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Earth X (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

“Your kind does love to rewrite history, Richards,” the Watcher observes towards the end of Earth X, after we get an introduction and brief recap of the life of Tony Stark. Almost every issue of the collection opens with a review of an iconic Marvel character’s back story, as writer Jim Krueger and plotter Alex Ross attempt to tie the tapestry of the Marvel universe together in some way. It turns out that everything a character underwent wasn’t just their own personal development, but part of a broader tapestry of history within the Marvel universe. No character evolution, it seems, happens in isolation. Everything is interconnected, even if we (or the writers or the characters) never realised it at the time.

Earth X is really just an attempt to tie most of the Marvel universe up in one gigantic knot, to connect everything to everything else. In a way, published in 1999, it seems to foreshadow the current era of Marvel publishing, where absolutely everything within in the shared universe must somehow be connected to something else. Avengers vs. X-Men, for example, would connect the Phoenix from the X-Men to the Iron Fist mythology. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men connected the Weapon X project to the development of Captain America. The X-Men and the Avengers must be united as part of Uncanny Avengers.

In many ways, Earth X reads more interestingly as a treatise than as a comic story. It’s far stronger as a thought-experiment than an actual narrative. It’s more fun on purely technical level, watching Jim Krueger and Alex Cross connect all those dots, than it is as an adventure in its own right.

Stellar...

Stellar…

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Marvels by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross (Review)

In celebration of the 4th of July and the release of Captain America: The First Avenger this month, we’re jumping into Marvel’s comic book alternate history and taking a look at the star-spangled avenger every Wednesday this month.

I think it’s safe to say that Marvels, the four issue miniseries from Marvel released during the nineties revolutionised the industry. An attempt to create something akin to a social history of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of “everyman” reporter Phil Sheldon charted the course of history in the fictional Marvel Universe from its humble beginnings in the adventures of the Human Torch and the Submariner through to the death of Gwen Stacey, wondering what ideas and themes could be derived from the evolution of this world populated with the magnificent and the ridiculous, the epic and embarrassing, the big and the small.

Something stuck about this miniseries...

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Absolute Kingdom Come

The nineties were a tough decade for the comic book medium. Violence sold. “Grim and gritty” represented the direction for most major comic books. Superman died. Batman was crippled. Green Lantern became a genocidal maniac. The Flash had long since abandoned the comic book universe. This was the era back-to-back Venom miniseries, the rise of Rob Liefeld and the lethal vigilante. A lot of people trace back this trend to the success of groundbreaking series like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, which demonstrated that darker imaginings of conventional superhero comics could sell. Of course, that wasn’t the point of the comics at all, but such complexity is not the speciality of managers and executives. However, if the birth of that so-called “Dark Age” of comic books could be traced back to those roots, then perhaps Kingdom Come can be identified as the birth of a counter-movement against such trends.

Superman brings a lot to the table...

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Absolute Justice

They’ve lost their power. And I’m not talking about magic genie-rings or batarangs. I’m speaking about their real power. You don’t need them anymore.

– Lex Luthor discusses superheroes

Are superheroes redundant? In many ways, they’ve formed the basis of an American mythology in the twentieth century – many fo the classical superheroes represent a pantheon of gods not unlike the Greek or the Roman conception of the same. This is particularly true of DC’s panel of major superheroes, who may as well sit atop Olympus looking down on humanity. However, the past few decades haven’t necessarily been kind to the notion of the superhero – increasingly deconstructed and darkened and shaded and compromised beyond any similarity to their original status – and you’d be forgiven for wondering whether the genre has passed its sell-by date. This is the question at the core of Justice, the twelve-part maxi-series by Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger.

A league of their own?

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