Welcome to the latest edition of Panelology. I've been neglecting this column for a few weeks now, but it should be back into quasi-regular rotation now. What's been happening in the world of comic collecting? Besides the fact comic books are now officially too damn expensive, not much. Many companies seem to be pulling their punches in order to reveal some "big" items for the San Diego Comic Convention going on right now. Marvel are promising something big at today's convention. Who knows what it could be? It may even live up to the hype too. Maybe. But that's for another time and another column. This week, I stay focused on $3.99 comics, bid farewell to Ultimatum, discuss changes in Frank Castle land, and I report on my continuing education into DC Comics.
Singing the $3.99 Blues
Paying $3.99 a pop for your fix of whatever title getting you down too? I'm starting to feel it despite Mail order Comics having a great discount on books. The oft-grumbled about hottest trend in comics looks like it is here to stay for the long run. I've got to start seriously looking at my pull list for some fat to cut. The Ultimate Books are going to have to prove themselves to me once again after this dreadful Ultimatum business (more on that below). Uncanny X-men is wavering quite a bit these days with Matt Fraction's decent, but not over-the-top writing on that title. The same goes for Fraction's Invincible Iron Man; just how long can this "Most Wanted" story drag on?
One title I know that isn't going to make it is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I am confident that this book is a goner from my monthly reading list without having read the first issue. How do I know this? This book from Boom is a good idea. What's not to like about bringing Philip K. Dick, arguably one of the best science fiction writers of his time, and his stories to the comic book medium? It's a natural fit. However, directly adapting the book word for word is not a good idea. I liked the concept at first, but at $3.99 an issue on the newsstand, I found that is isn't worth it. I pay $2.99 an issue through Mail Order Comics. That's still $71.76 for the entire twenty-four issue run. That's a ridiculous amount of money for a straight up adaptation of a book I bought in 1996 for five bucks.
Ultimatum: The End... and thank God!
Last week, Marvel released an ominous image promoting "The End" for the Ultimate Line. The date for the image was 7/29/09, the same day the final issue of Ultimatum hits the stands. The image set off speculation that someone would be meeting their doom. Fan consensus is centering on Wolverine right now, though others believe Magneto might be another plausible candidate. After all, Magneto has become quite a bit of a bastard since the storyline of Ultimates 3 involved knocking off his daughter Scarlet Witch. Some fans have even speculated that this could be the Ultimate version of M-Day since no Ultimate X-title has been announced since the revamping of the Ultimate Line. Having a title like "The End" does tend to send people into a bit of speculative tizzy.
Big whoop, right? It's not as if Ultimatum hasn't had its fair share of gruesome deaths. Who cares if they are going to kill anyone at this point? Anyone who cares what is happening in the Ultimatum books right now should pretty much leave their fanboy or fangirl I.D. card on their way out the door. The way characters have been treated and killed off in this series has been borderline insulting to fans who have kept up with the Ultimate Universe over the last nine years. I don't mind retooling the line. That is Marvel's prerogative. However, it needs to be done in a way that makes sense and doesn't slap fans in the face. I think fans of the Ultimate Universe need someone to blame for this poor storytelling choice. For some reason, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar, founding fathers and creative heavyweights of the line, have somehow remained blameless in all of this.
Instead, the blame has fallen to Jeph Loeb. I hate to put all the blame on Jeph Loeb. This was a team effort, but he works so well as a lightening rod right now. Any fan wishing to cruise through any comic book message board can find anti-Loeb threads aplenty. I don't like or dislike Loeb. As a creator, his work often doesn't raise a blip on my radar screen neither in a good or bad way. He and I just don't cross paths often in my comic buying patterns. But let's face it, Ultimatum has been a stinker of a story from day one. He could have chosen an infinite number of ways to deal with retooling the line. The fact that he felt the need to wipe out half of the characters was wrongheaded. But that's what we Ultimate fans are stuck with; useless carnage and ineffective storytelling. The end can't come soon enough. I hope the new beginning finds the Ultimate Universe far removed from the business of Ultimatum.
Marvel also seem to be in the business of shaking things up for Punisher both in the Marvel and Max Universes. Punisher Max, or Frank Castle: Punisher, or whatever it's being called these days is about to be rebooted as PunisherMax. That's right, PunisherMax. No space between those words is necessary because, you know, that's cool. Despite the exceeding lame title, the creative teams looks kick ass. Jason Aaron will be lending his writing talents to the rebooted title, while Punisher-fan-favorite Steve Dillon will be handling art duties. I couldn't think of a better creative than this for the Max title. I have actually really enjoyed the rotation of writers the Max title has seen since Garth Ennis left, but I think the title needs a bit of stability in terms of direction. A stable creative team will go a long way in bringing back some of the fans who may have given up on ol'Frank when Ennis left. Plus, Aaron intends on introducing the Max versions of Kingpin and Bullseye, which sounds great. This could revitalize the Max title.
Over in the Marvel Universe, Rick Remender's Punisher title also appears to be going through some changes. In a press release Tuesday, Marvel revealed that "Rest in Pieces", or "R.I.P." for short (get it?), will be the next story arc in the ongoing Punisher series. Not familiar with it? Oh, you know the series I'm talking about. The one where Punisher has been relegated to taking on/out D-List villains no one cares about? Anyway, the "Rest in Pieces" promises to have Punisher put through the ringer by promising to change his life FOREVER!!! I know, I know. Marvel Comics aren't know for their advertising hyperbole. But there it is. You can check out a Marvel Q&A session with Rick Remender here. This sort of thing just smacks of the 1990s angel/demon storyline. And things were going so well for Punisher lately. Before becoming the D-Lister paradise, Remender started the series off strong. Like many titles in the Marvel Universe now, it has gotten too bogged down in this Dark Reign business to really be effective.
DC Education Update
My education in DC Comics is still ongoing. In terms of my buying habits, I'm still relying on the back issue bins for much of my re-education. Recently, complete runs of Captain Atom, Vigilante, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle have found homes in my welcoming long boxes. I've found most issues of those comics for less than buck each, which is killer. I can get a stack of old school books at least four or five times higher than my modern books for the same price. Not only are they cheap, but they are providing some good reading time too. If you can't tell, I'm digging 1980s DC. These comics aren't mind blowing or anything, but they are a lot of fun. Next on my 1980s DC reading list will be Marv Wolfman's Teen Titans from the same era.
Just because I've been trolling the back issue bins for DC bargains does not mean that I have ignored modern DC. I've been checking out the Batman reboots and have enjoyed them thus far. Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman & Robin have all entered my buying habits for the near the future. I haven't added them to my pull list, but if I can find them on the newsstand at Books-a-Million I'll pick the issues up. Booster Gold is still a lot of fun even if the premise is wearing a bit thin. I'm avoiding the Blackest Night titles, but positive buzz may pull me into buying a trade down the road.
Help a fanboy out, though. Any other DC recommendations I should check into while I'm in the mood?
The end for now!
That's it! I should be back later this weekend with more reviews in my continuing Summer Reading series. Panelology will be back next week with a review of all the big time news out of San Diego.