Comics: Ghost Rider #34

Ghost Rider #34

Ghost Rider #34

It’s been a long time since I reviewed any comics (so much going on), and I’m still a bit behind in my readings, but I wanted to take the time share my thoughts on Marvels latest incarnation of the Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Rider.

The current series (believe it or not is credited as volume 6) has wrapped up it’s Zadkiel arc ending in #32, and it looks as if Danny Ketch now the Ghost Rider again and writer  Jason Aaron with artist Tony Moore perhaps may be taking the book in a new direction.

After the culimation of such a long and convulted Zadkiel arc, this issue is a self-contained ‘fun’ issue that just stars Danny Ketch in the title role what the reader can imagine as only a few days or weeks after the issue #32.  It’s a bit unclear the exact passage of time, but it isn’t central to this story.  Danny realizes he was duped as Zadkiel’s agent in rounding up and destroying all the other Ghost Rider’s around the globe, and only has a fraction of the power he just had. 

Here Danny runs across the path of a Hillbilly Trucker who made a deal with a devil to sell his own soul so that he could continue to compete in today’s job market.  I know, I know…it’s sounds very lame up front, but the origin of the Trucker is actually done pretty well and within only a few panels.  It reminds you of the old ghost stories you heard around the campfire as a little kid…a legend of horrific fun.

There is the obligatory fight between the Trucker (with his truck no doubt) and Ghost Rider.  The action is tight and fast and Tony Moore’s art is really done well within the panels.  When Danny turns into Ghost Rider, the artwork on this alone give a whole new realization of the transformation process and you can imagine how brutal it is on the human host. 

The fight itself needs to be understood as fun, because you’ll need to set aside a little realism when your eyebrows cock that an 18-wheeler rig has the same hadnling and pickup speed of Danny’s cycle.  If you can get past that, supernaturally powered or not, you’ll have a good time.  The ending is good and a bit of a throwback to the old 70’s style B horror movies, and there a little gem surprise in the ‘end credits’ if you will.  I won’t spoil it here, but there was a little easter egg on the very last page.

I give this issue a 4 out of 5 for its art and fun value.

Now putting all the above aside I have a gripe and a concern.  My concern is that I think the regular run of this series may be ending with issue #35, and then launch into a 6 part miniseries and may continue thereafter as a ‘mini-series’ typ eof title.  That bums me out, because Ghost Rider has so much potential, and has had some good history and creativity under it’s belt, but it just can’t seem to get traction over at Marvel for the long haul.  They try and try with this title and it inevitably gets cut way before its time.  Maybe this sould be a ‘Max’ title, or bi-monthly until readers can appreciate this cast of characters.

Now my gripe:  Volume 6 started with Johnny escaping from ‘the’ Hell itself and having to defeat ‘the’ Lucifer (i.e. Satan…the antithesis of God).  After the first year Johnny not only put the Devil down, he also goes toe-to-toe with the Hulk (see World War Hulk crossover) and hold his own.  Then somewhere around the Zadkiel arc starting up, Johnny teams up with multiple versions of GR from around the globe and get defeated by Zadkeil?  WTF?  So Johnny can beat Satan, but can’t beat Zadkiel with the helps of others?  So is Zadkiel more powerful than Satan, the father of all sin and evil?  Yeah, I know this is a comic, but something just doesn’t seem to jive here….How did Zadkiel outsmart both heaven and Lucifer and defeat so many other Rider’s.  If you’re going to go that route, then you need to retcon Lucifer or change the story outcome somehow….this just doesn’t work in the overall mythos of the Marvel Universe, and that of our own to boot.

Brief Comic Updates.

I’ve really been behind my comic book reading as of late, (anywhere from 2-4 weeks per book title), but as a brief highlight I can give you my take in the following highlights:

