Category Archives: Comics

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Thanos’ Black Order

Hello! With Avengers: Infinity War putting the Black Order onscreen, I thought I could help with a bit of an introduction on these characters. They’re very recent additions in the comics, introduced in Jonathan Hickman’s 2013 Infinity crossover event. They are the generals of Thanos, in the film seemingly fellow “children” of Thanos (like Gamora and Nebula). They’re quite powerful, and quite as mad as their Titan leader.

Corvus Glaive, the leader and Herald of Thanos. Proxima Midnight, his wife. Black Dwarf, the bruiser. Ebony Maw, the talker. And Supergiant, the omnipath. So here’s some info about them from Infinity.

On the one hand, I’m sad that they’re only adapting 4 of the characters – but the 5th, Supergiant, has incredible mental powers and the MCU is simply not prepared for that. In the comics, most of the telepaths are mutants. Just look at how devastating Kilgrave was. Also, they changed Black Dwarf’s name to Cull Obsidian (in the comics, another name for the Black Order). They’re named for stars, but it’s fine.

When the Black Order first arrive on Earth, they split up. Most of the Avengers are off in space fighting a war on a second front (sounds familiar…), so the Black Order hits where there are heroes left – the X-Men, attacked by Corvus Glaive and Supergiant, Atlantis & Namor attacked by Proxima Midnight, Wakanda attacked by Black Dwarf, and Doctor Strange taken over by Ebony Maw.

We see, in the trailers, two of these four playing out: Black Dwarf (Cull Obsidian) is easily visible attacking in Wakanda (he’s huge), and Ebony Maw definitely brings Doctor Strange low. Let’s take another look at both.

Here’s from a later fight… it takes a lot to bring Black Dwarf down. Granted, Black Panther and Shuri are able to beat him, but he’s a tough one. But he’s also just a simple bruiser. He is the one hardest pressed to get Thanos’ respect. This may all play out pretty similarly.

This is not from the core Infinity comics, but from New Avengers… Ebony Maw is the most frightening of them. Unlike Black Dwarf, who is all punches, Ebony Maw doesn’t throw a single punch. He’s ideas. Words. Lies. Secrets. Thanos puts up with him – because he gets results. Looks like this will play out similarly as well!

Corvus Glaive meanwhile we have seen very little of – but in the comics, he’s the one we see the most of. Thanos’ right-hand man. His Herald.

He has supreme confidence, and speaks from a place of supreme power – not his own, but his master’s. There’s more to it than that, though. So let’s look at he and Proxima Midnight together – both with their super-powerful weapons. Very comic book. We’ll see to what extent either of these weapons get translated into the film – might be a good idea for them to be downplayed.

Okay… Glaive that cuts atoms, check. Spear that holds within it the power and density of a star, check. The latter in particular sounds quite a bit like Mjolnir. However, we also see it thrown in a trailer – and Captain America catches it. So maybe it’s just a spear in the movie.

Oh, and reverting Hulk to Banner… huh. Who knows!

But there’s one more power in Corvus’… glaive… and that is that, as long as it is still whole, he regrows from it. So later in the comics, he’s back, because Proxima grabbed it up and brought it along here. Will we see anything like that in the film? There’s not a whole lot of time for him to die and come back. Maybe between this film and the next?

Alright, that has been a bit of an introduction to these characters. Powerful, effective, but all still fairly new and only so much to them – Infinity War is going to add quite a bit to their characterization. But it looks like it will also be borrowing from some of their establishing elements from early on here. I’ll be interested to see their similarities and differences!

Oh, and one more image, just for fun. Hope you enjoy Infinity War! And remember, #ThanosDemandsYourSilence!

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The Mad Titan, Thanos – A Throwback Thursday

With Infinity War on the heels of this post, it seemed appropriate to reflect back on some of my Thanos writing! This post is from late 2013, and I did a pretty good job of predicting where the MCU was going, if not the comics. My links at the end are also probably somewhat spoilers, in that they are clearly basing at least some of Infinity War on Hickman’s Infinity event! Enjoy, and remember, #ThanosDemandsYourSilence!

From The Infinity Gauntlet

From The Infinity Gauntlet

Marvel’s recent crossover event Infinity recently ended, and with all the events with “Infinity” in the title, this was a crossover that included the Mad Titan, Thanos, as the villain. In Infinity, he had to share the stage with the Builders, and was only one front of a two-front war. Nonetheless, his parts in Infinity tied in heavily to who he is as a villain, and what motivates him.

