THE FANTASTIC MESS
The FANTASTIC FOUR lost writer Mark Waid last week, when Marvel fired him from the title. You think he'd have learned by now that he has no luck when it comes to Marvel. Look at the track record: CAPTAIN AMERICA (twice), KA-ZAR, X-MEN. It's a hex. There're no excuses for it. It's fate. Waid is meant to write elsewhere.
The startling part of the whole mess last week was the way the Internet melted down from reaction to it. There's one big conclusion that can be drawn from the whole mess, and it's this: Bill Jemas is right about Internet fanboys. I've never seen such hysteria and rampant melodrama in my life. People asked for their money back on issues they were calling the best FANTASTIC FOUR in decades. Petitions started. People claimed they were going to boycott "NuMarvel" (or whatever other silly little nickname they came up with) for this, just as they planned to boycott Marvel for canceling SPIDER-GIRL (two or three times now). Or making the Beast into a dog. Or killing Magneto (for at least the third time). Or giving Bill Jemas a book to write. Or not reprinting books. Or any of another half dozen "slights" they felt were perpetrated against them in the past two years.
And yet you still wonder why Bill Jemas doesn't take you seriously, Fanboy? You couldn't even respond with a hint of civility. Name-calling became the order of the day, and ad hominem attacks quickly became the norm.
The Newsarama web site broke down, and the message boards are still down because of the traffic spike now, nearly a week later. The Bendis message forum on Image's web site (where the Waid rumor first surface) was down for the better part of two days. And all of this is for a book many people posting to these message boards admitted to not liking or not reading. They just needed to be outraged about something. It's hip on the Internet to hide behind your silly anonymous moniker and strike out against people with any kind of power.
When Joe Quesada responded to the situation late on Monday, he was hammered again, for any possible reason Fandom Assembled could come up with. There were even complaints that it took him too long to respond. It took less than 24 hours, and people still complained about how slow it was. Instant gratification is a big thing for the Fanboy, it seems. Damned MTV generation.
As Peter David even pointed out, the two statements from Quesada and Waid didn't even contradict each other. They dovetailed pretty easily. Yes, Quesada's had a bit of extra embarrassing corporate rah-rah to it, but what did you expect? Waid seemed to be calm and clear about the matter. Quesada chose his words carefully and cleared the record. It was only the Fanboy left to go off, often half-cocked.
The only thing that slowed down the insanity was when The Pulse announced that the new writer was a playwright whose biggest claim to fame was writing a play about a gay Archie Andrews. That stopped things dead in their tracks. After all, how do you protest this without looking homophobic? I couldn't wait to see how the throngs would handle it. Sure enough, reaction was calm by comparison, and quickly got into a circular argument involving word definitions. Surely, that's the end of an on-line argument. When all parties involved start picking apart word choice and every argument must be parsed with such a fine tooth comb, there's a chilling effect. It's only a half-step from there to a mention of Hitler to close the thread entirely.
Thank goodness the message boards are still down at Newsarama, because their interview with the new writer is, as they mention, a mirror image of what Waid talked about when he started the book. Only one conclusion can be drawn from this -- it's about more than a change of direction. There's something more going on behind the scenes with Mark Waid and Marvel. This wouldn't be anything new, by the way, for Waid. Look at RUSE.
In fact, has Waid had any extended run on a book, besides THE FLASH?
I don't mean for this to be an attack on Waid. I'm just putting the pieces together here that are available for all to see who aren't blinded by their rage against the current Marvel administration. (Please note that I am not using the word "regime" here.)
I'm not defending Marvel's decision-making here, either. Losing Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo for FANTASTIC FOUR is a major loss to their line. Like many, THE FANTASTIC FOUR fascinated me for the first time thanks to this creative team. I've read it on and off in the past. Walter Simonson/Art Adam's brief run ten years ago was a highlight. I've read and enjoyed some of John Byrne's work on the title. I even liked a few issues of the Claremont-written series. But I've never enjoyed it as much as I have these past few months. I'll give the new guy a chance, but it's going to be a tough sell.
