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Tag Archive: Matt Fraction


Review by C.J. Bunce

It helps to know upfront that Scottish comedian and personality Frankie Boyle always wanted to write comics.  His inspiration wasn’t from the decades of superhero comics, but Alan Moore, whose attitude, as Boyle sees it, was “that comics had sort of run their course.”  A fan of the writing of Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, and Jason Aaron, Boyle embarked on an ambitious project, asking “what sort of comics do you write after comics have been done already?”  The result was first published in serial format in Mark Millar’s short-lived CLiNT magazine, and with two new chapters to wrap up his story a complete, graphic novel-length story arrives next week from Titan Comics, called Frankie Boyle’s Rex Royd.

Ambitious is the key word to describe Rex Royd.  At its worst, Boyle has touched on Alan Moore’s outrageous depravity as seen in his Lost Girls.  At its best, Boyle has created a character that will appeal to fans of the disconnected and dispassionate Dr. Manhattan and the idiosyncratic and self-absorbed Ozymandias in Moore’s acclaimed Watchmen series.  With his protagonist, the Lex Luthor-esque supervillain scientist and CEO Rex Royd, Boyle has created a brash reflection of non-mainstream comics in the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe era.  His “hero” is like Ian Fleming’s James Bond if you remove all the tropes that make us actually like Bond, all the fun things that keep us coming back for more and not just dismiss the character as a misogynistic, unexpurgated blunt instrument.  Boyle is fully in on this, as his lead female character Eve–as in the biblical partner of Adam–resembles Bond’s confidante Eve Moneypenny in the last two Bond movies.

And yet, Rex Roydthe book–is like a writing experiment.  What do we get if we take out all these good elements and swap in the dark outcomes?  So it sometimes reads like Neil Gaiman writing a 24-Hour Comic (I’ve read that, this is probably better), but then, as in the ninth and final chapter of the book, we’re surprised with a clever sort of play on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with some Harvey Pekar-inspired attempts at making some meaning of it all.  So there’s a lot going on.  If you find linearity and deep meaning in the book, well, the joke may be on you, as the author has said when the artists needed some of his script to be explained, his response was, “It’s supposed to be a joke.”

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SCARLET-WITCH-#1

Last week saw the release of the first issue of Marvel Comics’ latest monthly Scarlet Witch.  The series is written by James Robinson with artwork by Vanesa Del Rey with colors by Jordie Bellaire.  Award winning Hawkeye cover artist David Aja provides the cover to the first issue, plus variant covers are available from Kevin Wada, Bill Sienkiewicz, Erica Henderson, Tom Raney, and Chris Sotomayor.  It’s not only David Aja’s cover, but Robinson’s well-paced introduction and Del Rey and Bellaire’s visuals that remind us of Matt Fraction and Aja’s successful Hawkeye series, another series about a secondary character and a life outside the scope of saving the world with the Avengers.

The new Scarlet Witch has a ghostly quality, and a style similar to DC Comics’s initial New 52 stories of Batwoman from J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.  It’s introspective look at a superheroine with a past also echoes Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s brilliant Black Widow series.

Scarlet Witch interior page

But this is a distinctly different story about a much different character.  She is not a young heroine.  She is a witch who speaks aloud with the ghost of Agatha, a dead woman she may or may not have killed in her past.  Scarlet Witch–Wanda Maximoff–is a detective of sorts in the same way as Liv Moore uses her supernatural skills to solve crimes in iZombie.

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Miss Fury Dynamite Comics

We tried on for size almost every new book that was released from comic book publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Archaia/BOOM!, and Image.  We tried to sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics had to offer, too, and although we didn’t have enough time to review everything we did try to put out there for your consideration those titles we thought our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro bent.  Our pull list included issues from Afterlife with Archie to Django Unchained, from Liberator to Larfleezeand from Velvet to The X-Files.  This past month we have reviewed the year-long run of the best of these titles, as we narrowed our selections to 21 of the very best entries in genre entertainment outside of TV and movies, which we revealed here yesterday.  So here are the rest of our picks for the Best of 2013.