Of course, other Thanos events like the Infinity Gauntlet help inform us as to who Thanos is and what he’s up to, but Infinity drew from more than that. They did a limited-run, 5-issue series called Thanos Rising which explored the origin story of Thanos. It’s interesting, because with this story, it’s hard to tell where the previous Thanos events fit in. Nonetheless, the psychological underpinnings of the character are explored and revealed in Thanos Rising.

And what they lay out is that this is a mentally unbalanced, overly powerful character, willing – and wanting – to kill anyone and anything. Conquering or razing worlds because he can. So I’ve read the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos Rising, and Infinity, so let’s take a look at who this villain is! Spoilers to follow!

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A Second Year of Watching Star Trek (Sort Of)

Two years ago, I realized that if I watched an episode a day, I could get through all the many Star Trek series in two years, and decided to try it. Grad school and life continued to happen, so I didn’t get anywhere close to an episode a day, but in that first year I got through the whole original series, read a few things, went to a convention, and generally had a great time. I thought it would be reasonable to watch all of The Next Generation in 2017, and maybe do some more cons or events, but haaaaa, I didn’t. I got halfway through TNG season one and every month swore up and down that I’d get started again, and now it’s 2018 and I haven’t.

star-trek-tng-soundtrack-encounter-at-farpoint

Instead, I’ve been reading and playing games and watching documentaries and all kinds of other peripheral things. You can tell from the kinds of monthly posts I’ve been putting up:

 

Trekkies_Spock-1 Q-Pop

Look at this stinkin’ cute Q-Pop Spock

My favorite post from last year was Data, Spock, and Star Trek Emotions, and that also began as a response to a Trek-related nonfiction book. Plus I’ve been reading original-series cast memoirs and funny books (Star Trek Cats) and buying merch when I can. And, if I’m honest… I’ve still been generally having a great time. There are advantages to being in a huge fandom, and one is all the stuff you can do besides just watch the same thing over and over. I loved Trek novels when I was a kid, but it had probably been a decade since I’d read any, and this is the first time I’ve really branched out into the comic books.

 

I talked about my favorite comic books in the “Where can I get more episodes” and “comic book crossovers” posts above, and Killing Time is definitely a new favorite novel, but I also started Diane Duane’s Rihannsu series about the Romulans and am loving not only the Romulans (my favorite Trek race) but also the sense of strangeness and mundanity she gives to Starfleet. It’s like a more-realistic version of the original series and it’s great. Not to mention the Vulcan travel guide, which I reviewed on my book review blog and am still trying to convince other fans to read because it’s amazing.

Anyway, I’m happy to have read all the books I got through last year, but I miss the actual show and I still want to see everything. I’ve seen precious little of the later series, to be such a Trekkie. 2018 is, once again, the year of TNG! Wish me luck!

Really Strange New Worlds: Star Trek Comic Book Crossovers

Most of the time, crossovers between fictional properties are the stuff of fanfiction. In comics, though, they’re a longstanding tradition. In some cases, like with Star Trekthere are comics based on a TV show or movie, and the medium allows for some interesting mashups we’d never get to see otherwise. These can be a little tricky to find or hear about, but Star Trek has five that I know of, ranging from natural teamups to more unexpected combinations:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation2 by Scott and David Tipton – This 2012 crossover comes in two collected volumes, although the second is a little harder to come by. It’s probably the most natural combination on this list, being two of the most famous sci-fi TV shows ever, and seeing as how the Doctor can appear pretty much anywhere and have it pretty much make sense. The dialogue is in character and the art actually looks like the people, plus I love that they worked in a Tom Baker/TOS crossover flashback and how the art changed for the “past.” I haven’t been able to read the second volume, though, so I can’t say how it works as a whole story.
  2. Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War by Mike Johnson – Six issues, collected in one volume in 2016. MY FAVORITE of all five, because it’s not just an interesting crossover, it’s a fantastic book. I expected the usual thing where everyone misunderstood each other and Hal punched the Enterprise or whatever, but it’s more thoughtful than that. It starts simple and slowly adds characters so you can appreciate the different dynamics involved. You get to see the Trek characters with rings, of course, and it never gets hung up on how “unlikely” it is or sucks up time with characters demanding explanations, it just happens and tells a whole story. It goes big stakes, but simple plot, which is ideal for a limited-time thing like this, BUT it actually doesn’t reset to normal at the end, it starts its own continuity! I haven’t read the second volume yet, it only came out in September.
  3. Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes by Chris Roberson – Six issues, collected in one volume in 2013. I’m a little disappointed in this one, because it could’ve been a really interesting exercise. Both stories are about hopeful, technological futures driven by humanism. Plus it puts both sets of heroes into a universe new to both of them, a creative idea that works really well here, but there’s no depth to the character interactions. And Kirk is gross to Shadow Lass, which is not cool at all. They do the usual reset to status quo at the end.
  4. Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive by Scott and David Tipton –  This one is a five-issue volume from 2015, and it starts off great. The Tiptons do a great job of creating a TOS-episode atmosphere — after all, discovering incredibly Earthlike planets with slightly different development is par for the course in TOS. Unfortunately it spends a lot of time on buildup and then just fizzles out into nothing (although I did like the little twist at the end). This is the comic that provided this post’s entirely appropriate featured image.
  5. Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman – The oldest and perhaps oddest of the bunch, this is a 1998 novel crossing Next Generation with the X-Men. I’m including it here not only because it started my childhood obsession with the X-Men and later love of comics, but also because it follows on early TOS/ and TNG/X-Men one-shot comics, which I haven’t been able to purchase as yet. It’s kind of a boring book re-reading it now, but I loved it back in the day, and it avoids all the comic book problems of not enough characterization and no continuity or lasting effects. So, it’s worth a go for novelty alone.

