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The X-Files (Wildstorm) #3-4 (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

Frank Spotnitz could not stick around forever.

The veteran X-Files writer and producer could not stick around for even half a year. These days, it is customary for “big name” authors to commit to a very short run of comic book issues before jumping off; while comic book veterans like Marv Wolfman or Chuck Dixon or Chris Claremont would have committed to years on a particular title during the seventies and eighties, it became increasingly common for higher profile writers to enjoy shorter stints. While this is the case for high-profile industry veterans like Warren Ellis, it is particularly true of celebrity authors.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

Brad Meltzer wrote thirteen issues of Justice League of America. Kevin Smith wrote eight (and a bit) issues of Daredevil and fifteen issues of Green Arrow. Richard Donner wrote seven issues of Action Comics, and contributed a short story to the anniversary special. Sam Hamm wrote three issues of Detective Comics. While these creators might have had great stories to tell with these characters, they were also not necessarily comfortable with committing to a month schedule indefinitely. (They also had careers outside the medium, to be fair.)

Still, there is something quite jarring about Frank Spotnitz’s departure from Wildstorm’s X-Files comic book after only three issues. Spotnitz barely had time to define what the comic was supposed to be, beyond a glimpse into a weird alternate universe where Mulder and Scully are trapped in a perpetual 1998. It is debatable whether a licensed tie-in really needs anything more than that, given the tendency to treat such tie-ins as little more than a supplement to a more mainstream iteration of the same basic product.

DECEIVE INVEIGLE OBFUSCATE

DECEIVE INVEIGLE OBFUSCATE

At the same time, it feels like Spotnitz’s departure leaves an already confused monthly series with no strong identity of its own. Quite pointedly, Spotnitz’s name still appears on the full cover to the first issue written by Marv Wolfman; whether this suggests that Spotnitz was intended to write the issue or simply the result of a rush to press is unclear. As a result, Wildstorm ended up passing its X-Files monthly series from one writer to another, with industry (and DC comics) veterans Marv Wolfman and Doug Moench each handling a two-part story.

The results are intriguing, if not particularly compelling. Wildstorm’s X-Files comics are most remarkable for its sense of detachment from anything and everything. It is “unstuck” in a way that none of the franchise’s other flirtations with comic book storytelling are not. In its own way, this feels entirely appropriate; this is The X-Files as published by one of the two most largest and most iconic comic book publishers. Continue reading

Star Trek (Marvel Comics, 1980) #4-5 – The Haunting of Thallus!/The Haunting of the Enterprise! (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Marvel certainly had an unconventional approach to publishing Star Trek.

The company had licensed the comic book rights following the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They had released a successful adaptation of the film as part of their Marvel Super Special line and had re-package the three-part adaptation as the first three issues of an on-going Star Trek comic book. Written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by Dave Cockrum, it was clear that Marvel had big plans for Star Trek. However, it also quickly became clear that they had no idea where they wanted to go with the comic.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

After all, they immediately followed up the big three-issue opening arc with a comic where the Enterprise discovered a haunted house floating in space. While it was certainly a catchy image, it wasn’t exactly a quintessential Star Trek premise. It seemed that Marvel had no idea what to do with the comic. Writer Marv Wolfman wrote the first of the two issues comprising the storyline, handing the second issue over to Mike W. Barr. He would only stick around for two issues before handing the comic over to Tom DeFalco. DeFalco wrote a single issue before moving on.

It is a rather disjointed comic book, one which lacks the strong narrative voices that DC would give to their late-eighties licensed Star Trek comics. Then again, it is probably easy enough to deduce all of this from the fact that the first original Star Trek storyline published by Marvel featured a haunted house floating in space.

In space, everyone can hear you scream...

In space, everyone can hear you scream…

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The Flash (1987-2009) #1-2 – Happy Birthday, Wally!/Hearts… of Stone (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please share the link love and let me know in the comments.

Like the rest of the comic book industry, DC comics went through some serious changes in the late eighties. Books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns had re-shaped expectations of the comic book world. There was a sense that things had to change. DC was worried about its own expansive and increasingly convoluted continuity. In order to streamline that continuity, DC decided to stage a massive crossover event. Crisis on Infinite Earths was a truly epic comic that reshaped the shared universe.

It made quite the impression, providing the opportunity for a clean start for many of the characters. George Perez gave Wonder Woman a new origin and back story. John Byrne reinvented The Man of Steel, making several additions to the Superman mythos that have remained in place through to today. Frank Miller offered one of the defining Batman origin stories with Year One. There were obvious continuity issues around certain characters and franchises, but Crisis on Infinite Earths was a new beginning.

If the suit fits...