Kane Starkiller borg by Mike Mayhew

Best Borg Appearance — Kane Starkiller, The Star Wars.  Borgs showed up everywhere this year, from the lead characters on Almost Human, to Doctor Who, to countless comic book series including Justice League and RoboCop.  Our favorite appearance came from the young mind of George Lucas as he created the original script that would later be edited into the original Star Wars trilogy.  And through Dark Horse Comics’ The Star Wars monthly comic book event we learned one of his best ideas was merged into other roles and one of his best characters entirely cut.   That character was Jedi Kane Starkiller, who would reveal his cyborg chest implants that kept him alive, later to heroically give up this life-saving technology to save his friends.

MissFury001-Cov-Renaud

Best Comic Book Series — Miss Fury, Dynamite Comics.  A uniquely crafted tale, a compelling and seductive superhero, great action panel after panel, sourced in a long-shelved classic character of the Golden Age of comics.  Rob Williams and Jack Herbert’s Miss Fury is a carefully rendered update that rings true to the edgy spirit of the world’s first female superhero.  Beautiful panels set up an ever-changing time and place and pull readers along for the ride.  And stuck-out-of-time Marla Drake and her alter ego Miss Fury could not have looked better, whether carving out her place in the 1940s or as she was teleported into the future.  It’s a series no one should miss.

Clint Barton Hawkeye by Fraction

Best Comic Book Writing – Matt Fraction, Hawkeye.  Last year revealed one of the best comic book series we ever read, focusing on that “other” superhero archer, the second tier Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye.  Matt Fraction gave us the most interesting set-up and look into the daily life of a superhero who isn’t Captain America or Iron Man.  This year he kept up the momentum in his Hawkeye monthly series, providing stories that challenged readers, each issue taking a different peek into Clint Barton, another costumed superhero called Hawkeye, and their trusty dog.

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Hawkeye cover art

From its “bad romance”-themed Issue #8 in February through an issue featuring the other Hawkeye Kate Bishop in Los Angeles in its most recent Issue #14, Marvel Comics’ monthly Hawkeye series has kept up its unique brand of high-quality storytelling all year.  With its visuals led by David Aja for most of the year, other artists have stepped in to backstop Aja, including none other than another Eisner winner artist, Francisco Francavilla.  But the continuity and consistency of Avenger Clint Barton and his friends is thanks to the writing of Matt Fraction, who, like J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman and their Batwoman series, took a lower tier superhero and produced the best monthly series in its publisher’s line-up.

Each issue managed to maintain a slow, downward spiral of its hero as a self-deprecating lost soul who is only understood by a dog who is then taken across the country by his friend Kate.  In one issue (Issue #12) his brother Barney “Trickshot” Barton takes over the entire story and we barely see Waverly, Iowa born Clint Barton.  Rarely do we see typical superhero action, like Hawkeye donning his supersuit or showing his skill with bow and arrow.  When we do see it, its via West Coast Avenger Kate Bishop.  Clint is virtually absent from Issue #14, as Kate, with Lucky in tow, matches wits with a strange but beautiful masked villain.

hawkeye_08_3

One issue (Issue #13) focused on the somber events surrounding the funeral of neighbor “Grills,” the guy who grilled on the roof for tenants of his building and referred to Clint as Hawkguy.  In that issue girlfriend Jessica Drew, the Spider-woman, tries to mend fences with Clint in the car procession, only to see afterward that he had fallen asleep during her entire compelling monologue.  It’s a scene that defined this year for Hawkeye–everything that could go wrong, did, and every time he was close to getting a break he missed it.  Yet readers are sucked in, and stick around to cheer on this everyman and his daily efforts to get back on track in a world where he isn’t the main superhero around.

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Hawkeye-11-cover

If you want to understand why Marvel Comic’s Hawkeye series is up for five Eisners next month–for Best New Series, Best Continuing Series, Best Writer, Best Cover Artist, Best Penciller/Inker (and could easily win them all)–all you need do is ask your comic book store to get you a copy of Hawkeye Issue #11, which hit the shelves last Wednesday.

