Avengers Endsemble?

Well, this news over at IGN is certainly interesting.

Certainly, this isn't the end of The Avengers- I suspect that what will happen is that they'll relaunch with one main title (presumably entitled The Avengers) and a couple of periphery ones (if I were to have my druthers, one of these series would be called Avengers Assemble! and a second one would be another try with the Young Avengers). Alternatively there could be two main titles (and I would still be pulling for the second one to be called Avengers Assemble!) with two main teams- one to handle street level threats, another for the more pressing and world altering kinds of things the Avengers used to be used for.

The big question, then, is who will be doing the Avenging? It isn't, of course, a question a lowly reader like me has any sort of real answer too- but I'm going to fulfill a time honored geek tradition and attempt to handicap it.

To start, here are the lineups from the Avengers teams from the last several years (I'm leaving out the Dark Avengers, for what I think are pretty obvious reasons)

New Avengers:
Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Iron Man, Captain America (Steve), Luke Cage, The Sentry, Wolverine.

After the events of Civil War and then again after Secret Invasion the following heroes also became members of the New Avengers:
Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Ronin, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Captain America (Bucky).

Mighty Avengers:
After Iron Man left the New Avengers because of the events of Civil War, he started his official, registered Avengers team, also including: Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, Ares, The Sentry, The Wasp and Black Widow.

After the events of Secret Invasion, Henry Pym (as The Wasp), manipulated by Loki, starts up a new team of Avengers featuring: Hercules and Amadeus Cho, Quicksilver, Jocasta, Stature, Vision and US AGENT.

So, given all of that, who stays and who goes? I'm going to categorize my guesses in three ways- those who I know will be on the team, those who I guess will be on the team, and those who are longshots, but could stick around anyway:

Incidentally, there are some minor spoilers below- don't read if you aren't caught up.

Avengers Assembled:

Given the way that both Siege and the upcoming Heroic Age have been branded, I would put money on Captain America, Iron Man and Thor being on whatever team Marvel assembles. As the Big Three, this is basically a no-brainer. The only real question here is which Captain America will be throwing his shield into the melee and my guess is Bucky Barnes- I expect Steve will stick around in some capacity, but given what goes on in the Who Will Wield the Shield one-shot I think Buck is going to be the one wearing the Flag on a regular basis.

With that said, I'll hazard to say that Avengers mainstays Hank Pym (in who knows what costume) and Clint Barton (and, lets be honest, same deal costume wise) will also be on the team in one form or another. If, for whatever reason, Janet Van Dyne comes back to life, she's here too.

Ms. Marvel will be on the team too, if only because her solo book just ended and, given that Osborn saw fit to replace her on his team, she's clearly an important part of the Avengers mythos.

Finally, I think that Brian Michael Bendis likes Luke Cage (and, also, Jessica Jones) too much to let him fall by the wayside. I read somewhere (or maybe Jon and I talked about this, I can't really remember. Perhaps it's both.) that Bendis turned Cage into a top tier character by sheer force of will, and I think that's exactly right. The only scenarios in which I imagine Luke not staying on involve some sort of attempt at a solo book or, perhaps, some sort of Iron Fist/Power Man team-up series (if it were to be written by Brubaker or Fraction, well, I think I would die of happiness.) Even if one of those come to pass, though, I still have trouble imagining Bendis letting go of one of his favorite characters.


While the Iron Fist has said that he doesn't really fit it on the Avengers, it's hard to imagine a team that Luke Cage is on without Danny Rand far behind. This would be particularly true if Luke has some sort of leadership role/his own time.

I'm not sure what Mockingbird's story is- they seem to be teasing her death in some of the solicits, but they also just brought her back, so I imagine she'll stick around in some capacity, particularly if Clint is on the team too.

Stephen Strange is usually around too- although now that he isn't the Sorcerer Supreme, I don't really know what his deal is. Still, his presence on the team wouldn't be a surprise. At the same time, it is a distinct possibility that Jericho Drumm becomes an Avenger. I suspect it will be one or the other- there really isn't another good place for them.

Hercules and Amadeas Cho come as a package- either they're both on the team or neither of them are and it all sort of depends on the outcome of Assault on New Olympus and whatever the new status they're teasing for Herc is. If Dan Slott is writing it, the likeliness that these two are in goes up.

Who knows whats up with Wolverine? He's in the mix for no other reason than he's been around and also that he sells well.