  • Darkest Night cross overs happening with the Green Lantern family of books over at DC is much better than Final Crisis and Countdown combined.  Awesome artwork and a really grand and episodic format that weaves amongst all the books makes this the best thing DC has put out in a while.
  • What the hell is happening with Teen Titans?  Ever since Superboy died mid Identity crisis this book just can’t seem to find it’s footing or traction.  I’m giving up.  Too many roster changes and silly arcs to keep me going.
  • Same with Batman and the Outsiders….it just seems stalled….giving up for now.
  • Secret Six…A ‘B’ book which can easily be considered one of the better B books DC is putting out.  A lot of good stories, twisted and bizarre and good character development…of course courtesy of Gail Simone.
  • X-Force and Messiah War crossover – So far very good.  Artwork on X-Force shines, and nice solid story.  Too bad X-Men Legacy and Uncanny are suffering right now.
  • All Avengers books and Dark Reign ties in are really good.  I’m liking this better than Civil War.  Norman’s Dark Avengers is a fun read. 
  • Dare Devil always seems fresh, even though Kingpin is back yet again.
  • G.I. Joe from IDW…’meh’.  The origin one-shots and Cobra mini series is better than the core title.  The idea of Destro with little bots infiltrating the PITT for the first three episodes seems too campy and drawn out.  Where’s Cobra Commander already?

The return of Captain America

Captain America, aka Steve Rogers

Captain America, aka Steve Rogers

Here is a story I copied from CNN:

NEW YORK (CNN) — Perhaps he should be called Captain Phoenix?

Rising from the dead after being killed off over two years ago, Captain America is being resurrected by Marvel Comics.

Though the circumstances of his return are being closely shielded, the star-spangled superhero returns July 1 in a five-comic-book series, “Captain America Reborn.”

A big-budget movie in development by Marvel is also expected in 2011.

After close to 60 years in print, Marvel Comics killed off Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in 2007, one of its most famous and beloved superheroes, amid a controversial story line.

He fought and triumphed over Hitler, Tojo, international Communism and a host of super-villains, but a sniper’s bullet cut Captain America down in 2007, a move that shocked many of his fans.

“The reaction was amazing,” says Marvel Executive Editor Tom Breevort. “It certainly was like the world went crazy for three days. Everybody had a point of view about it, including fans who hadn’t read the comic for 30 years.”

In the comic series, Rogers was to stand trial for defying a superhero registration law passed after a hero’s tragic mistake causes a 9/11-like event. Marvel said the comic story line was intentionally written as an allegory to current real-life issues like the Patriot Act, the war on terror and September 11.

Rogers eventually surrenders to police. He is later mortally wounded as he climbs the courthouse steps. It was a violent and strange end for an American hero and icon.

The primary shooter, Crossbones — working under the orders of Captain America’s longtime nemesis, the Red Skull — was caught. The identity of a second shooter is revealed in issue 600, which goes on sale Monday.

Many felt Captain America’s death in 2007 was symbolic of the time. And his return now?

“The tenor of the world now is when we’re at a point where we want to believe in heroes. Someone who can lead the way,” said Breevort. “It just feels like the right time.”

Captain America first appeared in 1941, just as the United States entered World War II. He was a symbol of American strength and resolve in fighting the Axis powers.

As originally conceived by creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Rogers was born before the Great Depression in a very different America. He disappeared after the war and only reappeared recently in the Marvel timeline.

Keeping superheroes dead and buried does not come easy. Even Superman, who was killed off by DC Comics in 1993, came back to life a year later.

And what of Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky Barnes? After taking up the shield and mission of Captain America for the past year, it’ll be time to relinquish the mantle. Is there room for two sentinels of liberty? Stay tuned.

Kablam’s take:  Well it seems to be a bit more ‘in-vogue’ these days to kill off main comic book characters in what I can only imagine is some strange publisher reason to either A) shake things up, B) create a sales spike or collectors edition, C) introduce a sweeping story arc, or D) perhaps something else altogether.  But I think we all know that iconic comic characters always return.   However it does seem that DC uses this tactic a little more freely than Marvel does (Superman, Batman, Jason Todd, Hal Jordan, Wally West, Green Arrow, etc., etc., etc.).

The way that Marvel handled Cap’s death in my opinion was done very well, and Marvel has done a a very good job of keeping the Captain America title running for two years without Steve Rogers, and bringing up Bucky (aka Winter Soldier) as a credible replacement.  Marvel took it’s time and crafted a very well paced yarn spotlighting many of Cap’s supporting characters to help fill the void, and many of these characters got some nice attention.

But did Marvel bring back Steve Rogers too soon?  In my opinion, yes.  Although it has been two years in publishing terms, it has only been a few months in comic continuity with Steve really only missing the Skrull invasion.  With Bucky finally getting the traction and recognition of being the ‘new’ Cap and participating in Avengers story-lines, its my opinion again that they could have waited on Steve’s return a while longer.