Matt Fraction has delivered what I had been after for some time–when writers like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns get endless acclaim and you never quite get that one issue that solves for you why they have such a great following–Fraction’s Hawkeye series has cemented his status for me as a top comic book writer.  We at borg.com also loved David Aja’s cover art for the Hawkeye series last year, declaring him our runner-up for Best of 2012 for comic book cover art.  Together Fraction and Aja gel together to make what we’ll look back on years from now as a classic Marvel Comics creative team.  Matt Hollingsworth’s color art rendering plays an integral role in the series, too, highlighting Aja’s panels just where it is needed.  Their Hawkeye series is subtle, slow-paced, beautiful, and thought-provoking.

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Buck Rogers banner

There’s no rest for the weary, and one of borg.com‘s favorite writer/artists, Howard Chaykin, seems to be proving that, producing new stories and art everywhere you turn.  In 2013 he is working on two new comic book series that take a nostalgic look back to the middle of the 20th century.  Chaykin is serving as series artist on Satellite Sam, and artist and writer bringing Buck Rogers and the 25th Century back to comics.  Where the Buck Rogers monthly will be a straightforward classic take on the character, Satellite Sam will look at a TV serial character like Buck Rogers and the actor behind the role.

Satellite Sam Issue 1 cover

Chaykin and writer Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) take a dark look at the Golden Age of television with Image Comics’ Satellite Sam.  The innocence portrayed in 1950s television is contrasted with real life Hollywood when Carlyle Bishop, star of the TV series Satellite Sam is found dead in the not so glitzy part of town.  His son Michael finds a box of sleazy photos, which opens up a detective story into a life far different from that portrayed on TV.  It sounds a bit like it may reflect the type of short and complex lives of real-life actors George Reeves (The Adventures of Superman) and Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroes) in a Sunset Boulevard setting.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Matt Fraction and David Aja’s new Hawkeye series is one of the best Green Arrow stories I’ve read in a good while.  It’s a strange thing, as I had no idea these guys could be interchangeable.  Sure, they both use bow and arrow as their chief weapon.  Green Arrow has been around since the 1930s and Hawkeye the 1960s so I must admit I looked at Hawkeye as a Green Arrow knockoff, nothing more.  After his supporting role as a good guy converted to bad in this year’s Avengers movie I figured I’d relegate him to the hundreds of other characters that don’t make it to my reading pile.  I was pretty underwhelmed despite some nice trick arrow moves in that film.  So I had no intention of checking out the Marvel Comics new Hawkeye solo series.  But a very Cliff Chiang-inspired set of covers to Issues #1 and #2 this week at the local comic hangout caused me to look closer, and Matt Fraction’s name caused me to flip through Issue #1.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I’ve gotten in and out of reading comic books several times in my life.  I couldn’t tell you where the comic book store was when I lived in Columbia, MO.  I found one when I lived in Delaware.  There wasn’t one for miles when I lived in the mountains (but I found a baseball card shop).  I knew of and visited at least six comic book stores when I lived in Kansas City and I visit about the same number in Los Angeles.  I’ve visited them when I’ve made brief stops in London, England and Austin, Texas.  I had subscriptions to several Marvel titles when I was in junior high and didn’t have to worry about getting my parents to take me to the comic store.  One day a comic would arrive in my mailbox covered in the plain brown paper wrapping that I would later associate closely with either comics or porn.

A map of comic book stores across the U.S.

Still, every walk into a store is like a step into a colorful, inedible candy shop and I start to wonder, what I’m going to take home in my brown paper bag.  I like recommendations quite a bit when I look for new things (and that’s why on Free Comic Book Day as I went to a few of my favorite stores, I picked up All-Star Western and Justice League Dark) but since my time in Kansas City, my main focus for when I look on the shelves of whichever store I find myself in, is new material by past favorite authors.  That’s why on Free Comic Book Day I also picked up Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, who has entertained me in several stories like Pride of Baghdad, Runaways and Y: The Last Man.  Saga looks to be a great start to another captivating yarn as I ripped through both issues I bought as I curled up to relax on Sunday night.