Quicksilver, too, is sort of an unknown quantity. I'm going to hedge and put him in the middle.

Finally, what about Spider-Man? Does he stay on the Avengers? I think he might, but it's hard to know. I think it's more likely if there are two main teams, but he's been a consistent member since New Avengers started up six years ago. It's a bad idea to count him out, and I suspect it's worthwhile to count him in.

Some Dissassembly Required:

Conceivably, there are some characters who have served in the past, say Wonder Man or She-Hulk, who might be in the mix. Of the two, I imagine Simon is the more likely choice, if only because he repented for serving with the pro-registration heroes on Iron Man's team, and he still lingers in the Avenger's mythos.

Another such long shot is Beast, who has recently taken a leave of absence from the X-Men. He's taken on a starring role in SWORD, so I suspect that's where he'll stay for awhile. Still, I would welcome the big blue guy back to Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

I have no idea what the Sentry's deal is. Depends on what happens in Siege, but my guess is he goes away for awhile.

With two Caps, I think that US Agent is probably superfluous.

Finally, Stature and Vision are in this category only because I think they're going to move to a soon to be announced Young Avengers book. Remember that one of the Siege one-shots is going to be a Young Avengers one- I suspect that they're going to be part of the new status quo.

Well, that's what I've got. How about you, noble readers? Got any ideas of your own?

"What Madness is This?"

It's good to see Oliver Coipel drawing Thor again.

That's a weird way to start my review of Siege #1, I know, but in a lot of ways the most satisfying thing about this issue is seeing Oliver Coipel's gorgeous artwork. From the first image, a beautiful one pager of Volstagg riding away from Asgard, to the last, another one pager, but this time of a surprised Steve Rogers, this book just looks fantastic. Occasionally the page design leaves something to be desired- some of them take a little bit of figuring out- but in between his distinctive pencils (which strike a good balance between cartoon and realism) and Laura Martin's incredible colors, the art here is really what's worthwhile.


That's not to say that the writing isn't- in fact, the story is basically as big and bombastic as has been advertised- but instead, at this point, there just isn't a whole lot to it- Loki has manipulated Norman Osborn into manipulating Volstagg into accidentally blowing up Soldier Field during a Bears game (and incidentally, my reaction went from, "Hey, they got the Bears colors right" to "WTF?!" One wonders if Bendis would have had the guts to blow up The Meadowlands), invaded Asgard, pissed off the president and brought down Thor. There's not much here below the surface, just a lot of fighting and blowing things up. Not that there's anything wrong with that- Siege is, surprisingly, a lot of fun. It's not, as of yet, dark or depressing and we know, because of its short length, that the next issue is going to move the plot forward rather than running in place. The villains have the upper hand- but for how long? And how do our heroes bring them down?

Most importantly, how long until the Avengers Assemble?

"Not in this world." But in others?

"Ex Machina" #47 from Wildstorm Productions (an imprint of DC Comics)

The noir drama Sci-Fi superhero action political thriller's last arc continues! It's noir in style, but thriller in pace. Political, Sci-Fi, and superhero in genre. Action in content. Drama by definition.

Another great issue on the heels of the last month's! If you're not reading this, you're silly.

Tony Harris' work on this issue has a much more fleshed-out (and much appreciated) 3D look to it, because cross-hatched shadows give his thick line-work more definition and volume, a bit more weight, while losing none of the pop and drama he'd regained in the previous issue.

Vaughan brings the Sci-Fi element (established in issue #44) of the source of his main character Mayor Mitchell Hundred's powers being potentially extra-dimensional back to the fore in this issue by making reference to yet another element of DC Comics lore that a comic-book fan like Mitchell Hundred would know all about: the infinite Earths of the Multiverse!

The issue opens with Mitchell at twelve years old debating about DC Comics character's different incarnations from different Earths with his friend Max. Upon the moment Kremlin says to Mitchel's mother "Not in this world" we cut to a hallucination in the present in which Mayor Mitchel Hundred sees an alternate Earth and meets an alternate version of himself. He comes to (after last month's first cliffhanger) thanks to loyal bodyguard Bradbury giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This is followed by a great joke reminding us of the Mayor's successful effort of many, many issues ago to legalize gay marriage in New York!