I’d personally like to see Dark Reign playout with Norman Osborn and the continued development of new baddie The Hood and the return of Nick Fury to take shape in the Marvel universe and allow for some of these other B-string heroes get due attention as well.  We just saw U.S.Agent come back to the forefront, a new development in the Thunderboldts and Norman’s Avengers.  In the aftermath of Civil War, M-Day, and the Skrull invasion we’ve also seen the apparent demise of Carol Danvers and Dr. Strange in recent weeks.

Can we just slow down a tad?

Captain America is by far one of the most iconic and recognizable characters in Marvel and I think it would mean so much more to bring Steve back in a very epic way, when the time is right and readers really aren’t expecting it.  To bring him back after such a short time, and especially around the 4th of July just seems a bit cliche and underwhelming at this point to me, and thus diminishes the grandeur of Captain America.

Ultimate Nick Fury no more at Marvel Studios?

Marvel's "Shaft"

Marvel's "Shaft"

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Samuel L Jackson may not be returning as Nick Fury in future Marvel movies as recent negotions have broke down.

Samuel first appeared in the hit Iron Man movie as the re-imaged version of Nick Fury from the Marvel ‘Ultimate’ Universe line of comics (traditionaly, the Nick Fury in the 616 universe has been white and previously palyed in a tele-movie by Dabid Hasselhoff).

It was believed that he woudl re-prise his role in Iron Man II, as well as the in-development Thor and Captain America movies that would eventually lead into the anticipated Avengers movie in coming years.

While Marvel Studios won’t comment on the status of ongoing negotiations, Sam was recently quoted as saying “There was a huge kind of negotiation that broke down.  I don’t know.  Maybe I won’t be Nick Fury.  Maybe someone else will be Nick Fury or maybe Nick Fury won’t be in it.  There seems to be an economic crisis in the Marvel Comics world so [they’re saying to me], ‘We’re not making that deal.'”

This story is interesting to me on two fronts: 1) Sam appearing as the Ultimate version of Nick Fury in the post credit scene of Iron Man was a fanboy moment and very exciting to see a man of Mr. Jackson’s calibre in that roll.  2) With the recent Secret Invasion arc taking place in teh 616 universe, Nick Fury has returned from his comics abscence as has been playing a prominent roll in the ongoing story of the Skrull invasion and been helming a new team of exciting new heroes which will only be fleshed out in the new Dark Reign arc just starting.  I expect to see much more focus on Nick Fury thsi coming year or so.

Comics: New Avengers #47

First and foremost there are two things to say about the cover in regards to this issue: 1) I’m curious to know if some of the ‘pictures’ of the characters in costume are actually the creative team of the comic that are photo-shopped in.  Clearly a few of the faces portrayed are those of real people disguised as Skrulls which I think is a pretty cool concept.  2) The cover has absolutely nothing to do with the content of this issue.  By the focal point being Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton in a prominent pose wearing his signature costume, it leads the reader to believe at first glance that this issue will have something to do with Clint re-announcing his return to the Marvel Universe and possibly shedding his recent Ronin persona.  In fact, the whole issue is devoted to a back-story of how Luke Cage and Jessica Jones met but somehow touted as a ‘Secret Invasion’ tie-in…also somewhat of a stretch.

No Hawkeye here

No Hawkeye here

Yes, there is indeed a tie-in to Secret Invasion, particularly as it pertains to the last few pages of SI #8 and Luke and Jessica’s baby girl, but not the focal point of the issue.  It was neat to compare the last few pages of this issue to the last few pages of SI #8 as you see the event unfold from two separate vantage points and helps fill in the blanks for the reader as only Bendis can do.

Other than the last few pages the story within is again split amongst two separate pre-Invasion time frames.  We open with Luke and Jessica  speaking to each other within their apartment on how they are going to raise their daughter and the ramifications it may have on their child seeing that they are superheroes.  We witness a side of Luke in which most new fathers can identify with…how do we hold a baby, change it’s diapers, and all the other responsibilities we have no clue on.  Jessica of course lends motherly and confident logic here as she tries to quell Luke’s parental fears and points out he once fought Dr. Doom, so how hard can it be?

We are then treated to a backstory in retrospect on how Luke first came to meet Jessica Jones ina  quest to locate his estranged father and make a reconnection.  Bendis is very good on thier introductory dialogue here weaving a very serious matter to Luke with some light hearted humor from Ms. Jones.

