The Marvel Age in a fridge magnet

Y'know what that is? It's a refrigerator magnet, dudes. It's a magnet with the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #1. And it's freakin' mine. University had a presentation on their archive of comic books (mostly silver age, some golden, some underground comix), and they had goodies to give away! I was maybe one student of 2 who attended, most of the attendees being library nerds. It was all good, and I'm very glad I went.

I love this thing way too much. I kept taking it out of my pocket on the way home, looking at it just to make sure it existed. Feeling it in my hands. Thinking of the artist, and how the title might never have been, if Stan hadn't taken that chance in Amazing Fantasy #15. The magnet's a little memento, a post-it note. It reminds me why I got into comics in the first place, and it's like I'm reading my first comic book again, even if I wasn't even born until 30 years later.

A lot of times, we lose sight of why we read comics. We get bogged in the regular tedium of weekly titles, and we start to berate the industry. We say that we're tired of the revolving door of death, and the impermanence of stories. We complain about the price jumps and the solicitation reneges and the editorial decisions. That stuff's the easy stuff.

The hard stuff is remembering to appreciate the comics. To remember the history and where it all came from. To regain the perspective that comics are an evolving form of media, and have been for quite a while. I'm glad I have this magnet to help me, and a little ashamed that I need it just to appreciate comics. Yes, I'm tired of picking up titles that never go anywhere. Yes, I'm appalled at the 3.99 price jump. Yes, I'm always thinking about how every other medium has a much higher value per dollar than comic books. But man, that Amazing Spider-Man comic sure is a hell of a comic.

So that's why I'd like to ask you guys: do you have any memorabilia/merchandise that reminds you why you love comics? That gets you feeling all warm and nostalgic? It doesn't have to be as offbeat as a fridge magnet. Feel free to put it up in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you, and have a good weekend!

Amazing Spider-Man #'s 618 and 619: my common sense is tingling

What a week! We had the unveiling of the iPad, President Obama's State of the Union Address, and the cancellation of a Chicago fireworks tradition -- only to split it up into three fireworks shows! It's been such an exciting time for news, and it's been an equally exciting time for my life.

I purchased and read two comic books this week.

Amazing Spider-Man #'s 618 and 619
by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin

Apparently, Slott's been wanting to take a crack at Mysterio since day one. It was only junk like New Ways to Die and Brand New Day that got in the way and quite frankly, I don't blame the guy. Slott really does manage to put his heart into the issues, and the result is one heck of a Spidey issue.

Issue 618 brings us back to a wider scope in spider-comics. We're reminded of Mr. Negative and the gang wars in NYC. Then we quickly escalate into a mystery of who really died and who didn't, dragging in Carlie Cooper, a Brand New Day extra and a forensic cop, into the fray.

Anyways, that sounds like a bunch of jumbo. That's probably because it is. This story is for people who've read Spider-Man. People who read Hammerhead's transition into work for Mr. Negative, people who read about Police Cpt. George Stacy and mob boss Silvermane back when Spidey wasn't even issue 200. Slott packs the story with loving nods to other plot points or past stories, and as a webhead, it's a wild ride to read.

You can really tell when the writer is a fan of the title. He brings in reverence for the past stories, and tells new ones in an exciting way. It may not be too reader-friendly, but the art is worth the price of admission alone. Marcos Martin packs each page with so much material, but it goes by smoothly and masterfully. Anyone who appreciates comic art, and anyone who appreciates a good, smart Spidey story should get in on this action.

"The X-Men were devastated when Kitty Pryde died. . ."

". . . but they were honored to, at last, see her head blown up and made into a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float."

Marvel PR in Spidey #617

If you didn't get a chance to read my accolades for Amazing Spider-Man #617, well, here they are.

And here are some more! The oversized issue had a lot of great PR, making some extra page space for conventions and costume contests and even a few individuals and the like. So much so that I think it deserves a few props.
There's a double-page spread for "Kid's Day" at the New York Stock Exchange! Kids got to take their pictures and play video games and get their face painted.And then there's a whole page for the Costume Contest Winnter, David Santiago. That is a sexy, sexy shield.

Aside from that, there's the normal house ads, such as "Fall of the Hulks" or "X-Necrosha" or "that one issue of Deadpool where Spidey guest-stars." All in all, I really enjoyed Marvel's coverage in the comic. I think it's a great way for publishers to reach out to communities, and a great way for fans to express their love for the comics. Kudos to you, Marvel. Kudos. You did a great job here, but I gotta admit, my best ad from Spidey #617 has got to be this one:

Truly, nothing can stop the mystical monolith that is Rambo the Rabbit.

Reading Ex Machina vol. 1

We all know that I like to take the Monday every week to review a trade, mostly from the library, but I don't usually tell people how many trades I've read. Sometimes I'll read a bunch of trades and not bother to review them, either because they don't need any reviewing (Watchmen) or I'm just so lazy. Recently, I've gone through Asterios Polyp and Parker: the Hunter. The former is a visual masterpiece, and every line means as much as the word bubbles. The latter, not so much. I'm not so accustomed to the murky colors, so it was harder to get through.

Anyways, now that my library's out of The Goon trades, I'm moving on to another series.

Ex Machina vol. 1: The First Hundred Days
by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Collecting the first five issues of Wildstorm's Ex Machina, the trade centers on Mitchell Hundred's "first hundred days" as the Mayor of New York City. Sweet. During a wild snowstorm, a string of murders plagues snow plowers, and a controversial art piece opens at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. At the same time, Mitchell has to deal with his past as "The Great Machine," NYC's first superhero, and one who can talk to machines at that.