To me, the biggest story of the past week was the insanity and hysteria that ran rampant on the Internet, proving every negative thing Bill Jemas has ever uttered about the Internet to be true. You blew it, Fanboys. You lost it. You look smaller than ever, and your collective voice just turned into a whisper. The aforementioned petition has just under 500 signatures as of this writing. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of thousands of readers the book has. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously now? Bill Jemas won this round. Again.
Looking back, I can't help but wonder what the reaction would have been if the internet had been this large back in the days when Heroes Reborn was announced. I was on CompuServe and USENET back then. As bad a reputation as USENET has, it's nothing compared to what we witnessed this week. The word "fantrum" was coined over at The Pulse. It's fitting.
Now excuse me while I have the temerity to enjoy the rest of the Waid/Wieringo run, completely apart from matters of company politics. It's too late to change what's happened here, but let's hope that Fandom has learned something from it.
And, as Rich Johnston points out in his column this week, we still have EMPIRE to look forward to. That's a book Waid can't be fired from, and is every bit as entertaining.
PIPELINE HITS THE CONVENTION CIRCUIT
I was recently invited to be part of a special panel discussion at the San Diego Comic Con this year. Called "Comic Reviewer Web Sites," it will run on the Thursday of the convention in Room 8 from 5:30-7pm. If you so wish, you can come close out the first full day of the convention with a dais packed with four or five of us Internet loudmouths. I'll leave it to the others to announce their appearance there, but you will recognize their names. It should be cool.
I'm also scheduled to take part in a second panel on Saturday afternoon, but I'll get back to that in the coming weeks after those announcements are made official.
I always thought it would be cool to be part of a panel and have my name in the con booklet. It's a real honor to be part of this. We'll see how it goes. I'm sure we'll have full coverage of it that night. Pipeline will be updating nightly from the con, if all goes according to plan.
LEAGUE OF SECOND THOUGHTS
When WildStorm/ABC released LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN about four years ago, I didn't make it past the first issue. It was a matter of personal taste for me at the time. Kevin O'Neill's art has never been a favorite of mine, and Alan Moore's story was filled with obscure characters from 19th century fiction of which I'm unacquainted. There was a Sherlock Holmes reference I liked, but that wasn't enough for me at the time. (OK, I knew Jekyll and Hyde, but that's about it.)
The series has since developed a cult fan following of its own and is set to debut on the silver screen shortly. When my local comics shoppe put the first trade paperback on sale this week, I figured it was time to give the book a second chance.
I'm glad I did. What I discovered was a smart gem, weaving in countless literary allusions without tripping up a story that sucks you in. I'm sure I only caught a small number of the allusions ("Call me Ishmael" cracked me up), but I'll be looking at the annotations in the coming days to find more. Moore plays all of the characters and their histories subtly. He never stops the story to explain to the reader who the characters are. It's well done, although at times frustrating. I want to know everything about these characters so that I can fully understand them. I know I don't need it for the purposes of the story, but I'm happy to have Jess Nevins' annotations handy to read along with the book on the next go-through. I'm sure I'll pick up on a great many things. The only other books I've had this much fun reading about are WATCHMEN and FROM HELL. I think Alan Moore is the only writer today who's capable of producing such entertaining works with such amazing depth that annotations are more than just geek prattle. It's also informative, entertaining, and enlightening.
The book is not just a dry recitation of pre-fab characters being trotted out to show how clever the author can be. The story has an amazing grand finale that's about the most action-packed thing that I can recall Alan Moore ever having written. It reminded me of the way CrossGen's books often build up in six issue story arcs to slam-bang finishes. Moore keeps the mind guessing while letting the adrenaline pump through the finale.