Jessica catches up with Cage Sr.’s new home, but is stopped at the screen door by Mr. Cage’s new wife.  The dialogue goes back and forth in this manner as we learn more about the relationship with the estranged Cage Sr.  The use of the screen door and the shifting perspective between Jessica and the woman who answers the door is very well done and almost feels cinematic in nature.  The big surprise we learn towards the end of the ladies yammering is that Luke has been standing off panel the entire time and digesting everything he is hearing for the first time…speechless.

In the aftermath of this encounter we fast forward what can only be assumed to be a brief period of time (hours) in which Jessica and Luke share an emotional moment outside a local Dairy Queen of all places.  Its moments like these in comics where you forget you are reading about superheroes and begin to look at these characters as actual living, breathing people.

While issue #47 may appear to be a ‘filler’ issue at first glance, it’s actually a treat to see how the relationship between Luke and Jessica first originated and really adds a new layer of depth to them both beyond how sometimes Marvel characters can be portrayed as very one dimensional especially in the recent wake of all the non-stop action that made of the core Secret Invasion and all the other tie-ins.

Comics: Daredevil #111

DD 111 Variant CoverWriter Ed Brubaker introduces his newest character creation, Lady Bullseye into the Daredevil mythos with issue #111.

While some fans when first hearing about a ‘lady’ version of Bullseye may cringe at the seemingly un-originality of the character hopefully will be pleasantly surprised.  I know I was.  More times than not, when a character spawns off a facsimile of the original, (Red Arrow to Green Arrow, Kid Flash to The Flash as examples) I personally think this as very lazy and uncreative to the original writers.  These characters may develop into their own over time (thankfully most do) but the process in generally long and arduous.

It doesn’t seem this way with Lady Bullseye.  While all that much isn’t revealed about her origin, Brubaker does indeed in just the first 10 pages or so gives the readers just enough of a glimpse into her past to understand her basest motivations and the ‘why’ as to how she is Lady Bullseye.  I’m already looking forward to when the original Bullseye (currently a Thunderbolt) learns of her introduction into the mainstay Marvel Universe and how he will react.  I predict he’s not going to like the fact someone is using his name, and I’d like to think Brubaker has plans for a confrontation down the line.  I think that can almost be it’s own issue, one shot, or miniseries in itself with no interference of Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil).

Her gimmick hasn’t been totally revealed yet other than the fact she is versed in the martial arts, can kill with no qualms (especially harsh against men), and is acrobatic.  Other abilities will most likely be revealed in the next few issues, like can she target objects with pin point accuracy as Bullseye namesake implies and proves time after time.

Anyway, a well done character introduction which doesn’t come off as a desperate ploy to just create a new nemisis.  Lady Bullseye has also already injected herself into the Iron Fist mythos as well, and may even become a main foil for Danny Rand let alone Daredevil.

As the issue progresses, there is also a welcomed twist between Matt and partner Dakota North.  Again, like Lady Bullseye, Brubaker handles the situation masterfully.  As things develop, it seems to make sense to the reader and not rushed at all.  The last few pages see an emotionally conflicted Matt Murdoch wondering about his institutionalized wife Milla and an independent spirited Dakota.  I felt as if I really understood Matt’s feelings.

Clay Mann’s pencils always impress.  His designs on both Lady Bullseye are unique and make her already very memorable amongst a sea of spandex.  Mann’s treatment and mood of the scenes between both Matt and Dakota are also done very well and seem very upscale for a comic.  There’s a lot of detail in his minimalist panels, and without spoiling the fun, the scenes in Matt’s home really convey the overall mood and tone of quiet and intense moments between friends, and things to come.

Ghost Rider: Vintage Cover Catalog

1951 Ghost Rider #1

1951 Ghost Rider #1

In trying to find a nice cover image of issue #27 of the the latest incaranation of Marvel’s Ghost Rider series (2007), I came across this link courtesy of Cover Browser.  They also have the 1951 series linked here.

There are numerous comic titles listed here and a fun jaunt down both memory lane and also various comic cover artist appreciation. 

Just for grins and giggles, click on the Twighlight Zone link and discover a treasure trove of awesome painted comic book covers (Gold Key imprint) inspired by Rod Serling’s timeless show.

There’s a whole host of fun covers over there to look at and study.