A new lease on life.

I thought, dear Long and Shortbox readers I should take a moment to celebrate the fact that we here at The Long and Shortbox Of It have become just a teensy bit more official by becoming:

All the same great content: reviews, editorials, interviews, quotes, and news commentary all in little easy RSS'ed packets of blog information now at a more easily reachable address. Rejoice. For we did it in six hours, spent $44 to secure two years, and saw that it was good!


Born Again (Again)

All the way back in August (man, was it really that long ago? It feels like it was yesterday), I was impressed by Jock's cover to Daredevil Reborn #1, but nonplussed by the mini's upcoming existence. Daredevil had, for years, quietly been one of Marvel's best books, and I was worried that, with the upcoming (and ultimately disappointing) end of Shadowland, we would also see the end of Matt Murdock, of Daredevil, and of Marvel's best (read: only) crime comic.

Shadowland ended, the Black Panther took up the mantle of the Man Without Fear and began protecting Hell's Kitchen (and you can read how I feel about that here and here, but let me tell you: my fears about Marvel giving up on crime comics were... unfounded), and Matt Murdock headed west. Way west: New Mexico, where he encounters a mysterious town, with a secret, a diner, a corrupt police force, a gang of miscreants and one poor blind kid, stuck in the middle of the whole thing.

If you think you've seen something like it before, you probably have; it's about as straight up a "stranger comes to town" story as has ever been told. Cliches pile upon cliches, too- Matt leaves the poor kid to fend for himself! He lets himself get beat up by the miscreants! He's on his way out of town and smells trouble at the last minute!

If we can accept that there's nothing groundbreaking about the plot and get past the fact that there's a half dozen Twilight Zone episodes with plots resembling this, though, there's something worthwhile here: maybe, every once and a while, a straight up redemption tale is good for the soul.

It helps that David Gianfelice draws the hell out of the book. There's some odd, otherworldly clarity to his compositions, something remarkable given how sketchy and fuzzy Daredevil art has been over the last decade or so. Not that that's a bad thing- Alex Maleev, Michael Lark, and Roberto de la Torre are some of the best artists in the business and they were perfect for the way ol' Hornhead was being portrayed back then, but Gianfelice's clear pencils and inks are a refreshing change, and I think it really does signal a brand new Daredevil on the horizon.

That's not to say I don't have complaints about the art as well as the story: sometimes the faces get a little squishy, particularly when the figure is at a distance, but I think this is a symptom of the mid-width black line that serves him so well everywhere else. There's something so appealing about this inky definition that it's easy to forgive that little issue, particularly when the whole thing is served so well by Matt Hollingsworth's colors, which really do make the book feel like it's set in the Southwest, but not at the expense of having some fun and making it look like a comic book. Together, Gianfelice and Hollingsworth are working on something great and, if you aren't convinced by page 21, the final, thrilling, splash will seal the deal.

This move away from a grim 'n gritty style for DD is a good sign; maybe there's something to this rebirth other than just a marketing ploy, something worth sticking around for. I certainly hope there is; despite my adoration for the last half-decade or so of Daredevil, maybe it really is time for something new.

Marvel Starts Counting From Point One in February?

Marvel has begun promotions for a new initiative first announced months ago in November:


Another new attempt to grab new readers, Marvel will be producing certain upcoming extra issues and labeling them as "a perfect starting point, kicking off Marvel's biggest and most impactful stories of 2011".

The issues listed by the marketing postcards and Marvel's press release as part of the Point One campaign are:

"Amazing Spider-Man" #654.1
"Invincible Iron Man" #500.1
"Wolverine" #5.1
in February

"Captain America #615.1
"Deadpool" #32.1
"Hulk" #30.1
"Thor" #620.1
"Uncanny X-Force" #5.1
in March

"Avengers" #12.1"
"Secret Avengers" #11.1
"Uncanny X-Men" #534.1
in April

Combined with a "huge marketing push" each full 22-page issue will be priced at $2.99 and followed by a second issue in the same series within the same month of the Point One issue release.

More importantly, each issue is designed with the goal of being both enjoyable by-itself and as the first part of a longer experience.

