THE GREENING OF MARVEL
This week sees the release of SHE-HULK #22, the first post-Dan Slott issue of the current series. After a couple years of Omnibus collection-worthy stories, Slott's tales of a lawyer seated deep in the anally retentive corners of the Marvel Universe has given way to Peter David's brand of humor and a slightly more "normal" storyline, though one not without its share of twists.
Jennifer Walters is no longer a lawyer, though she works for the law and off to the side. I don't want to spoil anything here, but David has come up with an interesting occupation for Walters that could bring her into contact with a very similar type of crowd as Slott established this series with. For that, I'm grateful. He's also gone his own way, teasing that there are connections to the old series both in one-off dialogue bits in the story and in a brief text page at the end. David does an excellent job in hinting at a larger story while still keeping the current one well-focused and interesting.
Anyone who's never read SHE-HULK before could easily hop on board with this issue and not be lost at all. The story is not complete in this issue, but it does what any good first issue should do to the reader -- pique his curiosity and leave him wanting more. I want to know how She-Hulk gets out of the situation she's in at the end of this issue and what Jennifer Walters' secret is that keeps her going. David creates something new and mysterious in this issue, and it's enough to get me to come back for the answers.
The art is by Shawn Moll who, if I'm not mistaken, was an assistant to Doug Mahnke. Some of that influence shows here, I think. It's a solid outing, though not without its share of odd anatomy points. Some bodies look twisted and contorted while they're standing up straight. Heads don't always attach to bodies in a way that looks right. "Avalon's Rob Ro" is credited as colorist, and he seems influenced by Morry Hollowell's CIVIL WAR art. There's something about the way he shades in the face to add texture and five o'clock shadows on the men's chins and jaw lines that strikes me as being similar.
While this new SHE-HULK might not be as quirky as the previous one, maybe that's what the book needs to sell. I don't know. I do know that it's a fun read and something that is easy to recommend to any Marvel fan.
Now, what will it take to convince Marvel to release a John Byrne's SHE-HULK Omnibus? I came across some of those issues recently, and they're still a lot of fun and wonderfully drawn.
MORE COMICS ON-LINE
I signed up for Wowio.com a couple weeks back. It's a big website offering free legal downloads of books, both comics and otherwise.
To sign up for an account, you have to answer a three page questionnaire designed to dig out all your demographic data. It's not terribly invasive - birth date, race, education and employment status, and then favorites -- foods, books, hobbies, etc. That took me less than five minutes. It'll likely go quicker for you. I get hung up trying to answer these surveys correctly for some reason. I was surprised to see that Comics wasn't an item to check off on favorite types of reading material, but what are you going to do?
If you sign up, be sure to go back after your account has been created to update the survey. When I did, I noticed there was an option automagically checked for me that said I'd accept WOWIO promotional e-mails. I didn't see that when I signed up originally. That might be my fault, but it still gave me pause.
After filling out that form, you get three free downloads a day and off you go. The site is well designed. It's professionally done and slick, with plenty of search options. I clicked on the "Comics and Graphic Novels" category, naturally.
The selection is a healthy cross section of independent comics. Steve Rude has the new NEXUS comic up there. Milt Caniff fans can download STEVE CANYON collections. Antarctic Press uses the service, as does Checker, (with STAR TREK and Alan Moore's SUPREME single issues). ZEN INTERGALACTIC NINJA shows up. ADOLESCENT BLACK BELT HAMSTERS. CYBER FARCE! 10TH MUSE. Moonstone Comics. Mike S. Miller's Abacus Comics is active.
Lots of independent publishers have their books listed here. It's tough to name a major influence on the comics up there. It's not all new stuff; it's not all old stuff. It's not dominated by one or two independent companies. The top ten list for the category include web comic DAY BY DAY (at #1), XXXENA: WARRIOR PORNSTAR, Nate Piekos' ATLAND (five issues), and a zombie book called LAST BLOOD.
Like I said, it's a random assortment that I can't make heads or tales of. Major players seem to be Checker, Antarctic, Abacus, and Moonstone, though.
The value is good in that you get your downloads for free, but you're limited to three of them daily, and these are mostly 20-some-odd page comics, not trade paperback-sized collections. Frustratingly, you can't preview anything before you download it. You get a couple paragraphs of descriptions, plus a cover image. You're taking it on faith that it might be good when you download it. If not, then wait a day to download your next sample. You can establish a queue, much like Netflix, so Wowio will let you know what else you're interested in on the next visit when you can download again. Managing that queue is a little awkward, and could use a little AJAX help in its programming.
There's a nice cross-promotional bit of the website, too. When you look at a given comic's information page, you'll see what comics other people have downloaded who downloaded that one. It's nothing Amazon, et. al. haven't been doing for years, but it's one of the little things that help guide a newbie through the site and its offerings.
The comics come in PDF format, bracketed by two ad pages at the beginning and one page at the end, though those don't bother me in the least. It only takes a couple of key strokes to get past those. They don't block you from the content or embed themselves as corner bugs to distract you inside of the comics, themselves. Given that the ads come from major companies -- mine was from one of those cellular phone providing cartels we have here in the States -- it gives me hope that this site has some serious backers and/or marketing people.
On the other hand, shortly after I signed up for the service, they sent out (completely coincidentally) a press release about their service in which they misspelled the URL in the first sentence. And you thought that POWERS spine misspelling was a boo-boo!
I took a look around at the prose books offered at the site. The digital photography books were all a couple of years out of date. The novels look like they had their first printings, lingered in the remaindered section for a few months, and then the authors took them straight to Wowio. There's not much there that screams New York Times Bestseller. Again, though, these are all freebies. At this stage of the game, this is the material you'd expect to find. As a free comics provider, their selection is a little more up to date, with a strong potential to become a major player in the comics industry, if they could sign up some bigger names and hold on to their current clientele.
Yes, this week's column is legitimately shorter than usual. I'll be adding a little something to it on Wednesday. Stay tuned!
Next week: Why ruin the surprise? Right now, it looks like I'll be going into the vault for a book or two, though.
Please tell all your friends to stop by for a visit sometime. Pretty please?
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