that means: more Avengers books than there are Kardashians! First up is a new monthly title– Avengers Assemble — by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, telling all-new, in-contunity Avengers tales focusing on the characters that star in the movie (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye). The major villains in this new series will be the new Zodiac. It’s currently scheduled to be an ongoing comic, but don’t be surprised if it wraps up (or gets a new writer) when Bendis retires from the Avengers books later this year. There’s also Prelude to Marvel’s The Avengers (perhaps the most boring comic book title ever), a four-issue series designed for the general, non-comics reading public to explain how the Avengers and other longtime Marvel groups (like S.H.I.E.L.D.) actually operate. It’s said to be one of the “Official Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in comics” — whatever the heck that is!
In Avengers-related collected books, there’s Avengers: The Road to The Avengers (Huh? Marvel’s regular title guy must be off this month), a 256-page collection of classic in-contunity stories of the movie’s star characters (mostly Iron Man and Cap). Avengers: Legion of the Unliving is a 256-page collection about your favorite dead (but not Zombie™) Avengers throughout their history. Avengers: West Coast Avengers Assemble is a new version of a previous collection focusing on the early years of the Hawkeye-led West Coast team (with selected other stores). For more Hawkeye, see Avengers: Hawkeye — Solo, collecting the recent Avengers: Solo miniseries.
Avengers: Mythos collects the recent Avengers origins solo books including Thor, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and Luke Cage, along with Mythos: Hulk and Mythos: Captain America. Plus, Marvel Masterworks: Avengers Volume 4 is now available in paperback format. Finally, there is Avengers Assembled: An Oral History of Earth’s Mightiest Avengers, collecting the apparently much-reviled text back-up features from the first dozen or so Avengers (2010) and New Avengers (2010) issues, written by Brian Bendis. This 176-page collection features classic Avengers art by Jack Kirby, Don Heck, John Buscema, Neal Adams, and others, and it will include never-before-printed chapters by Bendis. This is on my must-have list this month, as I love oral histories, even constructed fictional ones. A recent oral history about the music video age (I Want My MTV!) was a must-read for lovers of pop culture, and this Avengers book stands a chance of having similar appeal.
THREE MORE SEASON ONES: Marvel offers three more original Season One hardcover graphic novels featuring their greatest characters in March, following up their first one (Fantastic Four) from last month. X-Men, written by Dennis Hopeless and penciled by Jamie McKelvie, retells the tale of the original five mutants (Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Angel, Iceman, and the Beast) arriving at Professor Charles Xavier’s School for mutants. Too bad they’re attacked by Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants! . . . Daredevil is written by Antony Johnston and penciled by Wellington Alves, retelling the early days of the Man Without Fear… and apparently it may not be what we remember! . . . Spider-Man, written by Cullen Bunn and penciled by Neil Edwards, “retells the greatest origin story of all time, retold for a new generation.” All three books are 136-page hardcovers, all available in March, and all include a reprint of a current Marvel hit (Uncanny X-Men (2012) #1, Daredevil (2011) #1, and Avenging Spider-Man #1, respectively). Plus, access to a digital copy at no additional charge.
MARVEL SHORT TAKES: Amazing Spider-Man #682 begins “the Doc Ock story that you’ve waited 50 years for.” Does that mean you have to be older than 50 to appreciate it? (Yay, a comic book especially for me! Fffffppppth to you, DC!) Does anyone actually edit Marvel’s hype copy? BTW, I’m just joking around. Amazing Spidey is one of the most consistently great books of the past few years — and doesn’t get enough credit for it! . . . One of Marvel’s more interesting alternate universes is getting its own ongoing series by Dave Lapham and Roberto de la Torre. Age of Apocalypse #1 spins out of recent stories in Point One and Uncanny X-Force. Looks very Apocalyps-tastic! . . . The first chapter of what will be the most controversial story of 2012 (they said it, not me) will be in Astonishing X-Men #48. Looks controversal-istic! . . . And in what one hopes isn’t a new trend, there a whole bunch of Last Issues in Marvel’s listings this month. Collect them all!
