Archive for March 10th, 2008

Why the Skrulls are going to save the Marvel Universe

March 10th, 2008 by Michael

skrullsThere’s an invasion going on in the Marvel Universe. Alien shape changers have infiltrated our super teams and taken over the persona of some of the most mighty heroes. Their intent: to take over our planet, which they see as rightfully theirs.

Go Skrulls!

I’m really looking forward to this spring and summer’s Mega Event. It just feels exciting. According to interviews from Marvel Mastermind Brian Michael Bendis, this storyline has been brewing for years. According to him, after this story is done we’ll be able to look at recent events such as Avengers Disassembled, House of M, Secret War, Civil War, and Captain America’s Death, and be able to see a Skrully hand manipulating all of it. This doesn’t feel like a simple retcon to me…this apparently has been sneaky ol’ Bendis’ plan from the very start. And I think that’s why I’m enjoying it so much. It’s creative, it’s well planned, and it feels like there are real consequences. Who knows who could be a Skrull? We’ve already seen Elektra and Blackbolt revealed as Skrulls…could we see Spider Man as one? Thor? Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy? Since they did the unthinkable and killed Captain America – and kept him dead for a year now – you have to wonder if Marvel is willing to take chances on some of their other major characters.

When Marvel announced Civil War a couple of years ago, they said the intent was to bring a level of distrust back to our heroes. It used to be that when Spider-man crossed paths with the FF, there would be some doubt about the other hero’s motives. The FF saw all the negative reporting in the newspaper about Spidey and wondered if he could be a criminal, and Spidey distrusted anyone that might be inclined to try to have him arrested. The Skrull storyline succeeds where Civil War fails. Civil War seemed like a good idea with a lot of potential that ended up rushed, written by committee, and edited to pieces. On the other hand, Secret Invasion seems well crafted, paced correctly, and genuine. The threat seems real, the implications seem dire, and the distrust between the heroes seems at an all time high. Not only does each character have to wonder if their teammates are aliens, but they also have to wonder who has known what, and for how long. It’s a fun story line and I fully hope that Marvel is finally able to fulfill the potential of the story. Most importantly, this is a story that deserves to be an event.

So who is a Skrull? Of course, I have some ideas. Here, I present my top 5 Skrull Choices:

1. Cyclops. The leader of the X-Men has gone all hard assed of late. Apparently the mutant decimation and loss of Professor X has gotten to him. Or maybe a Skrull has.

2a. Ms. Marvel. You can bet that the Skrulls have landed in SHIELD. Who better than a SHIELD agent who also leads the Avengers, and can keep close tabs on Tony Stark? If not her, look for….

2b. Maria Hill. Stark’s #2 at SHIELD led the organization from Secret War to Civil War, and her arrival coincided with with Nick Fury’s disappearance. Speaking of which…he’s due for a return. What role will he have in Secret Invasion?

3. Wolverine, but only the New Avengers Wolvie. The X-Men’s is the real one. It would go a long way to explaining how he can be in every comic at the same time!

4. The Scarlet Witch. A Skrull with Wanda’s powers could have intentionally caused House of M (a perfect opportunity for Skrulls to move in?). Plus doing so allows Marvel to bring her back, all heroic-like and not at all crazy.

5. Hawkeye. Hey, weren’t you dead? Oh yeah, that’s because you’re a Skrull.

What do you think? Who’s a Skrull? Who do YOU trust?

Batman: City of Crime

March 10th, 2008 by jason

City of CrimeWritten and laid out by David Lapham, pencils by Ramon Bachs, inks by Nathan Massengill, colours by Jason Wright, letters by Jared K Fletcher

Collecting Detective Comics 800-808, 811-814, this 287 page tome is something to really sink your teeth into. I read this not too long after reading the War Games epic which ran across all the Bat Universe titles, and found a world of difference between the two. Lapham’s thriller is much more cohesive than the sprawling chaos of War Games, perhaps rightly so, considering it’s coming from a single writer of a single comic. While appearing in the issues shortly after Ed Brubaker’s epic, the chronological time for this story is unknown. There are no cues saying whether it took place before or after, but the previous event is never mentioned that I could find. Robin is definitely Tim Drake, Akins is the police commissioner. Beyond that, it could really take place any time.

The title is apt: this is as much a story about Gotham as it is about Batman, maybe moreso. A beautiful gothic Gotham, beautiful like the wings of insect seen close up, a stinging, poisonous insect. Ever since Tim Burton’s film, Gotham has been almost universially represented like something out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, ironically enough, whereas Ramon Bachs give his Gotham a warmer feel. It’s the warmth of fresh blood, however, oozing from a slit throat. The first issue in the collection sets this tone, taking you on a journey through Gotham at night, a madman’s tour, pointing out the garishly painted masterpiece of a city. The price of admission is just a small bit of your soul. This is very much a prelude to the rest of the collection, lasting only 8 pages. This was originally a back up story, with the bulk of the issue having a War Games epilogue, but this collection only reprints this one.

Lapham has set the stage, and issue 811 contains the overture. Batman is seen sparingly, more hinted at, while Gotham’s residents go about their violent, unpleasant lives. Even the routine takes on a sinister cast when it occurs in Gotham. And the passing shadow in the gloom, preventing a domestic altercation with a thrown batarang, shows that Batman is there, even when not seen. He is an offspring of this city, but this parent does its best to reject its child, in much the same way as creatures in the wild attempt to consume their young. The characters start coming into play as the issue continues, lining up like a length of fuse, waiting for the spark to set them off, consuming each in turn just before the explosion that you know is coming.

The successive issues extend the plot, bringing in a few classic Batman villains, and hinting at a mastermind. There is much that is gruesome in this arc, and Lapham doesn’t shy away from the adult themes. Batman’s prime motivation in this story stems from an encounter with a Lolita-esque girl and his rejection of her advances. A run-of-the-mill tragedy in Gotham explodes into an atrocity to shake the city apart. We have an interlude in the action in issue 807 as a new act begins, and we focus on a specific neighbourhood. A magnifying glass is held up to a map of Gotham and we see this stretch of streets in detail, from the decaying dog in the gutter to the decaying crones gossiping on the stoop. Bachs’s art is glorious in its grotesquery, where we literally see all the warts. We also get to see Batman in a role that he seems so rarely used for anymore: being a detective. We see him almost as much out of costume as in it. The action ramps back up again for the rest of the arc, until the concluding battle royale.

This story worked in so many ways, compelling to me to keep reading far after I should’ve put it down for the night. It was nearly a compulsion to see what happened next, something that I haven’t found in comics as much lately. I can see where some might be frustrated with some of the convolutions that the story goes through, but it kept me riveted. I want to seek out Lapham’s other works to compare, see what he does with his own stories. The detail of the art kept me looking at panels over and over, picking up new things and little easter eggs with each new look. The muted colour palette fit in well with the noir revival setting, although it may have appeared differently in the single issues, as the trade used newsprint. I assume the single issues used the standard glossier paper, but the pulpiness of this story almost cries out for newsprint. The panels are on a black background, but a yellowing of aged newsprint wouldn’t feel out of place with these comics.

As I said, the chronology of this story isn’t pinned down, but in a real world context, Infinite Crisis is in swing, Jason Todd has reappeared as the Red Hood in the Batman comics, and One Year Later will start in just a few issues. The self-contained aspect of this story lets it exist on its own, outside of all of the continuity laden events going on in the rest of the DC Universe. No special knowledge, no real history lessons are needed here.