O'Neill's artwork still isn't my usual cup of tea, but it remains consistent throughout the book and tells the story extremely well. His craftsmanship with the character designs and machinery designs are breathtaking, and his landscapes are nicely detailed and three-dimensional. You'll have no problem falling into this world, as it were.
The trade paperback is packed with bonus material, too. All of the original covers are presented in the back of the movie, with full-page reproductions. An original Alan Quatermain prose story by Moore is printed, with illustrations by O'Neill . (I believe these were printed in the original mini-series, as well.)
I'm now debating which hardcover edition of the book I want to own. That ABSOLUTE edition with the original scripts for the series is very tempting...
JOE GOES TO THE FRONT LINE
I'm not sure I can put my finger on why, but I've lost interest in the on-going G.I. JOE series. I enjoyed the first storyline and continued on with the next couple, but the unread stack sits pretty high after that. I have, however, been enjoying the companion series, FRONT LINE. It's the series that features special creative teams taking on single storylines with the Joes. The first such storyline came from classic JOE writer, Larry Hama, and artist Dan Jurgens. A trade paperback collecting that story is now on shelves, titled "The Mission That Never Was." This is the last story of the old Joe team, on a covert missions right after they had been decommissioned. It's a story hinted at in the regular series, but not shown until now.
Hama creates a slam-bang action piece for the story that features all of the classic JOE moments we'd like to see, from lasers shooting a mile a minute and never hitting anyone, to classic chase sequences featuring the New Toy Of The Week. The grand finale assault on Cobra's bunker is well choreographed and staged, leading up to the crushing finale that is all too underplayed. For the kind of blow the final bit of plot should provide, I would think the story would linger on it a bit more.
Hama's scripting starts out highly expository, and continues throughout with some of the relic writing that isn't seen much in comics today. Acronyms and abbreviations are used and subsequently explained in small caption boxes ad nauseum. And how's this for a natural piece of dialogue, straight from Doctor Mindbender's mouth early in the first issue:
"Ahh! Who knew that the modifications to the scanner would result in the subjects actually becoming dependent on the scanner, because they start to believe that painful as the "treatments" are, they are restoring them to reality, when in actuality the scanner is simply reinforcing the customized delusions we have created for them --"
Wow. That's both a mouthful and a run-on sentence. I'm not sure I even understand what it means and I've read the whole story now. Jurgens' art is inked by Bob Layton and Scott Hanna. It's solid, if not the best Jurgens art I've ever seen. You can't get Kevin Nowlan to ink him every time, after all. There are plenty of great money shots in the story and Jurgens stays faithful to the vehicles and characters he needs to draw in the story. There are artists who can draw great people but not tech, and vice versa. Jurgens is well-versed in both.
Yes, it's a bit of a jump to go from reading LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN to GI JOE. That's the fun part of comics. There is something for every taste, and different books to accomplish different tasks. The GI JOE trade was a nice easy read to coast through after the more challenging Moore adventure. That's fine by me. I wasn't expecting Hama to write Shakespeare. I got what I wanted from the story: an action-packed spectacular with plenty of gunfire, a few explosions, and a weird bit of technology to be fought over.
If you liked Hama's original run on the Marvel series, you'll like this. The style fits right in line. If you're enjoying the current series, this will plug a big gap in the storyline. It's a bit of a thin book for $14.95, but if you can get it at any discount, it should be worth it.
Pipeline Commentary and Review will be back next week with all new reviews, including a preview of the Oni graphic novel, MARIA'S WEDDING.
Special thanks to Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for turning me onto the LOEG.
The Madison Square Garden convention is happening this weekend. Brian Bendis will be there with every artist he's currently working with. I'll be dropping by for a couple hours on Saturday to collect autographs on my hardcover books.
Various and Sundry is still up and running, including a look at the negative effect iTunes could have on the recording industry, a look at where some favorite recording artists are with their next albums, a review of THE ITALIAN JOB, and some movie trailers. Yes, there's more odds and ends than just that, but those are the highlights.
Somewhere around 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page.