A few years ago, heck this might have been when Circuit City was still breathing, I happened across an Ultimate X-Men DVD for only five dollars. I’d been familiar in the past with this line of comics on DVD products, having previously bought the Uncanny X-Men collection, and marking many of the other Avengers, Fantastic Four, and more collections that were produced for a period of time.
So far, I’ve read through the first 33 issues, up through the end of the “Return of the King” storyline. Started in 2001, this series was a relaunch in a new continuity that attempted to modernize the origins and characters for this decade. For now almost ten years, I personally rejected the Ultimate Universe since I’ve been something of a continuity whore. Having read up through the 80′s in my Uncanny disc, and read through most of Blackest Night, which calls back to plenty of DC history, my faith in this has been shaken. So I’m just looking for good stories.
Think of this as X-Men Evolutions on steroids, or X-Men without 40+ years of storyline baggage. No longer do you feel left out because you weren’t around for a Shi’ar fight that was written in 1979. The characters are fresh. The situations are fleshed out. Xavier’s fortune to run the school is explained. The reason no one attacks the school is explained. The mutant issue no longer feels like it exists within it’s own bubble as it does in normal continuity. (like why didn’t the Ultimates/Avengers show up when Magneto almost killed everything on the planet?) The ties to Shield are nice, with frequent appearances by Nick Fury and even some Tony Stark. The characters have the same basic characterizations, but the changes are nice and genuinely surprising. It’s like if Brett Ratner didn’t suck at reinventing the X-Men. Beast and Storm have a relationship. Jean Grey is more of a damaged and hardened girl thanks to the drugs and mental ward experiences she’s had. Wolverine’s status as a killer amongst the group preaching pacifism is addressed. Magneto is raised to Charlie Manson pulp icon status while in prison. It’s far more realistic than being mired in it’s own long in the tooth storytelling.
Thus far, the only real caveat is the covers. They have almost nothing to do the story. Most focusing on a character in what seems to be pulled from a catalogue of pinup artwork.
If you hadn’t had a chance to check out the Ultimate series’, I recommend them. I’m hoping I can find a way to find the rest of the Ultimate Spider-Man, and other series to plow through like I have this. It seems that these DVD sets are getting a little harder to find for decent prices, likely due to Marvels movements in the digital space with their online subscription and portable device efforts.
A funny aside, I sat on a panel of Marvel execs and creators about Motion Comics and digital distribution. There was one comment, I think from Joe Quesada himself, where they bashed the quality of the digital PDF scans found on the internet. Interesting since many of them may be a result of these very DVDs that were licensed by Marvel for production…
What are you reading lately?
Over a year ago, I had the fortune to attend my first ever New York Comic Con. It was a blast, and I simply ate up all of the random booths of independent artists and the panels, most especially. One panel that struck me was Marvel’s panel on the future of Digital Comics. At this point, we were treated to the premiere of the Astonishing X-Men trailer, as well as preliminary artwork for the next Spider Woman series. Both were significant in their own right. Astonishing X-Men was booting from the beginning of that series where Josh Wedon reinvigorated the team in some of the best writing I’d read in years for an X-Men book. Spider Woman was another reboot series that would release Motion Comics in parallel of the print book. This was sort of exciting, and the trailer got me suitably excited.
A few months passed, and I didn’t really follow what was going on with the Motion Comics run. I saw that DC was making some moves as well. Finally I had a chance to sit down and check out a few episodes of each.
Watchmen: I was sort of excited to see this was going to be included with the super duper special edition of Watchmen, and took a watch at about the first three issues/episodes. Having read the entire Watchmen series before I saw the movie, I was…dissappointed. Graphics were what you expect, and some of the ’80′s artwork maybe didn’t carry over well to my 20′ iMac. But wow, the production values weren’t what Marvel was promising from their own side. The biggest killer? When the use of only one voice actor started to grate on me was when Silk Specter started becoming involved. I didn’t last to far after that.
Astonishing X-Men: Again, this is a story I read, and to a point, just felt like a rehash. The motions started feeling like something different, but familiar. Not bad, but I can’t see dropping more money on watching these instead of the original comics.
Spider Woman.: Absolutely the best presentation of the trio so far. But maybe because it was the only new content I experienced. The delivery was great, and I didn’t have any preconceived notions of the voice actors thanks to years of the character being represented in cartoons or movies, for the most part.