However, I must ask myself, is using the past a logical way to pursue entertainment?  Are past performances indicative of future returns, unlike financial instruments?  How can you tell when to jump off the creative train of a favorite author?

This reminds me of a game a friend and I play every now again based on the Fellini movie, 8 1/2.  The film deals with the creative process and my friend and I used it as a jumping off point to analyze the careers of creative people by asking, “Does X have eight unarguable classics to their name?”

It’s tougher than you think.  To be able to create eight works of art is an accomplishment in and of itself, and to make eight super-duper terrific things, well, that’s a rarefied air.  Of course, everyone has a different opinion of what a “classic” is, but we generally know that Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark are both Steven Spielberg classics, where War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull don’t come close to reaching the same height.  Even though I’m not a huge Spielberg fan, he gets to eight relatively easily as you could add E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me if You Can to Jaws and Raiders and you get seven, though there are a few flaws, but I quibble.  Finding an eighth movie among The Color Purple, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Munich and Jurassic Park should be easy.  George Lucas on the other hand, I think he’s lucky to get two.  I suppose I’m saying that at this point, going to see a Spielberg film may be a bit more of a question mark than it was in the 90s, but if you gave me a choice between Spielberg and Lucas right now, there’s no question I would choose to see a Spielberg film.

Looking at my favorite movies over the past few years, Midnight in Paris has reinvigorated my belief in Woody Allen and I’m more likely to see his next film.  The quality of Marvel’s movies Thor, Captain America and The Avengers makes me more likely to go see non-sequels put out by Marvel Studios.  (Iron Man 2 still leaves a poor taste in my mouth. That’s what I get for licking the screen).  True Grit cemented my love of the Coen brothers, which I had before the movie as I’ve seen every one of their films.

My point?  If you like the creative work of a person, you’ll probably like their other work.  Looking at my bookshelf filled with several novels from Kurt Vonnegut, quite a few selections from Alan Moore and most every film by Wes Anderson, I probably didn’t need to do much thinking about it.  Still, it’s nice to come to that conclusion and know that when I roll into a comic store, I can find some Brian Michael Bendis, some Matt Fraction, some J. Michael Straczynski, some Neil Gaiman, some Jason, some Craig Thompson, some Daniel Clowes, some Kurt Busiek or many others and be happy when I get home, turn on the lamp and snuggle beneath my covers.  Plus, there’s always a chance I can stumble onto many more authors in the future through sheer luck, the recommendations of friends or the recommendations of the people I meet while wandering the aisles at my local comic book stores.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week we reported on the early release of eagerly awaited new series Avengers vs. X-Men.  With the first issue upon us of Avengers vs X-Men we get to see Round One of the twelve rounds to be featured over 24 weeks in the main series, with 19 main issues, and 20 other Marvel Comics titles tying in to this AvX event.  Here are two checklists to help you keep track (click to enlarge):

        

Spoilers ahead!

Issue #1 starts out with a bang, a big bang, as the Phoenix Force is launched from far away on a trajectory toward Earth.  In front of that force hurtling toward our planet is Nova, a character long-feared dead who ends up causing the destruction of the Empire State Building in New York City as he plunges to the Earth’s surface, taking an airliner down with him.  The status of any lives taken is unknown, but the Avengers, including Ms. Marvel, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Protector, Black Widow, Beast, Captain Britain, Valkyrie and a few others, do their best to quickly mitigate the losses.

Meanwhile we learn that Cyclops is busy training Hope, who was the focus of the prologue for Avengers vs. X-Men in Issue #0.  Hope is understandably frustrated, believing that the Phoenix Force is somehow targeting her, and the X-Men will not help her adequately with answers.  Hope carries an energy signature similar to that of the Phoenix Force, and when she gets angry she sets this off, and the blast that is caused tips off the Avengers that they need to take some kind of action.

Captain America and Iron Man meet with the President and the joint chiefs in Washington, DC and explain the nature of the threat.

Captain America enlists the support of Wolverine and heads to the island of Utopia to take Hope into protective custody, but Cyclops has other plans.  Cyclops was once in love with Jean Grey, who became part of Phoenix and killed herself trying to contain the immense power of the Phoenix Force years ago.  So Cyclops thinks there is some special meaning in the arrival of the Phoenix Force, like it might be a good thing.  And there is no way he will release Hope to the Avengers.

