Under The Radar: Sentinels

Under The Radar: Sentinels

Jun 30

Sentinels is better than it has any right to be.

The indie superhero book got a good deal of buzz from Newsarama, CBR and Ain’t It Cool around the time its second volume – “Masks” – was released, but I never got around to tracking the book down, and then it vanished under the radar again by the time I remembered.  I found the entire series of OGNs at Wizard World Philly and have spent the past two weeks digging into it.  I finished it up last night.

If you like the Chris Claremont run on Uncanny X-Men, you’re probably going to dig Sentinels.  It delivers a page-turning combination of angst, romance, aliens, demons, government conspiracy, daddy issues, Bronze Age-style ass-kicking, frequent costume changes and a long form plot that spans three generations of heroes and manages to pay off satisfyingly, something that few Big Two titles can accomplish these days.  Things happen in Sentinels – death, resurrection, betrayal, sex, sacrifice, et cetera.

The most entertaining part of Bernatovich’s magnum opus, though, was watching the evolution of the creators in elapsed time.  Much like J.K. Rowling, Bernatovich and Vecchio’s early work is still entertaining and engaging, but becomes much more polished and craft-aware from volume to volume, especially Vecchio’s pencils, which gain added depth over time without sacrificing his Marvel-meets-manga style.

Like I intimated above, Sentinels is very easy to recommend to 80s X-fans, and to superhero fans in general.   The book may be a harder sell for Golden Age/DC die-hards, however.  It’s the most competent and interesting superhero project I’ve read from a nonmajor publisher since Rising Stars.

Under The Radar: The Mighty

Under The Radar: The Mighty

Jun 29

Ever since the Buggles first performed “Video Killed the Radio Star” on a fledgling MTV, we’ve been hearing about the short attention spans of the “MTV Generation” and all those who’ve come after. You see it in movies, TV shows, news outlets, probably even in some churches; it’s the constant drive to compress everything, to shorten stories and ideas and information into the tiniest consumable bits imaginable. Because we who grew up with Music Television cannot possibly hold still long enough for anything to develop, to expand, to simmer.

The Mighty is a recently-launched ongoing series from DC Comics. It’s up to issue 5 now, and every month when the solicits come out, I hold my breath because I keep waiting for it to be canceled. It doesn’t have a great shot in this marketplace, mostly because it doesn’t feature stories that are unavoidably woven into the gigantic beautiful mess that is mainstream superhero universe continuity.

What also makes me nervous, and what makes The Mighty a great superhero comic, is that this isn’t a story being jammed into easily consumable bits for us vidiots raised by the television. It’s a story being told well, and being told slowly and carefully. It develops, it expands, it simmers.

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Stuff We Like This Week: June 26 Edition

Stuff We Like This Week: June 26 Edition

Jun 26

In an effort to combat our occasional…okay, okay, near-constant negativity, we give you a regular feature full of nothing but love — Stuff We Like This Week. Appearing every Friday, SWLTW will recap the things that have set our little nerdly hearts aflame within the past seven days.

Wizard World Philadelphia

Wizard World Philadelphia

Jun 25

“So, did you see any wizards there?” I’m asked last night, causing me to miss a very important minigolf putt.  Let me put this one to bed before I say anything else about this particular con: although some of the participants may tell you differently, there are no real wizards at Wizard World Philadelphia.

As the lone Alert Nerd in the northeast, it is my lot in life to attend WW Philly instead of Heroes Con, which was in fact haunted by a vast majority of our internet friends.

There is a marked difference between Philly and the Reed shows that I cover each year – NYCC and Baltimore Comic Con –  a larger focus on retailers, retired professional wrestlers, and what erudite nerds consider to be the detritus of our collective consciousness than on the big four publishers, none of whom had booths at the show despite some heavy hitters appearing on the Marvel and DC panels.  This is an accurate criticism, but it undeniably caters to a large section of the fanbase.  As someone that primarily attends cons to catch up with friends, browse Artist’s Alley for new talent/things to buy/people I want to work with, and watch the panels, this is easy to forget despite the truthiness of the statement.  Wizard World is still alive and well and still giving a certain segment of the fans something they want.

However, it would be unfair to dismiss the reports that WWP is a con in decline.  It clearly is.  While I didn’t do a headcount, the Saturday crowd was slighter than last year, and some of the standout artists on the Alley – Kevin Maguire, J.G. Jones and Khoi Pham enjoyed moments of relative solitude (only once did I see Jones with a substantial line).  One of the lower-profile artists there affixed a sign reading “Desperate For Your Attention” to the top of his head.  Another called out, all carnival-barker-y, “Don’t you want to know more about [NAME OF COMIC REDACTED]?” when they saw my press wristband.  The answer, unsurprisingly, was no.