The issues are to be literally numbered with a .1 so the "Thor" issue will be "Thor" #620.1. I assumed most likely it would be purely a visual gimmick but ComicsAlliance.com reports here that there will be a regular issue (#620) and a Point One issue (#620.1) followed immediately by another regularly numbered issue (#621).

I'm not sure this campaign can actually succeed in bringing in new readers to Marvel's comics/characters/universe.  That said, more comic-book issues that tell self-contained stories but connect to larger ongoing concepts and story-elements is great, great, great and we need more of it so everybody gets a solid value and less unpleasant surprises when they purchase a comic-book expecting what Tom DeFalco once called "a complete unit of entertainment" (Marvel Podcast, "The Amazing Spider-Girl"; 4/28/2oo7). The months February, March, and April do lead us right to May, the month that has become the traditional one for Free Comic Book Day to fall in. So a line has been drawn making it easier for non-comics people to find simple great superhero comics stories. That's a great step forward. Almost as big a one as Marvel's statements that they will be utilizing their "PR firm" to reach a "mass audience". Here's hoping there's Disney money at that particular PR company.

Back in November, then Marvel Executive Editor (now Senior Vice President of Publishing) Tom Brevoort pointed out that by utilizing a decimal point the idea was far more flexible and repeatable than the Free Comic Book Day editions that arrive in our stores every May or the old #0 and #1/2 issues from the Nineties. Incidentally, the idea of numbering a comic with a decimal is an idea I'd had bouncing around in my noggin for an entirely different purpose and context. But that is a story for another day.

In the meantime, The Long and Shortbox Of It wishes Marvel well in advertising the campaign in as many media outlets as possible both in and outside of comics.


In Which A Blogger Justifies A Thumbs Post From A Couple of Days Ago

Remember a couple of days ago when I gave a thumbs up to Black Panther: The Man Without Fear 513 and then said you'd have to wait for me to tell you why I gave it a thumbs up until Wednesday, when the next one came out?

Well, thankfully for both of us it is now Thursday. I went to my shop yesterday, picked it up and, let me tell you, if you were worried that there would be a significant drop in quality between then and now, fear not: issue #514 is even better. Behind that terrible Simone Bianchi and Simone Peruzzi cover (seriously, whats up with that cover? It bears no resemblance to the contents of the book, and is ugly as hell- if Francesco Francavilla doesn't want to draw the cover, you know who should? Chris Samnee) is the best comic book of the year so far.

I know, I know. The year is young yet, with only two weeks worth of releases. This one, though- we're going to remember this one. David Liss makes some missteps, sure, but really only in the context of the shared universe: his Luke Cage doesn't sound quite right, a little too brash and quick to anger then maybe he should be, but maybe that means there's something to watch for coming from that corner of New York. That little critique aside, David Liss writes a damn good comic book, particularly given that he's only recently come to the medium. He gets the pacing just right, his highly varied dialogue suggests that he has a complete grasp on his characters, and, most impressively, he convinces me that this way of reintroducing T'Challa to the mainland Marvel universe was a really good idea- Hell's Kitchen needed protecting before, and it still needs protecting now. This is a clever way of reintroducing 'ol Hornhead back into the old neighborhood, because it reminds us of what even those fantastic Brubaker comics had forgotten. Black Panther puts Hell's Kitchen back on the man without fear's front burner, it's just a much different man. David Liss, Stan Lee bless him, gets what the title was missing and puts that Marvel man on the street perspective on the whole thing. His work alone would make the comic work reading but, wonderfully, he's not working alone.

No, as good as Liss is, what makes the two issues of the book so far break out is the art of Francesco Francavilla. This is brilliant, pulpy stuff- dark and blocky, with colors both muted and flat. It just feels right, like we're in a noir movie set in Hell's Kitchen. His figures are stylized without being unrecognizable, flexible without being squishy. The whole thing is very kinetic and his panel design- maybe not the best I've ever seen, but damn close- adds to that impression a great deal. The result is all shadows and movement and I'm madly in love with it.

This is the first comic in 2011 that you're going to fall in love with- hopefully, it's a portent for the good stuff we'll see this year. If not, it's another brilliant and pulpy comic on the stands each month, and that's never a bad thing. Here's to another long, classic, run on a long running book.