The X-Men, including Emma Frost, Magneto, Colossus, and Namor, stand behind Cyclops’s effort to keep Captain America from taking Hope away.  Captain America is thrown back by Cyclops’s rays, but he has brought with him a ship full of the Avengers, and as this first issue concludes the first battle is upon us–a fight between the Avengers and the X-Men, over Hope.

This first chapter scripted by Brian Michael Bendis, but created by all the “Marvel Architects”–Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction–is well-paced.  The steps that occur are not complicated so there is no confusion and the story is easy to follow.  Despite the volume of characters, they, too, are easy to keep track of.  I wasn’t dazzled by John Romita, Jr.’s artwork in this issue–everything seems to “just happen” visually with little stylization, and there are no memorable single images that stand out.  But neither does the art stand in the way of the story, which has a lot to cram into the single issue page count.  All-in-all, so far, so good.  I’m reminded of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars limited series from decades ago, where readers get the pleasure of seeing the whole cast of characters in the Marvel Universe all as part of a common cause.

The crazy stand-out of this first issue are the several versions printed, including all these variants, some selling for $175 and up for the 1 in 200 exclusives.  Hopefully the hype settles and the coming issues simply take readers on a good ride.

Here is a checklist of the Avengers vs X-Men Issue #1 cover variations for all you completists out there:

Regular cover by Jim Cheung - Price $3.99

Avengers Team Common Variant - Price $3.99

X-Men Team Common Variant - Price $3.99

Sketch Cover Common Variant - $3.99

Midtown Comics Exclusive Wraparound Cover Side 1 - Price $8.00

Midtown Comics Exclusive Wraparound Cover Side 2 - Price $8.00

Ryan Stegman Incentive Variant Cover - Price $85

Hastings Stores Variant Cover - Price $8.00

Ryan Stegman Rare 1:200 Incentive Sketch Variant Cover - Price $175

John Romita, Jr. 1:25 Incentive Variant Cover - Price $15.00

Dynamic Forces Exclusive Variant Signed by Stan Lee (image may vary) - Price $399

Dynamic Forces John Romita, Sr. Signed Cover Edition (image may vary) - Price $69.99

Which version did I buy?  I got the first issue that Jason Aaron signed, with a note by Jason on the sketch cover version…

Yesterday Marvel Comics announced a 12-issue limited series coming in April 2012: Avengers vs. X-Men, pitting Marvel characters Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk, against Black Widow, Spider-Man, Cyclops, Storm, Magneto and others and who knows what side Avenger and mutant Wolverine will end up on.

Avengers vs. X-Men will be written by Marvel Architects Jason Aaron, Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman.  The series artists are slated to be John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel and Adam Kubert.  Unlike standard limited series, the 12 issues will release every two weeks over a six-month period.  And entering the digital fore alongside DC Comics, Marvel added a new marketing idea: releasing a code for a free digital copy with each issue.

Here is the advance poster promoting the series:

Avengers vs. X-Men follows on the heels of this year’s X-Men: Schism, Fear Itself and Fear Itself: The Fearless limited series and the coming X-Sanction series.

The following re-broadcast of a livestream introduction (44 minutes) with a few of the creators gives some insight into the creative process of the writers for the new limited series.

If you have ever wanted to know what thoughts are behind these guys’ story concepts you may like this.  In particular Jason Aaron’s rundown of the events involving the X-Men and Wolverine leading up to the coming superhero face-off really puts everything into perspective, as does Brian Bendis’s view of the Avengers role in the new series.  The video also includes some nice trash talk between the creators of each of the X-Men and Avengers franchises.

Axel Alonso, Editor in Chief, Marvel Entertainment commented that “We’ve brought together the biggest writers, biggest artists and biggest characters for the biggest story we’ve ever told.  This is the kind of high-octane action-packed story that fans demand while also having a profound effect on every character involved—and reshaping the Marvel Universe in its wake.”

More information is available at www.avx.marvel.com.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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