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Warren Ellis’ Run on Astonishing X-Men – Ghost Box, Exogenetic and Xenogenesis (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Astonishing X-Men is an interesting book. It was originally launched to allow Joss Whedon and John Cassaday to work on an X-Men title that was (mostly) free from the confines of the wider Marvel Universe at their own pace. However, when – after considerable delays – it finally finished, it seemed quite tough to figure out what to do with the book. Astonishing X-Men was selling too well to cancel outright, and Marvel had the opportunity to capitalise on its popularity and acclaim.

Assigning writer Warren Ellis to the title was quite a clever decision. While Ellis might lack the broader pop culture cache of Joss Whedon, he is a known and respected comic book writer. Allowing Warren Ellis to cut loose on a title usually results in a delightfully chaotic and exciting comic book that manages to stand apart from just about any mess of continuity that might have spawned it.

Storm warning...

Storm warning…

Ellis’ output on Astonishing X-Men is practically breathtaking. Ellis has a tendency to stay on mainstream superhero comics for relatively short runs. He worked on Secret Avengers for six months, and spent a year each on Ultimate Fantastic Four and Thunderbolts. Ellis tends to step into a superhero comic, shake things up rather brilliantly, and then walk away having made quite an impression. In many cases, Ellis’ short runs serve to define characters for years afterwards; look at Norman Osborn.

However, despite this reputation for short tenures on superhero comics, Ellis produced eighteen issues with the Astonishing X-Men brand; eleven issues of the main series, two issues of the Ghost Boxes miniseries and five issues of the Xenogenesis miniseries. That’s quite an impressive body of work. It is enough for a reasonably-sized omnibus collection. It allows Ellis a lot of room to play with his ideas, and also to make quite a mark on the central characters.

Having a blast...

Having a blast…

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Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis, Mike McKone & Jason Keith (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Warren Ellis is one of the great comic book writers. Ellis works in a bombastic larger-than-life style that is never too beholden to the current continuity of whatever company for which he is currently working and which remains accessible to just about anybody who might want to pick it. His Extremis remains the perfect introduction to Iron Man, while Ultimate Human is the most syner-tastic marketing tie-in ever written, its release coinciding with that of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.

At the same time, Ellis’ work-for-hire can occasionally feel a little reigned in, a little too relaxed and too casual – lacking the energy and enthusiasm of his stronger work. Sadly, Avengers: Endless Wartime is a book that never quite measures up to its potential. An original graphic novel written by Ellis and illustrated by Mike McKone, Endless Wartime has a wealth of clever ideas, but never manages to get too excited about any of them.

Some men just want to watch the world...

Some men just want to watch the world…

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Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr.’s Run on Thunderbolts (Review/Retrospective)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr.’s year-long twelve-issue run on Thunderbolts is a phenomenal piece of work from a mainstream comic book company. It’s an absurdly fun comic book – one that goes completely off the rails any number of times, moving with momentum of a runaway freight train. Ellis’ unhinged plotting and dialogue find a perfect partner in Deodato’s dark and moody (yet photo-realistic) artwork.

While Ellis includes quite a bit of social, political and even meta commentary in this year-long anti-hero team-up book, there’s a sense that Thunderbolts was written with an intention of going completely overboard, basking in the surreal absurdity of superhero storytelling conventions while playing with a selection of (mostly) second-tier characters that free Ellis’ hand significantly. There are few dependencies and obligations that Ellis has with this cast, allowing him to go to town with them.

In many respects, Thunderbolts feels like a slightly more cynical, slightly more grounded counterpart to his (roughly) contemporaneous Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Over course, “slightly more grounded” simply means that a middle-aged civil servant in a goblin outfit is the villain of the piece, rather than a hyper-intelligent talking dinosaur.

Norman Osborn is a perfectly sane individual...

Norman Osborn is a perfectly sane individual…

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Non-Review Review: Superman vs. The Elite

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Superman has struggled with his pop culture credibility for quite some time now. The character is seen as too old-fashioned or outdated to really resonate in the modern world, standing for an overly simplistic and unquestioning moral philosophy which doesn’t take into account the nuances of current realities. Superman vs. The Elite, adapted from Joe Kelly’s What’s so Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?, represents an attempt to counter this opinion of Superman as a character. Unfortunately, it never really does so be convincing us that the character is still relevant. Instead, it creates a bunch of convenient straw men to oppose our hero, and never allows him to win on his own terms.

Beware the Superman...

Beware the Superman…

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Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch, Vol. 1 (Hardcover) (Review)

Warren Ellis in free flow is a truly beautiful thing to watch. In the right frame of mind, working on the right idea, Ellis has a unique ability to throw out radical ideas, fascinating constructs and subversive notions, all without ever losing his step or his flow. With Bryan Hitch, Ellis’ acclaimed and respected run on The Authority firmly altered the trajectory of mainstream comic books. Part of it was definitely the style that Ellis and Hitch brought to the book, promising “widescreen” dynamic action. However, it was the ideas that gave the book a significant amount of weight. Ellis demonstrated that you could take realpolitick and graft it into a superhero book, lending the adventures a bit more depth, potency and relevance than any publisher would have dared attempt before. These ideas are all present in Ellis’ original run on Stormwatch, the series that led into that iconic game-changing comic book.

I blame it on the Weatherman…

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Batman/Planetary: Night on Earth (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Warren Ellis gets Batman. He gets all of Batman. he gets the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the Knight of Vengeance, the Bat-Man and more. He understands that the various pop culture iterations of the character, from Bob Kane’s gun-totting vigilante to Adam West’s “peace officer” to Frank Miller’s one-man army, are all just different facets of the same idea, reflected differently in various takes on the character. It’s hard to reconcile all of these different interpretations – in fact, I’d argue that Grant Morrison’s Batman run suffered for making the attempt – but Ellis does it with remarkable style, without every seeming like he’s cramming too much in or leaving too much out.

I am Batman. All of them.

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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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