When I was at that panel last year, the Marvel luminaries kept going on about how this was the future of their entertainment medium. It feels more like a loose experiment. People love their beloved Spider-Man and X-Men in cartoons or movies, or to be read on the printed page, or maybe in a digital fashion. But in any case, this all just feels like a weird stop gap in media.
Yet, with all of this “new” method of presenting books, somehow, it feels familiar. Oh! That’s right! I had this VHS tape when I was a child that I wore out watching over and over! What was it? That’s right…
What do you think of theses Motion Comics? There are free episodes and clips at the links above.
A few months ago, I wrote about my time reading the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk series’ and how much they exceeded my admittedly low expectations of Hulk stories going into it. Now, I find myself grateful to have read those series’ when Planet Hulk snuck up on me as a DVD release. This week, I got my disc in the mail and insisted on watching it immediately. I attended a panel on Marvel Animation asking if people would like to see more stuff like the Hulk VS that had just been released. I’m ecstatic to see they followed it up.
For those familiar with the story, we are introduced to Hulk waking up in the ship, triggering a message from Iron Man, and a few obscured “super friends”, telling the Hulk how they duped him into being sent into space. Hulk promptly breaks things and gets redirected from his route to a nice, inhabited planet, to a war torn, oppressed world where he is put into servitude and made to fight in a Roman-esque coliseum. So much so, that one viewer commented that this was Hulk meets Gladiator. But I reckon it more to Gladiator, if everyone thought he was Jesus. So Hulk fights through the challenges with some random, new friends, and head to overthrow the king. The story is true to the original series in all the ways that matter, but allow for a major story arc to compress into an hour twenty minute DVD release. We miss the little intricacies, such as Miek’s backstory, as a whole, his odd relationship with Hulk, and even his foundation of a new hive and transformation. The Spikes aren’t referred to as anything but a secret tool of the Red King to achieve his goals. As Panels on Pages explained, we don’t get Silver Surfer in a surprise role, but a Thor-like character with a horse face I’m not familiar with. But still, an equally omnipotent being.
This is one of those stories that I typically shy from with the extraterrestrial nature, but the book proved to be a very fleshed out sort of culture, with a religion, prophecy, and deep history I would be willing to follow further, should Marvel decide to do so. Especially with the Warbound, Hulk’s friends.
For those big on Hulk, this is one to get. It’s an atypical Hulk story, where people look up to him, as apposed to the typical “how do we deal with this monster that we simply tolerate, now..” arcs of about any other story. And certainly a more happy of an ending. At least until they do a World War Hulk DVD…
For about 6 months, I’ve found myself catching up on a LOT of comic books. A newfound interest, and a need to play catch up with all of those years that I determined comics were, unfortunately, something I could save some cash and not partake in. But these days, I’ve discovered the beauty of collected works, and found some pleasant surprises. The first I endeavored into in the Marvel Universe was Civil War. In the reaches of that series, I found hints at the Planet Hulk/World War Hulk series that transpired during/after this period and had to jump in on it.
Planet Hulk was a very pleasant surprise. It takes a good bit for a book to make me buy an alien planet, and this book helped a good bit. My head is still spinning for jumping into the Green Lantern universe thanks to Blackest Night. But you get dumped into this world right along with the Hulk, who’s been shot off in a rocket ship, tricked by the Illuminati (a secret group of heroes including Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Black Bolt, and Mr Fantastic) and diverted to this world by accident. Surprise. It’s a world in turmoil and a barbaric, Roman Coliseum loving culture with an odd case of high technology. Sort of like He-Man. Hulk fights his way through the ranks, bonding with the “misfit toys” of the culture, and forming a friendship known as the Warbound. The group, led by the Hulk, leaves servitude, and sees fit to tear apart the kind, ruling the planet. I wasn’t aware of the Hulk’s intelligence at this point, and had a problem, at times, with understanding just where his head was at. Hulk varies from raging lunatic, to quick quipping fun good guy in a fight. That aside, there were some great relationships and personalities going on here. You even felt sorry for the Brood of the group, who’s homeworld was destroyed, stranding it. The threads of the planet’s culture and prophecies of the Skaarson were fantastic, playing to the situation in much akin to Black Freighter seemed to Watchmen.
