August 2012

Archer and Armstrong 1

While I was an avid comic book fan throughout the 90s, I never went through a Valiant phase. Thus, I approached the 2012 Valiant resurgence cautiously – picking up Archer and Armstrong 1 only after reading a lot of positive buzz, and mostly because of my enjoyment of Fred Van Lente’s previous work. And I was immediately hooked. While the series tends to lose a bit of steam in the later issues, the first 12 issues are a fun ride I would happily recommend to pretty much any comic reader.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the comic is established immediately: the use of text boxes to define physical action.

While it doesn’t seem like much of a big deal at first, this quickly builds into an entertaining trope, often used successfully for humorous and absurdist – as well as educational – ends.

The first issue focuses mainly on Archer’s origin story, peppering Armstrong in here and there, setting up their eventual partnership for future issues. By the end of the first issue, Archer is fully aware of what we’ve known from the beginning: his entire life has been based on lies and he’s been manipulated (by how own parents!) into fighting for the wrong team.

And what’s not to love about a bunch of rich assholes in suits – literally wearing golden calves on their heads – who refer to themselves without shame or irony as the One Percent?

Avenging Spider-Man 11

I’m a sucker for full-issue conversations between Peter Parker and his Aunt May. Probably the best (and certainly the most famous) is DeMatteis and Bagley’s Amazing Spider-Man 400, but Straczynski and Romita Jr.’s Amazing Spider-Man 38 is right up there, as well. Sadly, this one seems to have fallen through the cracks, and it’s a real shame. Written by Zeb Wells and masterfully illustrated by Steve Dillon, this simple story takes place mostly at Uncle Ben’s grave site. The only other scene in the comic is a flash-back to Peter’s bedroom shortly after Uncle Ben’s death. Aunt May enters his room and Peter immediately informs her (for what is clearly not the first time) that Uncle Ben’s death was his fault.

We return to the present, where Aunt May admits that she has no memory of the conversation. So often the most important conversations of our lives weren’t even memorable to those we had them with. And if Aunt May words could have such a profound effect on Peter without even implanting on her memory, how many conversations has Peter forgotten that had a similar impact on others?

Immediately, Peter attempts to assure Aunt May that she was right – he has, in fact, done good things. She agrees, but he doubles down, and her stare as she repeats the words “I know” seems to reveal more than Peter might want to acknowledge. Turning away, she brings Ben back into the conversation, allowing Peter to express his guilt yet again.

Perhaps tired of trying to convince Peter that he’s wrong, Aunt May switches tactics, asking the only truly important question:

Peter responds wistfully, and Aunt May reminds Peter what he already knows.

Hawkeye 1

Matt Fraction and David Aja’s take on Hawkeye was pretty simple: They focused on Clint Barton. No fancy suit, no Avengers, hardly any archery. Basically, what does Hawkeye do on his day off? Might not sounds like much, but it’s on the shortlist of best comics of 2012.

We begin with an action sequence. And it doesn’t look good for Hawkeye.

After taking some time to heal, we find Clint chilling in his neighborhood.

Fraction has a good time with foreign languages here. Since we’re viewing everything from Clint’s point of view, we know what he knows. In other words, he can recognize Spanish when he hears it, even if he has no idea what how it translates to English.

Later, Clint stumbles across a plot. The Track-Suit Bros (“Russian maybe?”) are kicking Clint’s neighbors out of their homes. Hawkeye has always been one to favor what is “right” over what is “legal,” so faithful readers know how this one is going to play out.

Except we don’t, as Clint throws us for a loop by attempting to reason with (or at least pay off) the Bros.

Foolishly, Clint assumed this path would prevent violence. But, this is a Marvel comic, and it had been ten pages since the last fight scene…

Eventually, wounds are bandaged, clots form, and Clint and the Chief Bro have a heart to heart, providing readers with a pretty clear tag line for the comic: Captain America’s Ain’t Here.

Superman Family Adventures 4

If you want super fun kid’s comics, with striking dynamic artwork that captures the child-like magic of super-heroes while still providing a quality story line, you’re not likely to find better than the work of Art Baltazar and Franco. Their Eisner Award winning Tiny Titans is legendary, and their self-published work is every bit as creative and enjoyable.