Soon we learn of Mitchell's real reason for squashing the 'abortion pill' suggestion of his closest aide in issue #45 during a conversation with Mitch's lawyer, the grown-up Max. (Who looks strangely like comic-book character Clark Kent...) There's an amazing and really fucked-up scene referencing the surprise ending of the first issue. The new 'villain' of the series Suzanne Padilla floating next to the single standing tower of the World Trade Center complex. Terrifying. Almost as terrifying as the moment of sudden shocking bloody gore Padilla perpetrates later in the issue. (Which was, I thought, a bit tasteless and off-tone for the series.) After the moment at the left, seeing her own reflection in a pool of blood, Suzanne says: "I'm... I'm doing the right thing." "Right?"

As the series gets closer and closer to concluding, I'm reminded of the opening Brian K. Vaughan wrote of the first issue. It depicted Hundred after all the chaos of his mayoral term broken and miserable, but willing to tell the story to... someone? Us? How close to that moment is Vaughan going to go, I wonder?

Most comic-books don't touch this stuff. Not in OUR world. And I don't mean the gore. The cohesive superhero universes that have been slowly built since the Thirties are too sensitive and too corporate-controlled. Not that superhero characters don't run for office. Captain America tried it once and I believe Green Arrow not only ran, but won the office of mayor of Star City in fairly recent years. But any stories wouldn't have had the latitude to tackle issues like emergency contraception and gay marriage even if they were in that position. Even most indie and underground comics are tame in their political stances compared to this. DC Comics (and its imprints) HAS been pushing these boundaries for years and years. (See: "Watchmen".) Is "Ex Machina" closer to our universe (i.e., the quote-unquote real world) or closer to the worlds of superhero fantasy presented by parent publisher DC Comics? It's up to Brian K. Vaughan. That is the beauty of all fiction.

"Not in this world", they can say.
But in others?, we reply.

This stuff is great because it is art that explores the worlds of possibility like Sci-Fi, while maintaining a real connection to the topical horrors of our world through political comment like CNN. A potent mixture on an increasingly epic scale. That's good fiction.

A Swiss Samurai. Who Knew?

"365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice" from Dark Horse Comics

My high school Drama teacher (emphasis on the drama part) used to say: "All theater is about sex and violence!" Cheery fellow he was. I am thus pleased to discover a work of narrative fiction that encompasses both sex AND violence, but isn't really about either.

It's about enlightenment.

The weirdness that a Swiss artist/writer named J. P. Kalonji is the creator of this bande dessinee graphic novel about a young samurai, and that he chose to construct it as 379 sequential full-page splashes only adds to its unique charm. If Kalonji chooses to continue working in comics and do less design-work as his bio describes he may really be a new European talent to watch.

I, at first, mistook the work for manga. And I think, dear reader, you can forgive me for this given the size (manga/digest), the author's name (Kalonji), the publisher (Dark Horse), and the subject matter (samurai violence and enlightenment) of this graphic novel.

But after more thought I can see why the solicitation for the graphic novel compares the art to both "Blade of the Immortal" AND to "Bone". Jeff Smith's same slightly cartoony, fluid line can be found here and the starkness of the black and white makes the similarities all the more obvious. In fact, the stark solids of the colorless artwork also gives the splash-pages the appearance of simple woodcuts not unlike those that were common during the Edo period in Japan. The time at which the story is supposed to take place.

The work is -obviously- very Japanese. The character designs of each samurai our main character Ningen encounters are brilliantly distinctive to the point where you will remember a handful of faces after you've finished the whole thing.

Now that's remarkable because there nearly ARE 364 samurai (270 really) each depicted and each killed in turn by Ningen in his quest to avenge the death of his master. In that way, it's very similar to manga like "Blade of the Immortal" and "Lone Wolf and Cub" where opponent after opponent appear and get dispatched (usually by being cut in half) with a flick of the main characters blade.

Over the course of the book's 379 pages, 270 samurai go down and one year passes. One year = four seasons in four chapters: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Ningen meets one woman with whom he shares a different emotion in each season: the young Aki in need of protection, the mature Fuyu who offers him protection and comfort (sexY tiME! very nI-cE!), the sweet Haru with whom he shares pure love (and subsequent pure pain), and finally the older Natsu who gives him practical assistance in the last moments of his life's journey.

Those aspects of the ultracompetent main character that I always found pretty ridiculous (dangerous looking men fall with little to no effort when he draws his sword, woman pop up out of nowhere and are either perfect angels or hot and ready to have sex with him with no dinner OR movie) are totally forgiven and work very well here because of the remarkable surprise-ending fantasy aspect of the story...

