Friday, March 23, 2007

Thoughts on Marvel, Iron Man, and the Avengers

I'm a total Johnny DC. I wouldn't spend money on a Marvel comic (except maybe Nextwave), and I only own two: Captain America #1 (a free promotional gift from my friendly local comics shop) and Marvel: 1602 (a birthday present from a dear friend of mine who knows I like Neil Gaiman as much as he does). I've been following this whole Civil War hullabaloo over Teh Intarwebs, but only so I can say, "Y'know, this would never happen at DC."

I read The Mighty Avengers #1 at Barnes & Noble yesterday, mainly since I knew I wouldn't get busted for reading it in the shop, but also since I was curious. For reasons I'm not sure I can articulate, the conceit of the pro-establishment super-team appeals to me (even though I'm borderline anarchist myself) -- Justice Society of America, for instance, is one of my favorite comics. Since Marvel made it abundantly clear that the pro-Registration side was the "wrong" side (even though they won in the end), I wanted to see how writer Bendis would work with a morally bankrupt team of sellouts.

So here are my thoughts. Time to bust out my all-time favorite HTML tag... Unordered List Powers: ACTIVATE!

  • First of all, I am a huge fan of the concept of Iron Man, even if I think Tony Stark is an insufferable asshole. I think the basic idea of a super-powered suit of armor is totally cool. Amazing powers, of course, are part and parcel of the whole adolescent power fantasy angle of super-heroics (which as I've said before isn't a completely bad thing). However, characters like the Thing, the Hulk, and even Superman are hampered by their powers: in the former two cases, they're obviously marked as different and kept at arm's length by the people they're out to help, and Superman too feels a sort of tragic distance from normal humans. Even characters who can change back and forth between normal and super identities -- Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, etc. -- have that abnormal element from which they can't divorce themselves. But Iron Man can just take his powers off. That's quite a concept. He's a completely normal human guy who's simply made himself a set of removable super-powers; if he ever feels too disconnected from humanity, he can just take the suit off.
  • Mind you, I still think Tony Stark is a self-centered asshole with questionable morals, screwed-up priorities, a painfully racist nemesis, and an ugly mustache. He's just got one bitchin' suit is all.
  • I know who Iron Man, the Wasp, and Ms. Marvel are, but I have only the vaguest idea of who Ares and Black Widow are, and no clue about the Sentry or Wonder Man. Who are these people? I can't really get a feel for Sentry, but Wonder Man comes off as kind of a prick.
  • What's up with Ms. Marvel? She strikes me as Marvel's answer to Power Girl. Both blond power-houses who lead the resident pro-establishment team and are there mainly for the T&A. Of course, where Power Girl has an awesome personality that defines her beyond her looks, Ms. Marvel comes off as more or less a good-looking cipher. And Carol, for the love of all that is good, tone down that costume. We don't need to see your thighs all the way up to your ribcage. If Cho would draw that costume as more of a reasonable one-piece swimsuit and less of a full-body thong, I'd like it a lot more.
  • Will Wasp ever shut up about shopping and fashion? Lots of women are into that, and it's cool, but it's all Janet ever talks about.
  • As the ever-lovin' Loren Javier pointed out, the team is rather lacking in diversity. Now, this usually doesn't jump out at me (I'm white; I try my damnedest to be racially sensitive, but it'd be a joke if I claimed I always succeed) and I probably wouldn't be commenting on it if Loren hadn't pointed it out first, but when I think about it strikes me as odd that Marvel's foremost super-team is all white. Then again, as Loren also notes, the anti-Reg team, the New Avengers, is really very diverse. I do wonder if this wasn't intentional on the editors' parts to make a statement about the two teams' priorities.
  • Now to actually comment on the comic itself, I like Brian Michael Bendis's writing... in very small doses. His attempts to write "natural dialog" are amusing for a few issues, but get old really fast; I couldn't bear to read this for an extended period. He makes good use of thought balloons, though.
  • Likewise, Frank Cho is a great artist, but the rampant T&A is just tiresome. Please, Frankie, tone it down.
  • The story was OK, I guess. I was really paying more attention to the characters than the plot. Poor Mole Man, tho'.
  • Is it just me, or is Girl-Ultron a dead-ringer for Wasp? Considering the robot was originally created by Janet's ex-husband, that's kinda creepy.
  • Does this mean Iron Man is dead? Please, Lordy, tell me this means Iron Man is dead.
  • All in all, it compares pretty well to Justice Society of America #4, which I read the day before. I've already pointed out the similarities between the books, but I think the differences really highlight why I'm a Johnny DC and not a Marvel Zombie. As someone in the blogosphere (I can't recall who) pointed out, Marvel seems more interested in publishing comics that read like wide-screen movies, and their creators seem slightly embarrassed to be working in the comics medium. DC, on the other hand, sells comics that read like comics and their creators are damn proud of it.


DJ Black Adam said...

The Wasp NEVER stops talking about shopping, she's been doing it since I was a kid reading the Avengers whne Gene Colon was drawing them.

As for Stark, I have a dream...(insert squiggly dream sequence lines here)

Black Adam arrives in the 616 after leaving the Rock of Eternity and flying through a temporal / spatial anomaly. He is greated by Stark and some Cape Hunters from SHEILD.

Iron Man: Identify Yourself! You are in direct violation of US Law

Black Adam: Fool. I will give you and your fellows exactly 10 seconds to go on your way as I find my way home.

Iron Man: You have been warned!!

(He then shoots a repulser beem at Black Adam, who basically shrugs).

Black Adam: You have made a fatal mistake, and now you and your companions shall pay dearly for it!

(Well, you can only guess what happens next! lol)

Filby said...

Black Adam and the Hulk need to get together and go totally apeshit on both universes!