WHAT I LIKED: The pacing is positively excellent here. Scenes shift from flashbacks (The Great Machine performing superheroics) to political sidewinding really well, and running through the five issues is a breeze. You really get a sense of all the crap that Mayor Hundred has to go through. Tony Harris plays a huge part in this: his linework is really sharp and defined, and everyone has a clear expression.
There are a lot of political tidbits in here too. I especially like the fact that the Mayor's bedroom in Gracie Mansion used to be a toilet. Ex Machina is a book that's tied to reality, which is a nice getaway from the fantasy of superhero comics.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Well, there's a lot of adult language here, so Ex Machina probably isn't appropriate for kids.

EXTRAS?: Oh man, at the end there's a small gallery of Tony Harris's process and sketches. He shows his photo reference, the pencils, then the inks and then the colors! Guy is a total pro.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This'd make a great gateway comic for anyone. Especially if you're into New York Politics, and hey, even if you're not, you'll learn something new. I know I did.

The Gotham City Sirens in: ENTER THE CARPENTER

I originally planned on getting Amazing Spider-Man #618 this week, but by the time I got to the shop, they were all sold out. Okay, not ALL sold out. They had the Joe Quinones variant cover, but who's gonna pay double for just a different cover? Schmucks, that's who.

That's why instead we review three issues from a series that are two months old or so.

Gotham City Sirens #5-6
by Paul Dini and Guillem March

These two consist of the last two-thirds of an arc that began with issue 4. I review issue 4 here.

Issue 5 gets even more ridiculous. There's an unecessary double-page spread devoted to Ivy busting up one of her cacti to douse a room fire. And then there's an unecessary two pages for the three girls to resolve to kill the Joker. That isn't going to happen. We all know that isn't gonna happen. I don't wanna read about this.

The big reveal is that some z-level sidekick of the Joker's, Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, from 40 years ago was impersonating him. It would've been nice if I read comics 40 years ago -- which I didn't. They take him down, with the requisite open ending for Gaggy to return. Dini hands in a fairly bland story, even though he adds in as many gags as he can. Gaggy isn't a threat; the action isn't exciting, and character beats are scarce. The art from Guillem March is more than competent, turning in some great sequencing and paneling, but certainly not enough to compensate for the writing. Two items of interest: Ivy suddenly has the power to grow vines from her wrists/hands??? And Dini brought back one of his characters, Jenna Duffy, The Carpenter: Character find of 2009???

Cover to Cover: Hook me up with a plane ticket to Slovakia

New year means new banner! Swing up top and check it out. It's a panel from some issue of Peter Parker: Spider-Man. New year also means tons of new comics news, so let's go over what's already happened in. . . 13 days of January!

The Birds are back! Hawkaaaaa! Us here at the blog - me - have a longtime affection for the title, especially riproarin' pilot Zinda Blake.

Marvel pwns DC. I am really impressed at Marvel's strategy here. Previously, I figured DC's marketing for the Blackest Night rings was brilliant, because it was a great way to sell some stragglers on the top 100 charts, but Marvel's offer 1-ups them! I think it's completely appropriate in a capitalist society like America, and I think it'd be amazing if it really did work out.

It really is an exciting year to be in comics. Let's look at what I got this week.

by Chad Lambert and David Miller

Every time I pick up a Bloodrayne comic, I feel the need to get the video game. For this one-shot, I really should have, because it draws on a lot of plot points there! The first few pages have no context and are hard to get into. Within panels, Rayne gets a random urge to go to Slovakia! It eventually turns out to be a quest for her memories, an infiltration into a former Nazi base, and then a confrontation with a busty surgeon who totally bathes in the blood of virgins and wields hacksaws made of bone.

Video games and comic books have moments where they crash into each other to make a perfect skidmark of insanity. Bloodrayne is that skidmark. It's just a shame that the artwork is awful. David Miller is another one of those dudes who was way too influenced by Marc Silvestri, and does his own inking. The result is a messy, over-drawn affair. The coloring needs work too, since the only reason I knew about the bone hacksaw was that the commentary said so.

Ultimately, in Slovakia, Rayne is shaken into her darker self, "Darkrayne," blows up the Nazi base, and a horde of zombie Nazi bodies is seen thummp!ing from the sky into the forest. That is the purest definition of a comic book right there guys.

by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara

Wow. The story is centered around a reformed Rhino, Aleksei Sytsevich, trying to earn an honest living after prison. Add Norah Winters, ace reporter and her photo monkey, Peter Parker, then a Rhino 2.0 out to kill Aleksei, and drama ensues! This is the kinda stuff I read Spidey for. The emotional hits from Kelly are strong, and the action is big. Dude freakin' busts a horse open on Aleksei's head.

Even better, I can't stop looking at the art. Inking is thick when it needs to be and thin when it should. I'm typaing andd it's ahard fori me to just look away! There is no misplaced line, no stroke without purpose! Fiumara does a great job of capturing Aleksei's solemnness. There's a sense of tragedy to this guy now. He's found love, and all he wants is to live his life in peace!

The action scenes are just as impressive. His anatomy is wild and crazy and fresh and just what Spidey needs. Each panel is so kinetic and paced excellently with the dialogue, that reading through them is a breeze. Kelly brings a lot of heart and humor to Aleksei and Peter Parker and makes it fresh. The only problem with the issue is that it ends. I don't want it to end. I wanna see Spidey kick Rhino 2.0's butt right now. I wanna see Aleksei happy right now. This issue is definitely a high point in the New Day stuff. This issue made me remember why I read weekly comics. Wednesday can't come soon enough!

So if you'll excuse me, I think I'll take my leave now. I need to go to Slovakia.
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