FUNNY STUFF BY FRAZETTA: It’s always tough for artists when they get stereotyped into just one style of drawing (as so often happens with today’s superhero artists). But it happens to everybody. Say the name Frank Frazetta to most folks, and the first thing they’ll think of is either barbarians or babes (or barbarian babes). Most of his career was spent illustrating brutal and violent stories or paintings, but Frazetta also had a “secret” side during his early artistic life. That world is explored in Funny Stuff by Frank Frazetta, a new large-format hardcover from Yoe Books/IDW. At 256 pages, we get a huge sampling of funny animals, hillbilly cartoons, and cute gals like teenage Kathy and Daisy-Mae lookalike Clarabelle — all without a single sword or loincloth! Frazetta collaborator Ralph Bakshi (Fire and Ice) provides an introduction as well as a special painting of the duo as funny animals for the cover. Looks like another great hardcover collection from IDW, edited and designed by Craig Yoe, and cheerfully recommended.
PENGUIN POWER! IDW’s acclaimed Bloom County book series may have wrapped up last year, but there still more Berkeley Breathed barmyness to come in 2012. First up is Outland: The Complete Collection, a 320-page hardcover reprinting every published Outland strip, many of which have never been collected. Outland was a Sunday-only strip, running from 1989-1995, and was a thematic sequel to Bloom County (debuting just four weeks after the former strip wrapped up), featuring many of the same cast members. As a special bonus, we’ll be treated to more of the rare Academia Waltz — the college strip that Breathed produced prior to Bloom County. Later this year, IDW will wrap up its Breathed trifecta with a complete collection of his Opus strip. (Yay! I got a vintage Yuppie Opus plushie for Christmas!)
DC COMICS: Fairest is a new Fables spin-off with a rotating creative cast. Writer Bill Willingham and artists Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning provide the art for the first six-issue story arc. Told with varying parts of horror, humor, and adventure, Fairest explores the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red, and others. Or, in other words, everything that Walt Disney ever wanted to hide from you (probably in his fabled vault!). Adam Hughes (who knows something about drawing females) is the regular cover artist, starting with a wraparound cover for #1 featuring the entire cast. Future story arcs will be written and drawn by other top creators including Chris Roberson (iZombie) and Shawn McManus (Fables) and Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda.
DC SHORT TAKES: Batman: Death by Design (Deluxe Edition) is a new 112-page hardcover Batman graphic novel written by Chip Kidd with art by Dave Taylor with a story centered around architecture and explosions. Yay. Big buildings go boom. DC’s solicitation materials don’t say why this is being called a Deluxe Edition, beyond it being in hardcover. So, caveat emptor, everybody! . . . The much-beloved Night Force series is being revived this month as a six-issue miniseries by co-creator Marv Wolfman and artist Tom Mandrake (taking over for the late co-creator Gene Colan) with a hundreds-of-years-old conspiracy confronting Baron Winters and his crew. . . As mentioned previously, March will see the publication of the final issue of Tiny Titans (sniff). I’m sure that Art and Franco’s new Superman Family Adventures (currently scheduled to debut in a DC 2012 Free Comic Book Day comic) will also be fun, but if Krypto isn’t a super-dog (he’s been replaced in SFA by “Fuzzy the Krypto Mouse”), then that’s just the epitome of dumb decisions by current DC management. Who doesn’t like dogs? DC Comics doesn’t! That’s practically un-American!