The other unfortunate news about the Philly con was the snub it received from Newsarama.  As a former Newsarama contributer, I was asked by several parties (who I will not name) if I was indeed going to be covering the show for the ‘Rama this year.

I sat in on Marvel’s Dark Reign panel and DC’s DC Nation panel on Saturday, and the two panels perfectly denote the contrast between the publishing giants in terms of tone and fan interaction.

Marvel’s panel was standing room only.  Former CBR correspondent and current Marvelite Arune Singh moderated the panel, which featured cosmic editor Bill Rosemann, Spidey author Dan Slott, the Incredible Hercules writing team of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, Agents of Atlas assistant editor Lauren Sankovitch and Molly Lazer (the former assistant ed. on Thunderbolts, who left Marvel last year to pursue graduate school).  The panel focused on some upcoming Dark Reign tie-ins, including War Machine #9, which Greg Pak joked would be 1,000 pages in length, feature the return of Jean Grey, and incorporate every major storyline in the Marvel Universe.  At least, I think he was joking.  Also upcoming is a fill-in issue of Thunderbolts penned by Rick (Fear Agent, Punisher) Remender that will strain the friendship between Iron Fist and Luke Cage as it examines what happens when Osborn uses his clout to force heroes to work alongside his team of villains.  The tone of the panel was jovial, due mostly to Slott and Van Lente being absolute smartasses (Slott once again asked the crowd if they wanted to bring back chromium covers – which actually garnered what I think was non-ironic applause amid the throngs of boos).

The creators took turns hinting that Jean Grey would come back in their respective books, discussed the rising price of single issue comic books, and revealed the second half of the Dark Reign: The List one-shots due in shops this fall.  The Philly List included Wolverine, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Hulk, each by their respective regular creative teams.

In comparison, the DC panel seemed to consist of Dan DiDio leaping on grenades for about an hour, especially when a fan cried out that Battle For the Cowl was “the worst comic book” he’d ever read.  “If you don’t like it,” DiDio said, “it’s my fault.”  It’s a sentiment that the Executive Editor has expressed before; Dan once told me that part of his job was taking the hits for his creators’ unpopular decisions.  But Dan continued to needle the fan for the remainder of the panel and deflect criticisms of the mainstream DCU with similar generalizations.  The panel had a much more confrontational tone than the Marvel panel did.  Some tidbits were revealed, like Sam Kieth working on a new Lobo story, the possibility of a Freedom Fighters backup story should the co-feature initiative perform well, some intriguing teasers about the new Doc Savage project by Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales (which Rags is incredibly enthusiastic about, so much so that it bears italicizing), and an intriguing nonanswer by Shane Davis to a question about a possible White Lantern: “Technically, black, white and gray aren’t colors.”  Bob Wayne also showed off Issue #1 of Wednesday Comics, which looks absolutely gorgeous.   Still, the thing that leaves the biggest impression from the panel is the defensive snit that the EE had with a disgruntled fan.  I guess this is why DiDio asked that nobody Tweet or blog the panel.

While I agree that Philly is a con in decline, I think the mock funeral held for the show is a bit premature.  Though not as large as last year’s (a rarity in the cons I’ve seen this year, where there’s been a booming ‘shadow economy’), there was still a lot of foot traffic and, despite not having the megabooths that they do at other shows, the DC and Marvel presence was bolstering.  Whether it continues to get the nurture it needs from Wizard in light of its recent acquisition of NYC’s Big Apple Con remains to be seen, however.

Back In the Summer of ‘89

Back In the Summer of ‘89

Jun 23

Today’s the 20th anniversary of the release of Tim Burton’s Batman.

To describe this film as “seminal” in my development as a geek, a movie fan, and even a HUMAN BEING is to understate its importance. It also involves using the word “seminal” which just always reminds me too much of the word “semen.” Aside from its reproductive capabilities, I have little use for semen. But then, who does?

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I was absolutely fucking OBSESSED with Batman in 1989. Totally out of my goddamned head. I don’t even remember when that obsession began, how it infiltrated my consciousness and took possession of my soul, but I knew that by early June I was rabid for this movie. I was DYING to see it. Even now, every year around June 23, I remember, “Hey, this is when Batman came out.” I probably always will remember.

I finally got my chance to see the flick a few days after opening, when my dad came home from work early one day and took me and my weird friend John to see it at the River Oaks Theaters near my ancestral home in South Holland, IL. It was a monumental event in my life. Well, the movie was the movie; it was the movie as a HAPPENING that I think really rewired my brain.