Did I miss any? And which unread items are worth pursuing? Info-share in the comments.

No More Fantastic Four?

I came across this news story via a Twitter Moment, the phrase “Fantastic Four writer” instantly triggering the thought of Jonathan Hickman – and being right, in this case!

Since as I’ve said I’ve pretty much stopped reading or keeping up with Marvel comics since the end of Secret Wars, I was surprised to find out that one of the comics that has not come back since then is Fantastic Four. The characters just aren’t there, there’s no title, all that. At this point, it’s been nearly 2 years. Thus the question – where are the Fantastic Four?

There’s been whirling theories about Marvel, their comics, and their movie rights. It’s been going on for a while – here’s a link to an article I wrote about that in 2014. If you look at the comics and merchandizing and things lately – or things like Guardians of the Galaxy getting a theme park ride at Disneyland – the focus has been on the Marvel Studios films. When properties like Spider-Man and the X-Men and all feel like they used to be the premier Marvel characters, and now all of a sudden we all know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are… something is happening.

I’ve pretty much argued before that what’s going on here is mainly business decisions. The interview with Hickman makes this seem the same – business business business. But he points out that we’re seeing something different between, say, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. It’s not just that Marvel lacks the rights to both and is keeping them down – it’s that Fox (which has the movie rights to both teams) hasn’t made a good Fantastic Four movie yet.

Fair enough. For another example, Marvel has been all over Deadpool related stuff, and they don’t have those film rights – and you take a character like Gwenpool and you’ve got a Spider-Man/Deadpool crossover character that nonetheless is getting attention from Marvel, despite the doubly complicated movie rights involved there.

No Fantastic Four because no good movie makes some sense. Again, you could come up with conspiracies – for instance, the thought that you don’t want to produce new ideas for Fox to try to run with in making yet another reboot. However, if they want to try to do another film, I would recommend going with an already established Fantastic Four – skip the origin story – and just do a story like “Solve Everything,” Hickman’s first storyline from his writing run. Have the kids in it. Have travel and exploration and science. You could do something different from standard superhero fare.

Which is also something of the point when it comes to the storytelling side of there being no Fantastic Four comic: what story do you tell with them?

Secret Wars ends with the Fantastic Four (and the kids and all) in an interesting place. They are in some ways the least affected by the events that ended the Marvel Universe; in other ways, they are the most burdened by it. The basic assumption at this point is that they are super busy doing interesting and important things. Honestly, the longer they keep them off the page, the more work they’re going to have to put into figuring out what cool or interesting thing they have been doing with their time.

Really, they’re ripe for imagination work, for interesting ideas and new things. They always have been. There’s a reason I think that they worked so well at the core of Hickman’s storyline. Reed at points functions as the voice of the author, explaining the problem and plot to us in no uncertain terms.

I argued before that the problem they seemed to be running into with the X-Men, more than anything, was that they were dealing with a fundamental societal problem without easy solutions, and if you do actually resolve it, you’re largely done – or at least, they’re no different from other superheroes. If mutants get equal rights, if they end up living in harmony with humans, you’re just done. However, if you show that no progress has ever been made and it’s all been for nothing, well, that’s kind of a stalemate as well.

The Marvel Universe reboot theoretically let them reset that whole tension, but it’s still there. It’s just quite simply harder to write X-Men stories as time goes on. However, it should be easier to write the Fantastic Four – you just need big ideas. You need vision. Or maybe, anthology style, a bunch of smaller or shorter ideas. And maybe they’re lacking that right now, and waiting on it. Maybe they have that, and are waiting for the right time – for a big crossover event or something.

Or maybe, maybe they’re just waiting for a good Fantastic Four movie. Or for the rights to revert back to them. I don’t know, but it’s interesting to get Hickman’s perspective on it!