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Realm of Kings (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fifteenth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

Realm of Kings is a strange little chapter in the cosmic saga that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been drafting. It seems to exist not really as a story in its own terms (although it does contain some interesting narratives) but rather as a bridge between War of Kings and The Thanos Imperative. It’s essentially the story of an attempt to find stability in a radically warped universe, one turned upside down by recent events. It feels somewhat smaller in scope than the other events that the pair have produced, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s nice to see a series exploring the consequences and aftermath of what has occurred, rather than simply pushing on right into the next big thing. While Realm of Kings does focus on “the Fault” opened at the climax of War of Kings that will become a galactic threat in The Thanos Imperative, the three miniseries are at their best when they explore the consequences of the political instability that the intergalactic war has produced.

That's gonna be Thor tomorrow...

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Matt Fraction’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Nation X (Review/Retrospective)

I am doing a weekly look at Marvel’s complicated crossover chronology, following various key crossovers to see if they might give me a better idea of what I’m missing by avoiding mainstream comic book continuity. While – with The Avengers due for release in 2012 – I am focusing on the stories told featuring those characters over the past five years, I also have time for the X-Men. While this isn’t strictly speaking a crossover, it is a series of issues which connect Utopia to Second Coming, so I figured it was worth a look.

Utopia ended with a heck of a plot twist. Cyclops decided that his merry band of mutants have had enough of being looked down upon in New York and , more recently, San Francisco, so he decides to build himself an island from the remains of Magneto’s “Asteroid M” just off the San Francisco Bay. Announcing the new nation of “Utopia”, he declares the island a haven for mutants. Nation X provides a hardcover collection of the issues from Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men which bridge the gap between Utopia and Second Coming, as well as the four-issue Nation X anthology miniseries. And, while it’s a decidedly uneven reading experience, I have to admit that some of Fraction’s portrayal of the mutant team is a little bit interesting – even if most is slightly boring and deeply convoluted.

Magneto has a magnetic personality...

Note: This collection opens with Dark Reign tie-in X-Men: The List written by Matt Fraction and following an attempted assassination attempt on Namor by Norman Osborn. Accordingly, I think I should open this review with a link to Abhay’s quite excellent article on the issue, which – among some more serious points – suggests that Namor is starring in his own private version of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Seriously, check it out.

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Final Crisis (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. Later on today, we’ll be reviewing Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, so I thought I might take a look at a comic book tale which was heavy on Superman, Darkseid and Batman…

This epic elegy for a doomed civilisation, declining from splendor to squalor. This Final Crisis. This last ditch attempt to save creation itself from a loathing and greed beyond measure.

– Grant Morrison outlines the whole point of the book, in case you weren’t paying attention… in a narration which deserves to be read in the most pompously ridiculous style possible

Look, I could hitch a ride back with you. I have a real talent for gritty drama no one’s ever thought to exploit.

– Merryman makes a pitch for “relevance” in the hopes of escaping comic book “limbo”

Destruction or creation. Everything or nothing. A universe full or a universe empty. Life or anti-life. Grant Morrison certainly lives up to his reputation as a frustrating and challenging author – is Final Crisis the statement of a genre looking to make peace with itself, or nonsensical Silver Age surrealism repackaged for a modern world? Is it pretentious or profound? Insightful or devoid of interest? Can’t it be both, or are these mutually exclusive states?

We all knew Obama was Superman…

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Civil War (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fourth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of modern continuity. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Civil War was Marvel’s big event of 2006-7, and – as this lovely deluxe edition loves to remind you – it was “the industry’s best selling series in over a the decade”. The premise of the series is straight-forward enough – it’s a conflict between the heroes of the Marvel Universe (it’s all there in the title) – and perhaps that is the reason that the series has arguably had more crossover mainstream appeal than the vast majority of comic book crossovers. Marvel have produced a lovely deluxe hardcover which contains just about everything you could possibly want from the event, it’s just a shame I’m not overly impressed by the event itself.

I'm sure we can iron this out...

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers – New Avengers Vol. 1-2 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

This is the first in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Alright. I figure I sound a bit hypocritical complaining about the impact of big events on Marvel’s storytelling continuity without reading said big events. Well, actually, I don’t think I’m a hypocrite – I think it’s perfectly reasonably that a reader should be able to pick up Ed Brubaker’s Captain America without having to worry about Mark Millar’s massive Civil War crossover which they either don’t know enough to care about or know enough not to care about. However, I feel like maybe – just maybe – I should try to ride this “cross-continuity” thing out just once and see if the story somehow justifies the damage it causes to the cohesion of individual runs.  Yes, I’m going to jump head-first into the event-populated minefield of continuity which is recent Marvel history, and I will be using New Avengers as a checklist to that. I’m going down the rabbit hole, following the arc from Civil War through to Siege.

Sentry is responsible for the Carnage in this run...

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Wednesday Comics

Hawkman unsheathes his knife and crawls into the gasping T-Rex’s jaws, thinking “Sadly, this is not the craziest thing I’ve ever done.”

– Hawkman

Wednesday Comics is an amazing little experiment, a bit of comic book nostalgia delivered by some of the most talented people in the business with a smile on their face and a skip in their step. For those who don’t know, DC Comics – always the more boldly experimental of the two major companies – ran a twelve-week collection of newspaper comic strips. Fifteen strips bundled together, the reader was offered one page of a given comic at a time on a super-sized newspaper sheet, with a full story told week-on-week. It was a bold little experiment and while the whole is almost certainly greater than the sum of its parts, there’s much to love here.

There in a Flash...

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The Best of Both Worlds: A Retrospective

I am Locutus – of Borg. Resistance – is futile. Your life, as it has been – is over. From this time forward, you will service – us.

– Locutus introduces himself

I only found out last week that The Best of Both Worlds is twenty years old this June. For those unfamiliar with the title, it’s the two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which represented both the franchise’s first real cliffhanger (there was a two-part episode of the original series, but that was simply to incorporate a framing device around the original unaired pilot, The Cage – which featured an (almost) completely different cast) and the first real showcase of perhaps the franchise’s most iconic antagonists, the Borg. It’s also a damn good two hours of television.

Picard could always spot a square...

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