The Blogger Without Fear

When I found my way to COMICTWART today, I found that my consistent favorite of all the contributors was Francesco Francavilla (on the left), although Chris Samnee was a close second (on the right):

At which point I remembered that, somehow in the midst of my finals, I had forgotten to purchase the first issue of the Francavilla drawn, David Liss written Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. I went to my LCS (actually, mine was closed today, so I went to a different one), picked up the book with a couple of other things, came home to review and lo and behold- the second issue comes out Wednesday. For now, then, you're just going to have to be satisfied with this:

The Digital Divide

I have fallen really and truly behind in my Captain America reading. Every month I buy Brubaker's monthly and somehow, some horrible how, I end up with it at the bottom of my pile and it never gets read. This is a great and true travesty- those Captain America comics are surely among the great comics of our time, as they have been since Brubaker took over the title five years ago. To be completely honest, I miss the Captain a great deal, and one of my comics related new years resolutions was to make sure I read as much good Cap stuff as there is, on time and monthly. I want to do this partially so I can review it and consider it critically (I do, after all, have aspirations towards being the world's foremost Captain America scholar), but mostly because I want to read the stuff; although I've mostly moved away from character based purchasing, in the case of Captain America (and sometimes Iron Fist) I just can't help myself from wanting to read all of it, even the bad stuff (and some of it is really bad). Luckily for me, some of the Cap stuff that's coming out appears both great and essential: I'm trade-waiting Mark Waid's "Man Out of Time" mini, although Gorga has had some great things to say about it, and with the upcoming movie and the character's upcoming 70th birthday, there's bound to be more good stuff to come.

Including, of all things, Jason Aaron and Ron Garney's Ultimate Captain America. Aaron has slowly and sneakily become one of my favorite writers: between Scalped and Punishermax he's written some of the best comics of the last couple of years and has even managed to get me interested in characters as lame as Ghost Rider and as ubiquitous as Wolverine (every time I pass a new issue of the current "Mr. Logan Goes To Hell" arc I have to try really hard not to break down and buy all the issues so far. On that day you will know I have failed, for the cries of joy and despair will be spread across the four winds) and I was pumped to see him write my favorite character. Even better? Ultimate Captain America was going digital day and date.

Some of you might already know this, but back in October I cracked the screen of my laptop by falling on top of it (the story is very short and pretty funny, but I'm not going to speak of the incident anyway) and solved my problem by hooking up my laptop to a monitor on my desk and buying an iPad for mobile use. It didn't hurt, of course, that I could buy and read comics on the thing. I'm not sure I could ever give up on physical format comics (I'm twenty, but I still buy vinyl!) and particularly not at the prices their being offered for at the moment, but I'm always up for trying something new and interesting- it helps that comics look great on the thing, without the limitations of printing and absurdly high-res.

In fact, I was so interested in the way comics look on my fancy new toy that it was inevitable, given my interest in the comics consumption problem, that I would also become interested in the differences between the two formats. I proposed to Gorga that we each review the whole of the series in one of the formats, and use it as a springboard to talk about the pros and cons of each format. I was more excited for this series of posts than I was for the comic itself, and so when the release date rolled around on Wednesday, I was pumped. I booted my iPad, logged onto the Marvel comics app and...

I found that Ultimate Captain America was missing.

And then I realized that Jonathan Hickman and Carlos Pacheco's seriously brilliant Ultimate Thor (featuring Ultimate Captain Britain wearing a lab coat and his costume AT THE SAME TIME!), also announced as day and date, hadn't shown up the last week in December, when it came out in physical stores everywhere. That comic has had some distribution problems of its own, so I wasn't that worried about it, but it hasn't appeared since either. I don't want to speculate too much on why this is, but I'm having trouble believing that Marvel is going back on their day and date announcements, particularly in the wake of the recent news about the death of Ultimate Spider Man. It's too bad, too: starting off their same day digital release program with two minis that were likely to be very popular was a smart move for digital readers, although it may have damaged some relations with physical retailers, but promising something that never appears is a good way to turn readership off of digital comics entirely, particularly given what seems to be a wide preference for comics you can read off of paper and prices that are simply too high for a product that only exists digitally.

I hope to see the minis soon- I would like to read them, after all, and am getting tired of waiting. It's a fast moving comics business and I wouldn't want minis that are deserving of attention to fall in the same spot in my stack as my poor ignored Ed Brubaker Captain America comics.