If the suit fits…

This was arguably most true for The Flash. Cary Bates had finished up a decade-long run on the title with the mammoth storyline The Trial of the Flash, where Barry Allen was accused of murdering his arch-nemesis in cold blood. Although the arc ended with Barry retiring to the distant future (comics!), the character went straight from that extended arc into Crisis on Infinite Earths, where he eventually gave his life to save the multiverse in what became an iconic death sequence.

More than that, Barry Allen stayed dead for twenty years; a phenomenal amount of time for a comic book character. In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC offered a fresh new beginning for the Flash. Wally West, the former “Kid Flash” and sidekick, stepped into the iconic role and headlined a monthly series for over two decades.

His heart might not be in it, yet...

His heart might not be in it, yet…

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Star Trek (Marvel Comics, 1979) #1-3 – The Motion Picture (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

What better way to announce the arrival of Star Trek at Marvel Comics than with an adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Initially published as a giant Marvel Super-Size issue, the adaptation was subsequently split across the opening three issues of Marvel’s ill-fated Star Trek monthly.

It is worth noting that the franchise’s initial association with Marvel was relatively brief, with the Star Trek monthly series only lasting eighteen issues from 1979 through to 1982. In 1982, the Star Trek comic book franchise moved to DC Comics, where it remained until the nineties. Things became a bit more complicated at that stage, but it was a long-term relationship.

Still, in 1979, Marvel became the second company to publish monthly comics based around the Star Trek license. However, they were a substantially more impressive operation than Gold Key Comics, the previous license-holder. For example, this adaptation of The Motion Picture comes from some very talented creators, and its publication was treated as something of an event.

The light at the end of the tunnel...

The light at the end of the tunnel…

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) Annual #1 – All Those Years Ago…

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

It’s weird to think that the original cast of Star Trek didn’t get a proper on-screen origin story until JJ Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009. The show produced two pilots – The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before – and even the pilot episode that wound up airing was broadcast as the third episode of the first season. Given the realities of sixties television, it’s probably not too surprising. Rather famously, Gilligan’s Island scrapped its origin story pilot, reworking some of the footage (along with re-shot footage) into a later episode – deciding to skip the story of how everybody got here and just get to the meat of the story.

And you can understand why this approach worked with the original Star Trek. Structurally, the series was a product of its time, largely episodic. Sure, there were recurring alien races and even a few recurring guest stars outside the senior staff, but there was a sense you could jumble the viewing order of most of the episodes up and not notice anything strange.

At the same time, the lack of an origin leaves a vacuum. After all, each of the four following spin-offs opened with a two-hour special about putting the crew together to take their place on the final frontier. In hindsight, having had years to grow old with these characters and watch their friendships (and personalities) deepen and broaden, it occurs to us that we never really say them come together for the first time.

All Those Years Ago... isn’t nearly as elaborate or as sophisticated as Vonda M. McIntyre’s Enterprise: The First Adventure, but it does hint at a growing curiosity about how the team came to work together.

Second star on the right...

Second star on the right…

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American Vampire, Vol. 4 (Review)

This October, to get us in the mood for Halloween, we’re taking a look at some awesome monster comics. Check back in every Monday this month for a review of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire Saga.

American Vampireis a wonderful vehicle for Scott Snyder to explore his obvious fascination with the social history of the United States. In this fourth volume of the series, Snyder brings the action into the fifties. The fifties time that seemed to be rife with great social change coming out of the Second World War. However, despite those origins, they would ultimately just serve as a prelude to the more dramatic social developments during the sixties. This collection of issues allows Snyder to hint on a number of familiar themes that fit quite well with the setting, including the conflict between old and new – something that has been at the heart of the series since the very beginning.

Grabbing the snake by the… whatever it is you grab snakes by…

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Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol. III (Review/Retrospective)

Darkness spreads across the land like a bone-chilling evening mist. It swirls, boils and froths.

Then, at the moment when midnight madness is at its greatest, the darkness takes form and substance and becomes a thing of hell-born horror.

This is… THE TOMB OF DRACULA.

Pray you can avoid its deadly embrace…

Sometimes classic movie monsters just look better in black and white, eh? Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan told pretty much a complete Tomb of Dracula epic in the seventy issues of the main title produced in the previous two omnibus collections. This third gigantic tome collects a lot of what might be considered “a Tomb of Dracula miscellany”, collecting various odds and ends from Marvel’s Draculacomics during the seventies to sort of expand and enhance the story told in the main title. It isn’t as consistent as that seventy-issue run, with a variety of weaving story threads, one-shots, text stories and a variety of artistic and authorial talent, but it’s still an interesting look at Marvel’s horror comics during the seventies.

Feed your Dracula addiction!

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