World War Hulk goes down after the cataclysmic ending to Planet Hulk. Hulk thought he found his place, and happiness, until something happens to change that. (attempting some no spoiler writing, here, ok?) Hulk lost the prospects of a family, and blames the people who shot him there. So he shows up with his Warbound, and a small army of bug people of a few sorts (though I don’t remember all of the ones that pop up from Planet Hulk.) Much like Civil War, we are treated to stories from a few different sides and perspectives. Hulk’s ultimatum is played throughout the Marvel books. In what’s becoming one of my favorite books for these sorts of crossovers, the Frontline series, dealing with newspaper journalists, and other normal people, this time a cop assigned to help one of the Warbound figure out who killed their robot friend, are some of the most striking stories. Especially since the main book breaks down into a series of explosion fight panels on the other side of the spectrum. The Champions(Angel, Hercules, et.) become Hulk sympathizers in his own book, Heroes for Hire deal with the Brood and bugs’ side plan to start a new hive for their dieing species’ on Earth, and Punisher…fights some random bug monster I never saw before with a sweet Venom tech suit. Continuity seemed to fall out of whack when you had books where Hulk fought about every X-Man, Ghost Rider, and who knows who else, all at the same time. Or with little reference to where. It’s like people dropped in to get clubbed out of Manhattan just to feel included in something big. I thought Moon Knight felt out of place in Civil War…
While the bigger event of the two series’ had it’s flaws, both, as a whole beginning, middle, and end, felt like one of the better events of the last decade. While nothing as thought provoking as the political discussions that Civil War broke down to, this tackled the fallout of what if those in power didn’t make the best decisions. The sum of this is probably from one of my favorite quotes between Iron Man and one near omnipotent being with an agoraphobia complex:
“I know you’re not ready to hear this….No sane person ever really is. But it’s time to play God.”
Now, I’m a fan of comics. Big time. I’ve enjoyed the classics. Big X-man fan. Love Batman. I enjoy most of the characters in the pages that have endored for the last 30 years. But some of them, I just cannot stomach to pick up an issue. And, usually, for one reason:
If there’s an alien in a DC Comic, I will generally hate it.
The only comic I’ve been able to consistantly get into was Batman. I followed Detective Comics, and branched to other related titles, from right after Bane broke the Bat all the way up until an earthquake and plague ravaged Gotham. Even X-Men was loosing me at this point due to some rough writing. (Maggot? Really?). Sometime around here, I was reading “The Death of Clark Kent”. It sounded intriguing, and I enjoyed it to a point. So I was on board with Superman again….until Supes went on trial. By aliens.
The worse offenders are when we have larger, DC universe-spanning series. Final Crisis just seemed bloated and hard to follow (at least without any backstory). Batman’s true death ended up being about a panel and a half, and not the true event that it should have originally been with Batman R.I.P.
But before this, there was JLA: Rock of Ages. This was a trade that I had been loaned from a good friend. I was happy with the accompanying Tower of Babel and Red Son trades he’d passed me, so I was looking forward to some badass Darkseid action. What I was greeted with was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. We jumped back and forth along time, out to the nether reaches of space and supposed gods. To some other time somewhere for some rock where we just make something not really sort of happen and everything’s ok. At least, I think that’s what happened.
It’s like DC can only operate in small bites. The animated series have been fantastic (Batman, Superman, Justice League, and even Batman Beyond, espectially for their continuity of voices and history). The recent line of DC Universe animated DVDs have kicked Marvel’s initial efforts out of the running for a short time.
But even the continuity fails in the DC Universe. While Marvel has long maintained it’s sliding timeline, and something I read from 1975 still at least “happened” to the Spider-Man in 2009. Jean Grey was still the Pheonix and died about 30 years ago. You can even step aside and accept the “Ultimate” universe for something fresher if you don’t want to be a scholar of X-Men history. But DC is the victim of it’s own legacy, as we have Superman going back over 70 years, and timeline resets, resurrections, and poorly managed “alternative universes” to keep things fresh. Characters have survived to many eras and incarnations. Do you even know how many Flash’s there have been?
Why did this come up? Well, I’ve written this while watching the Green Lantern: First Flight movie. While I like this take on GL, I couldn’t help to be lost on the poor man’s Mos Eisle scene near the beginning. It just resurfaced all of these worse experiences. Otherwise, while not as awesome as the other movies, still worth it.
You could say that’s why I only dabble in DC. I hit the Kingdom Comes and Superman/Batmans of the lineup. Otherwise, I’ll stick the the usually more intellegent, and more down to earth.
What do you think? Are you an all out DC fan boy? Are you an alien lover? Someone want to defend either?