The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 42: Marvel Comics – Deadpool, Daughters Of The Dragon, Dr. Strange, and The Exiles

Deadpool – Deadpool Classic Vol. 1

Deadpool might be the last original Marvel character to really gain mainstream popularity. When you consider that he was created almost 20 years ago, it shows how much people care about the current slate Marvel characters.

His popularity is mystifying to me. I will give a no-prize to anyone that can give me even one reason why the character still endures. Rereading this collection of his first few solo mini series did nothing to change my mind. The fun, cartoony art by Ed McGuinness and Joe Madureira are overshadowed  by the infantile humour and poor pacing, and I’m more than a little embarrassed that I bought this in the first place.

CULL

 

Daughters Of The Dragon – Samurai Bullets

Sometimes the math doesn’t add up. I’ve long been a fan of these former supporting cast members, not to mention that I love the writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. I also think that Khari Evans has a lot of potential, and has a big future in store for her in the comic biz. Then why don’t I like this more? I think it’s because they are trying to tell so many types of story at once (superhero, kung-fu, blaxploitation), that they lose their focus, and forget to tell a cohesive one. Although there’s some joy here, it’s ultimately not compelling enough to keep.

CULL

Doctor Strange – Master Of The Mystic Arts

This is a digest collection of some the good Doctor’s earliest adventures by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Brief primer: Former great surgeon goes to Tibet to regain the use of his hands after a terrible accident. He meets the Ancient One, a Tibetan yoda that teaches him how to become Earth’s greatest sorcerer. These are breathtaking stories, and Ditko was never stronger than his work on this 1960’s mind-fuck.  Unfortunately the digest format doesn’t do this amazing work justice, but I’ll keep it until I can replace it with the Marvel Masterworks version. Essential for fans of 1960’s Marvel comics.

KEEP

Doctor Strange – The Oath

Doctor Strange is probably the most successful Marvel character never to have his own successful series. There have been numerous shortlived attempts at doing more with Doctor Strange, but it’s never seemed to work, and for the most part Marvel seems content at using Strange as it’s resident deus magical ex machina. The Oath was a mini from a few years ago, written by Brian K. Vaughan, with some incredible art by Marcos Martin. This a little-known gem of a story, one that focuses a little more on the Doctor part of the character than the Strange part. Although Brian Vaughan is more known for his creator-owned comics, this is one of my favourites of the superhero work that he’s done.

KEEP

Exiles – Exiles, A World Apart, Out Of Time, Legacy, Unnatural, Fantastic Voyage, Time Breakers, Age Of Apocalypse, Bump In The Night, A Blink In Time, Earn Your Wings, World Tour Book 1 and 2, The New Exiles Enemy Of The Stars, Starting Over

This is the kind of series that gets launched regularly by both major publishers, but rarely seem to work for any period of tine. The concept was designed to take advantage of the endless amounts of alternate universes that Marvel seems to create on a weekly basis. The Exiles were a team of characters tangentially related to the X-Men. They were comprised of characters from different alternate realities, all teaming up to solve “cracks” in the multi-verse. No, I don’t know what that means either. I do know that what should have been another generic team book became one of the more interesting straight superhero books that Marvel published in the first half of the last decade. At least that’s how it started. But the reason why the book worked wasn’t the characters, it was writer Judd Winick, and the minute he left the book, it didn’t take long for it to become yet another bland superhero comic.

Why? Character vs. Plot. Winick is a character guy, and he spent a lot of time crafting a team of well-rounded, two dimensional character, with some real emphasis on their relationships, both romantic and otherwise. When Tony Bedard too over the book, character got pushed down in favour of crazy, intricate plots, involving as many alternate realities as possible. While some of those stories were readable, any hint of “specialness” that the book previously had was soon gone. By the time Chris Claremont started to write it, the book was just downright awful.

Exiles, A World Apart, Out Of Time, Legacy, Unnatural, Fantastic Voyage: KEEP

Time Breakers, Age Of Apocalypse, Bump In The Night, A Blink In Time, Earn Your Wings, World Tour Book 1 and 2, The New Exiles Enemy Of The Stars, Starting Over: CULL

Next up: the Fantastic Four!

 

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Wednesday Comics Woundup: The Great Depression, and Dragons

Four Eyes Vol. 1: Forged In Flames by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara. Published by Image Comics.

4 Eyes

6 eyes actually, but who's counting

Yes, that Joe Kelly. Deadpool Joe Kelly. Action Comics #775 Joe Kelly. Superhero workhorse Joe Kelly.

It was with some reluctance that I picked up Kelly’s I Kill Giants last year. It had gotten LOTS of positive reviews, but I’ve never warmed to Kelly’s supehero work, and for better or worse I’ve always considered him to be not much more than a poor man’s Chuck Dixon. To my pleasant suprise, I liked it quite a bit, and it made me think that there might be an actual writer underneath the superhero shlock he had been peddling for years. So when Newsarama posted the first issue of his latest series for free, I was happy to give it a shot, and was more than a little shocked to find myself ordering the trade about 5 minutes later.

Four Eyes is the story of Enrico, a boy living in a Great Depression era Manhattan very much like ours, but with one exception: Dragons. They’re an endagered species, and as with anything that’s illegal, there’s a huge black market business to be had regarding the exploitation of said creatures. Enrico’s family is inextricably tied to these creatures, in more ways than one.

This is a character story. Archetypical characters, to be precise, and a case could be made for some of them bordering on stereotype. There’s the plucky young hero looking to avenge the death of his father, as well as  the grief-consumed mother, oblivious to her surroundings. We also have an  honour-bound mob boss, and a wise old black mentor. Schlocky? Not on your life. These familiar characters are what makes this story work so well. I can’t say there are a lot of surprises, and the story progresses pretty much the way you think it would. It’s not the twists and turns that impressed me, it’s how artfully Kelly steers the ship. I couldn’t believe how sophisticated his pacing has become, and he always spends exactly the right amount of time on each character or story beat. While you might read a more original story this year, I doubt you’ll read one that’s laid out any better than this.

Enrico is in a lot of trouble

Which brings us to the art. Although I’ve seen Max Fiumara’s stuff before, I had no idea he was capable of work like this. His human characters have a slightly cartoony feel that reminded me a little of Jeff Smith’s work on Rasl, and while I could see his style not working in other settings, it sets a perfect tone for this story. And then there’s the dragons. My god, the dragons. Fiumara has created some of the most beautiful monsters to be found outside of a Hellboy book. 

This is an excellent adventure story, with great character motivation, and a unique setting. The first four issues stand well on their own, but I can honestly say that I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m also glad to rediscover a writer I had previously dismissed, and I’m looking forward to going back giving his previous work another shot. And possibly hating it even more, but there you go.
Rating: A