Why does Ningen meet only 364 samurai when the title is "365 Samurai"? In what way is Ningen's story a fantasy? Why does Ningen find everything he needs to continue his quest around the next corner?

That, my dear friends on the road of life, is what you need to read the graphic novel to learn for yourself.
Now, go READ it. It's gorgeous.

Gorga's Looking Forward to Wednesday 1/13/2o1o!

Okay, in light of the epic kinda-sorta-defeat of last week I really should/will buy something this week. But I still need to finish some reviews for stuff from the end of last year, not to mention the 2oo9 year in review posts all three of us are working on!

The weeklies...
"the Amazing Spider-Man" #617
"The Gauntlet" moves on to revamping the Rhino.

"Batman: Wydening Gyre" #4
This Batman mini penned by Kevin Smith has been good fun so far. If the cover is to be taken as a real indication of the contents I think we're finally going to see a lot of the Joker in this title.

"Daytripper" #2
Issue #1 might be on all three of our personal best of 2oo9 lists. That should tell you everything you need to know.

"the Invincible Iron Man" #22
This series might just be the best in mainstream superhero comics right now.

"X-Men Origins: Cyclops" one-shot
Again, these "Origins" one-shots are hit or miss to me. I'll take a look and make a full report of my opinions to you, the consumer.

"Spider-Man and the Secret Wars" #2 of 4
Still haven't read ish #1, but it looks like the comics equivalent of french fries drowned in ketchup, salt, and vinegar. Smells a bit sour, tastes totally sweet, goes down easy.

The books...
"Ed Hannigan: Covered"
I've never heard this man's name but I do know that there were some awesome covers wrapped around some issues of "Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man" back in the 70s and 80s. So when you combine this with the fact that there's some money going to a guy in bad health who gave something to the industry and the medium, it is something we should all really pick up.

"Rocketbots: Trouble in Time"
This looks like good fun. Sounds like something Pixar would dream up, right?

Okay, the truth? Although I didn't buy anything out of the new material this past week, I ended up breaking and buying some ridiculously good deals yesterday.

I bought: "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" Vol. 3 (which includes an excellent "Serenity" story) and "Acme Novelty Library" #19 for $16.30! That would have been $36 at full retail price. Both were things I'd wanted and planned to get for a while, so I did good.

UPDATE: 1/14/2o1o
There are those weeks when I just think comics are getting better across the board and I'm just lucky enough to be along for the ride.

I picked up the "Ed Hannigan" booklet. It's nice to learn about someone in the industry who I'd never heard of before. I hope that if the day comes when I'm a professional on in years without pension that something like this would happen to give me some badly needed money and recognition.

I picked up "Daytripper" #2, "Widening Gyre" #4, "Amazing" #617, and "Iron Man" #22 because they are excellent comics. All of them.

I picked up "Spider-Man and the Secret Wars" #2 because it's continuing to flesh out one of my favorite stories from 80s Marvel history: "The Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars".

I passed on "Origins: Cyclops" because it just seemed to be running over territory we'd seen a billion times and trying to tie it into the current stories. I'm sure those current stories are great, but I don't see the point in structuring an origin revamping one-shot to lead-into ongoing stuff. Unless I missed something, I thought these "X-Men Origins" one-shots were supposed to be cool, timeless re-presentations of X-Men characters in their youth. Why can't they all be like "X-Men Orgins: Jean Grey"? Timeless and of high quality.

I also passed on "Rocketbots". Mainly because I couldn't find it to decide if I wanted to buy it or not.

When are the reviews coming, I could not tell you. But come they will. And they will be good.

We are all three really hard at work on whipping up year-end review posts for you. So be patient!

Oh yeah, so apparently it actually happened...

According to this statement on Marvel.com, on December 31st of the year 2oo9 the planned acquisition of the company by Walt Disney was approved by Marvel's shareholders and thus went through.

So the House of Ideas now answers to the House of Mouse.

The announcement comes complete with this cute graphic:

This earlier statement also from Marvel.com makes clear that Marvel is about to become "a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney".

The possibilities and pitfalls of the purchase has been gone over and over and over. So suffice it to say 2o1o will be a very interesting year for Marvel Comics and the comic-book industry as a whole.