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Avengers Disassembled: Iron Man – The Singularity (Review/Retrospective)

And so I’ve finished my trek through the tie-ins to Avengers Disassembled. And it was surprisingly painful. Sure, Robert Kirkman’s Captain America at least made sense if you looked at it from the right angle, and Mike Oeming’s Thor was one of the best stories to feature the character, but the Invincible Iron Man and Captain America & Falcon tie-ins serve to illustrate just how lost some of Marvel’s top books were at the time. The Invincible Iron Man actually had two arcs tying into the big event, from two very different creative teams, perhaps illustrating that Marvel was aware of this fundamental dysfunction. Unfortunately, neither is especially impressive, and both feel like they are simply treading water, waiting for Avengers Disassembled to put the book out of its misery.

Things look Stark…

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume IV (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

What’s weird about the fourth ane penultimate volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ superb superhero political science fiction mish-mash comic book is simple how much fun it is. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the first three volumes were anything less than superb, but there’s a sense of playfulness in this volume which just makes it seem like the creators are have the time of their lives. I was worried after the last volume that the underlying “conspiracy” story would overwhelm the saga as it reached completion, but it’s still just as fascinating and unpredictable as it was back when it began.

Justice for all?

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume III (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

We’re at the half-way point in this saga of the superhero mayor of New York City, so that means that Vaughan and Harris are turning things up a few notches. The three central threads of the series – Mayor Hundred’s time in office, his history as a superhero and the conspiracy surrounding his origin – are beginning to intertwine and collide in a variety of interesting ways. Being entirely honest, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about how the series hopes to balance all these different elements, particularly with a relatively short run of fifty issues. As things begin to move to a head, it becomes clear which of these particular threads that Vaughan is going to focus on.

Talk about catching the bus...

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Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition – Volume II (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Ex Machina. And in June, I’ll be reviewing his Y: The Last Man.

It’s interesting how times change. Ex Machina was originally published in August 2004, written by a New Yorker as something of a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It’s an exploration of a time when the country needed heroes and figureheads more than it needed politicians and diplomats. Is a superhero in Gracie Mansion any more insane than a cowboy in the White House? However, reading it now it’s interesting to see the similarities between Vaughan’s protagonist, the Honorable Mayor Mitchell Hundred, and Barack Obama. It’s the sign of a good storyteller that the tale remains relevant years after initial publication. It’s the sign of a great storyteller that the tale becomes even more relevant in the years that follow.

He's got the whole world, in his hands...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 5 (Stars My Destination)

The Starman Omnibus, Volume V covers a very rocky period in the history of the Starman mythos. The wonderful thing about the little after-words that James Robinson has provided for each of these volumes by way of annotation is that they offer you a hint of the context of everything that is going on around the series. Starman as a series had just lost an editor in Archie Goodwin and an artist in Tony Harris. Robinson himself was going through some very personal issues, and he confessed that he was seriously considering just hanging up the reigns on the book.

He didn’t, and ultimately saw the comic book through its full 80-issue run, but it gives you a sense of the instability surrounding the title at that period of time. And what did Robinson do with, with everything so uncertain around the book? He moved the series from the streets of Opal City into the depths of DC’s shared cosmic universe and took on David S. Goyer as a co-plotter for Stars My Destination, which was an interesting direction for one of the nineties’ most down-to-earth characters.

A "cluster" of Starmen?

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 4

It did take me a while to get into the series, but it’s hard to describe James Robinson’s fantastic superhero saga as anything other than mandatory reading material for anyone with an interest in the genre, its history or its evolution. Starman was the comic book of the nineties, and a fresh look at an already classic concept. Alan Moore picked apart the superhero genre in Watchmen, declaring that the medium was growing creatively bankrupt. Robinson seems intent to prove otherwise. Brick by brick and strand by strand, Robinson has painstakingly given us one of the most interesting and complex creations in the medium. Often exploring and questioning the roots and the clichés of the superhero genre, Robinson is prone to revel in them. If we are interested in the evolution of the genre, Starman is the book for you.

Everything is better with Nazis...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 3

What makes a hero? Is it a cosmic rod and a kick-ass pair of glare-reducing goggles? Is it being a “grim avenger full of hate for the bad” (one of Robinson’s more subtle jabs at Batman during this run)? Or is it simply “doing what’s right because it is”? Is it the honest desire to make the world a better place with “no vengeful motivation” or “nothing ulterior”? We may be getting ahead of ourselves here, but James Robinson really digs into what constitutes a ‘true’ hero here, looking at the classic simplistic conception of the superhero, rejecting the violence of the anti-hero or the deconstruction which has crept into comics over the past few years (mostly in lieu of character development or to seem darker and edgier). Is that what a hero is?

I don’t know, but I find myself agreeing with Batman. No matter how you cut it, Jack Knight is a hero.

A knight in shining armour...

A Knight in shining armour...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 2

Now we’re getting into it. It seems that Robinson has got all the setup necessary to move the story forward out of the way (or at least the bulk of it) and that Tony Harris has finally found his feet on the series. This collection moves a lot more fluidly than the last one – partially due to the fact that it closes as many threads as it opens, but also because Robinson is no free of having to establish the series’ premise and can now focus on the stories that he wants to tell (almost, we’ll come to the exceptions). Those stories are – by and large – reflective studies of what is known as “The Golden Age” of comic books: the 1930s and 1940s. What happened to the world between then and now? What happened to the heroes? Was it ever really the kinder gentler place we recall?

christmasknight

And it's our first Chrismas-themed image... Earlier every year...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1

I’m not quite sure what to make of the collection. I know it’s the first of six volumes which will include the entire 80-issue run of James Robinson’s reimagining the concept (plus extras) and I know that it’s the opening chapter of a much more expansive story. And I know that – as a story – it is structured in a much more dynamic and interesting way than most other superhero adventures. But I’m not feeling it. At least not yet.

jackknight

No hero here(o)...

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