DC COLLECTIONS: DC is offering a real mixed bag of reprints this month with the first-ever collection of DC’s classic World War II superhero series in Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron, by Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway, and others, collecting the first 18 issues, plus the classic crossover with Justice League of America. Superman: Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude collects 200 pages of Superman stories about his Super-Clubhouse, from a large range of decades, by an all-star lineup of creators. Then there’s the second volume of the controversial Secret Society of Super-Villains hardcover, collecting most (but not all) of the cool stuff that they left out of the first volume (after the fact). Plus, (and finally!), new paperback versions of popular hardcovers Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Volume 2 and Gotham Central Book 4. And brand new editions of old and incomplete collections Batman: Knightfall Volume 1 and Batman: No Man’s Land Volume 2 — now including chapters not previously collected. But the big news is DC’s first collected hardcovers of several New 52 series: Justice League, Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman — all collecting the first six issues of the New 52 series. Bob Greenberger will be along soon with a close-up look at Batman: The Court of Owls. (He’ll also take a peek at Marvel’s Elektra by Greg Rucka Ultimate Collection.)
SPEAKING OF THE NEW 52: DC is also releasing 52 new #7 issues in March, many of which have significant creator changes. Don’t forget to check your mileage.
ARCHIE: Fans of classic Archie have a double dose coming with Archie’s Sunday Finest and Archie Archives Volume 5. The former’s from IDW, and it’s a companion to their Archie: The Classic Newspaper Comics (1946-1948) by Bob Montana. Which was an amazing and eye-opening volume of Archie like you’ve never seen before (unless you’re really old and read these strips firsthand). Archie’s Sunday Finest covers roughly the same era (late 40s-early 50s), except these are the Sunday strips — and they’re all in color in a nice big hardcover format. The first IDW Archie volume was an Eisner Award winner (Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips), and it’s likely that this new volume will be in the running for another . . . Dark Horse has another great Archie Archives volume (Volume 5) on the way, collecting the Archie material from Archie Comics #15-18 and Pep Comics #54-56 — including all the Archie-related game pages and house ads! This is a wonderful and high-quality 224-page hardcover series . . . Meanwhile, in current Archie news, this month sees the very popular Archie Meets KISS storyline collected in both a regular 112-page softcover (just the comics story, reprints of all the covers, and a forward by Gene Simmons) and a deluxe hardcover with 48 pages of additional features, including the original pitch and scripts, as well as a KISS photo gallery. This was a major deal for Archie as I saw comic shops that seldom carry Archie comics pick up this series — and sell-through! . . . Archie is also distributing Stan Lee’s newest comic venture — Stan Lee Comics — and its first release, Stan Lee’s Mighty 7. I don’t know much about it, but I do know that Stan Fans will want to know!
CLASSIC COMICS CREATORS: Writer Jan Strnad and artist Richard Corben (Mutant World, Last Voyage of Sinbad) are re-teaming for a new monster/horror series for Dark Horse. Ragemoor is a living castle, its servants aren’t human, and its secrets are horrific. You know it’s scary ‘cause it’s in Black & White. Unless you drip blood on the pages . . . Grizzled old guys Wolverine and Nick Fury team up three times in stories by a gaggle of classic creators including Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, John Buscema, Tom DeFalco, and Shawn McManus in Marvel’s Wolverine & Nick Fury: Scorpio TPB . . . Will Eisner’s The Spirit is the next subject in IDW’s beautiful and massive Artist’s Editions. 144 pages of classic post-WWII Spirit stories are included, printed from the original artwork — at original size! (15” x 22”!) Hope we have boxes big enough to ship these in! . . . And finally , classic E.C. creators are celebrated in the return of a classic E.C. zine. Squa Tront #13 is five years in the making, with features about Basil Wolverton’s first E.C. artwork, Howard Nostrand’s last interview, art from the unpublished Flip #3, and classic E.C. art by Wally Wood, Jack Davis, John and Marie Severin, Harvey Kurtzman , and Roy Krenkel. From Fantagraphics, in anticipation of their new series of E.C. reprints later this year.
KC CARLSON’s New Year’s Resolution: Stop making fun of silly or stupid comics solicitation copy. Oops.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.