Just in time for Christmas my Pick of the Week is “Klaus” #1, a telling of the origin of Santa Claus written by Grant Morrison with art by Dan Mora. This first issue of a six issue mini-series is fun, if a little depressing, setting the stage for the eventual emergence of Santa Claus to bring joy to the world. More specifically, the issue is about the man who would become Santa Claus who comes to a town that he knew to have once been joyful and happy only to find it now dark and depressing and the need to do something about it with the help of weird psychedelic aliens. The first issue was a great read and I can’t wait for the rest of the series, but honestly, given Morrison’s pedigree, I thought there would be more weirdness.
One of the things I love about comics is their ability to continually reinvent old concepts for new times and audiences, such as Frank Miller’s Batman and Scott Snyder’s Batman or Kurt Busiek’s and George Perez’s Avengers and Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers. Now, we get a reinvention of the James Bond franchise for comics in the form of Warren Ellis’ and Jason Masters’ “James Bond 007: Vargr” #1.
I’m not the biggest James Bond fan, but I’ve seen all of the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films (I thought Brosnan’s became a bit too campy and think Craig’s are a bit too serious) and I’m slowly making my way through the older films, having seen all of the Sean Connery and George Lazenby films and the first three Roger Moore films (I thought Connery’s films were the best, thought Lazenby was too sentimental, and think Moore is a bit too arrogant/brash in the role). Of the original novels, I haven’t read any. All of that is context for my saying that I really enjoyed the first issue of “Vargr”.
With “Vargr”, we get a new James Bond exclusive to comics, along with new versions of M, Q, and Moneypenny — familiar, yet new and fresh at the same time. We also get the familiar Bond trappings such as a cold open and the promise of a villain with unusual or peculiar qualities. It’s a James Bond we can all recognize, yet for me it feels more pure than the films because we’re not tied to any one actor’s portrayal of Bond. Ellis seems to be channeling the essence of Bond, rather than writing for the qualities of a particular actor. In a sense, Ellis has reinvented/rebooted/revived Bond for comics and it’s pretty good stuff, and this continual reinvention of older concepts is something comics does so well and one of the reasons why I love the medium.
“The Infinity Gauntlet”, by co-writer/artist Dustin Weaver and co-writer Gerry Duggan, was probably the one “Secret Wars” mini that I underappreciated the most. This mini wasn’t as flashy as the others, the others mainly being nostalgically-based on well-known and well-loved crossover events, while this one, also based on a popular crossover event, probably was trying to capture an audience based on interest in the infinity stones surrounding the Marvel cinematic universe (the gratuitous inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy helps to support this theory).
I was picking up this book (1) based on my love of Weaver’s art and (2) based on my interest in the infinity stones.
(1) Weaver’s art is great as always, and he pulls double duty co-writing with scripter Duggan.
(2) While this story does feature the infinity stones and does have an infinity gauntlet (two, in fact), I feel that the use of the title “The Infinity Gauntlet” is a bit misleading. From the title, I was expecting a universe-spanning epic, but instead I got a family survival drama of sorts.
The mini didn’t really end up being what I expected when I decided to pick it up, but that’s OK because the art and writing turned out to be pretty good and I love surprises. Weaver’s art is great and detailed and kinetic, Duggan’s scripting is nice and concise, and the story, despite it not meeting my universe-spanning expectations, managed to still draw me into the survival of a Nova Corps-deputized family ultimately fighting off against a power hungry Thanos. Issue 5 alone features a Nova Corps-deputized dog, two Thanos fighting to the death, a Nova Corps-deputized Groot, a Thanos-fighting mecha suit, and Thanos getting served — this is what comics are made for. (But seriously, Weaver’s art is worth the cover price alone.)
Picking up where their last “Ant-Man” series left off (being interrupted by “Secret Wars” and all), writer Nick Spencer and artist Ramon Rosanas seamlessly return to Ant-Man with the new “The Astonishing Ant-Man” series. Honestly, besides the promotional push a new #1 gives, I don’t see any reason why this new “The Astonishing Ant-Man” #1 couldn’t have been “Ant-Man” #6, or “Ant-Man” #7 if you also count “Ant-Man: Last Days” #1, but whatever, I’m not a profit-driven, variant-slash-#1-exploitative, marketing-guru genius who gets to decide all of that stuff. What I can say is that Spencer and Rosanas continue with “The Astonishing Ant-Man” the tremendous fun that they brought to their original “Ant-Man” run (which just concluded like only a couple of months ago).
Now, I’ve been enjoying the various relaunches that have come out of “Secret Wars”, and before reading “The Astonishing Ant-Man” I was considering whether the new “Invincible Iron Man”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”, or “Sam Wilson: Captain America” should be the Pick of the Week, but then I read “The Astonishing Ant-Man” #1 and realized that this book HAD to be the Pick of the Week. Why? Well, all of those other titles are marquee titles — we expect those titles to be consistently good, to always be top tier, A-level quality stuff. Ant-Man, on the other hand, we don’t expect much of, either as a character or as a comic book series. And that’s why it’s always a genuine treat and surprise that this Ant-Man run has been as good as it is. The character has consistently been under-estimated, under-valued, under-appreciated, and over-looked (something that could also be said for the character’s own comic book titles), and it’s great seeing the character deal with these issues in a series as well-crafted as “Ant-Man”, err…, “The Astonishing Ant-Man”.
Wow! What an amazing wrap-up to an amazing new series! When I first heard it was being launched I was a little skeptical about the new “Ms. Marvel”, a series centered around a young, female, Muslim superhero. I’m not a fan of doing something just for the sake of doing something, and Marvel seemed to be creating a young, female, Muslim superhero just for the sake of having a young, female, Muslim superhero and for being able to check off diversity checkboxes*. I only picked up the series for Adrian Alphona’s art, which I’ve sorely missed since his “Runaways” days. But, to my surprise, “Ms. Marvel”, under the pen of G. Willow Wilson, was actually pretty good. And nineteen issues later we have the wrap-up to the first volume of “Ms. Marvel”.
“Ms. Marvel” was great because it was character-based, focusing on Kamala Khan (learning to be a superhero after gaining Inhuman powers) and her family, friends, and religious lifestyle and duties. It was great seeing Khan struggling to deal with her superheroic, familial, and school responsibilities, something I haven’t really seen since the early days of “Amazing Spider-Man”. More to the point, I’ll say this: Kamala Khan is the new Peter Parker.
To illustrate how character-based “Ms. Marvel” is, issue 19, the final issue of the initial volume, doesn’t even have Khan in costume or using her powers! It’s all character resolutions in the face of impending doom, and for me, when this character action is done well, it is a hell of a lot more entertaining and interesting than costumed superheroics**.
All in all, this was an amazing wrap-up to an amazing series, and I can’t wait for volume 2.
* For a bad example of diversity-for-diversity’s-sake, see DC’s new “Doctor Fate” series, which is a pale imitation of “Ms. Marvel”.
** The impending doom is the incursion/collision of two earths that kicks off the “Secret Wars” crossover event. One of the things that I love about comics is the shared universe concept, especially when an individual title can tie into a crossover event but still do its own thing, as “Ms. Marvel” does.