How big a fan am I? Well, here’s the wrap-around cover of my band’s most recent album:

True Story: This cover features the official first appearance of Action Cat and Adventure Bug from Aw Yeah Comics! (You can see them above Cheetah’s tail, nestled in Galactus’ shadowy left arm.)

And I’m happy to report that my love is not unrequited! You want proof? I give you proof!

Blink and you’ll miss it!

Seriously, check it out:

That, my friends, is true love. Aw yeah! You’re a good man, Art!

Other Comics I Read from August 2012

  • Action Comics 12
  • Amazing Spider-Man 691, 692
  • American Vampire 30
  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares 3
  • Animal Man 12
  • Aquaman 12
  • Avengers 29
  • Avengers Academy 34, 35
  • Avengers Assemble 6
  • Avenging Spider-Man 10
  • Axe Cop: President of the World 2
  • Batman 12
  • Batman and Robin 12
  • Brilliant 1
  • Captain America 16
  • Captain Marvel 2, 3
  • Dancer 4
  • Daredevil 16, 17, Annual 1
  • Defenders 9
  • Fantastic Four 609
  • Fatale 7
  • FF 21
  • Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE 12
  • Fury Max 5
  • Goon 41
  • Green Lantern 12, Annual 1
  • Green Lantern Corps 12
  • Grim Leaper 4
  • Harvest 1
  • Hellblazer 294
  • Hulk Season One
  • Incredible Hulk 12
  • Invincible 94
  • Invincible Iron Man 522, 523
  • Journey into Mystery 642
  • Justice League 12
  • Justice League Dark 12
  • Mars Attacks 3
  • Mighty Thor 18
  • Mind MGMT 4
  • New Avengers 29
  • Planetoid 3
  • Punisher 14
  • Punk Rock Jesus 2
  • Revival 2
  • Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom 1
  • Saga 6
  • Scalped 60
  • Spider-Men 4
  • Supercrooks 4
  • Swamp Thing 12
  • Sweet Tooth 36
  • Thief of Thieves 7
  • Think Tank 1
  • Uncanny X-Men 17
  • Walking Dead 101
  • Winter Solider 9
  • Wolverine and the X-Men 15
  • Wonder Woman 12
  • X-Factor 241, 242

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About Author

Rand Bellavia is half of the Filk Pop Nerd Rock band Ookla the Mok. They’ve been playing at science fiction and comic book conventions since 1994. Their clever, media-savvy lyrics, catchy melodies, and accessible power-pop sound have made them a cult-sensation with nerds everywhere. With song titles like Super Powers, Welcome to the Con, Arthur Curry, Kang the Conqueror, and Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You, it’s easy to see why. Rand and Ookla the Mok have won four Pegasus Awards, and the 2014 Logan Award for Outstanding Original Comedy Song. Ookla the Mok had the most requested song on Dr. Demento in 2012 (“Tantric Yoda”) and 2013 (“Mwahaha”). Rand co-wrote the theme song for the Disney cartoon Fillmore, and his vocals are the first thing you hear on Gym Class Heroes’ Top Five hit “Cupid’s Chokehold.” In his secret identity, Rand is the Director of the Montante Library at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. He has lectured and presented at international conferences on the subject of comics and libraries. Rand is like the Internet, except he smells nice.

2 Comments

  1. Feargal Gallagher on

    This is one of the first comics I ever read, and one of the handful that made me a fan for life. I’ve read the series around this issue piecemeal since then, so wouldn’t have realised that Thor as Deus-ex-machina was being over-used.

    I have since learned that Thor was off on a long exile from Earth, traveling through the cosmos in his own comics during these issues, so the creators had to push to have him in the Avengers at all (I guess they really wanted him there. Also the whole point of the Nefaria saga was to have them face an opponent who seemingly outclassed them all, and part of that would be letting the viewers see that even Thor couldn’t beat him.) So him appearing suddenly out of nowhere is a function of him having to zip across the galaxy for half an issue and then back again in time for his next appearance in his own comic.

    The last page above is still one of the best superhero entrances in all of comics, though.

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