In some ways, I’m the purest target audience for The Wild Storm #1, written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Jon Davis Hunt and colored by Ivan Plascencia. In some ways, I’m the worst person to be reading it.
Previously on Baxter Building: The long — over 100 issues — drought of mostly-bland Fantastic Four is over, as John Byrne has arrived for his much-lauded run as writer/artist and, much to our surprise, both Jeff and I loved his first six issues. Can the quality continue unabated for this episode?!?
0:00:00-0:05:55: We pretty much start off by answering that question; as good as Fantastic Four #238-247 are, and they’re pretty good overall, they’re not up to the standard of Byrne’s initial issues. We talk about why that might be and, unusually for us, throw out specific numbers of issues we’ll be discussing that particularly disappointed us, before moving on to…
0:05:56-0:19:42: Fantastic Four #238, which sees no less than two stories, both of which are all about the subplots. (Perhaps that explains why the issue has such a bizarre cover, which I find myself taken with.) But we get to talk about Frankie Raye being a never-nude, the Thing’s definitely-completely-100%-permanent regression in appearance, and the illusion of change versus the real thing. That might sound like we’re not too impressed with the issue, but that’s not the case; as I put it, “it’s a very light issue, but it’s a very light issue that implies forward motion.” We certainly preferred it to…
0:19:43-0:34:42: FF #239, which has a great opening — Aunt Petunia finally shows up, and she’s not what anyone (including the long-time reader) expected — only to completely go to pieces after that. Jeff and I disagree on the value of the basic premise of the story (I think it’s fine, Jeff most certainly does not), but we’re of the same mind when it comes to the quality of the execution, which is so bad, we liken it to Byrne’s Alpha Flight. (Those who think that John Byrne’s Alpha Flight is a good comic, I kindly suggest that you revisit it and allow your happy nostalgia to be as ruined as mine was, upon re-reading.) That said, it does give Jeff a chance to talk about Byrne’s love of white-out, so I guess there’s that. We also touch lightly on Byrne’s conservatism, which will get another airing before the episode is over…
0:34:43-0:46:50: The Inhumans show up in Fantastic Four #240, an issue so packed that Jeff describes it as “the opposite of all those FF annuals that got broke up into three stories — this is an FF annual that John Byrne is like, ‘I’m gonna bring this son of a bitch in in 20 pages, maybe 18.'” He’s not wrong; this is a ridiculously busy issue that features exposition for stories that had never happened before, an off-panel death of a fairly major character, the birth of the kid of two long-running supporting characters, a near-death experience for the entire Inhuman race and Attilan moving to the moon. With all of that going on, you’d think that Byrne wouldn’t be able to work in a small slam on a beloved X-Men story, but don’t worry; he’s got that under control.
0:46:51-0:55:19: If the last issue was a sign that Byrne was working too much stuff into one issue, FF #241 has the opposite problem, struggling to stretch a very Star Trek idea across this one-off, even with the nonsensical inclusion of the Black Panther, who serves so little actual purpose in the story that Jeff has a theory about John Byrne’s ulterior motives in including him at all. At least he shows that he can… jump…?
0:55:20-1:15:42: Fantastic Four #242 begins the first proper multi-part storyline of Byrne’s run — ignoring the “Man with the Power”/”Four Against Ego!” two-fer from #235-236, because that was more prologue/story — and, of course, it’s a Galactus story. While the first installment disappoints due to underwhelming choices, mostly artistic, by Byrne (“Everything that’s happening in this issue should be amazing, but you kind of flip through it and go, uh-huh, uh-huh, and… huh,” as Jeff puts it), we do get to see more of Frankie Raye’s roommate Julie Angel, who apparently doesn’t have shoulders as most humans know them:
1:15-43-1:24:56: FF #243 should feel like the end of the world, as Galactus takes on (and quickly dispatches) Terrax and then has to deal with the combined might of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. And yet, it’s underwhelming and easily forgettable, although it does provide us with an excuse to talk about Galactus’s weakness when it comes to card games.
1:24:57-1:43:44: The Frankie Raye subplot that’s been running through Byrne’s entire run to date comes to a head in Fantastic Four #244, and… well, on paper, it’s an interesting conclusion that plays out some themes that have kind of been in play all along, but reading it play out, it’s not entirely convincing. We talk about the threads that almost lead to this moment, the Frankie Raye that we could have seen, and the ways in which Byrne is accidentally feminist in terms of his treatment of Frankie’s decision to leave Earth and become Galactus’s latest herald. (Jeff also drops a plot he would’ve written had he been writing Fantastic Four in the 1990s, so you can get your Jeff-as-Tom-DeFalco fanfic up to date.)
1:43:45-1:55:23: An issue after Byrne ties off the Frankie Raye subplot, he follows it up with a speedy, pretty nonsensical conclusion to the Thing subplot that got started back in #238, leading Jeff and I to spend much of this discussion of FF #245 talking about how unexplored that subplot actually was. There’s also a brief foray into metafictional fictional media criticism, and I get to share a Katherine Hepburn quote that I adore, which arguably means that this conversation might be more entertaining than the issue itself. Unless, of course, you really, really wanted to see Franklin Richards look like blonde Jesus for an issue.
1:55:24-2:02:16: Look, if Fantastic Four #246’s title — “Too Many Dooms” — reminds me of this, I’m sharing it with all of you:
That’s better. A misery shared is a misery… halved? Or something like that? Anyway, Doctor Doom returns, and returns, and returns, and returns, as Fantastic Four #246 picks up where Micronauts #41 left off… with the real Doom’s mind trapped in a melty-headed doll version of his body, and goes through a lot of motions in order to undo the status quo changes Doom (and Latveria) had gone through since the Lee/Kirby days. But at least there’s lots of robot punching, and a layout that works better when read in the original print comic than digitally.
2:02:17-2:14:16: FF #247 is, as Jeff puts it, “a real interesting story to read in 2017, I think.” At any other time, a story which basically says, “every country needs the right totalitarian dictator” might seem like satire, or at least misplaced cynicism. But today…? The effect is just a little bit different, especially when the FF show little-to-no remorse about the fact that they’d installed a leader who is arguably even worse than Doom just a few years back, and seem to do nothing more than frown when faced with seeming confirmation that Doom just outright murdered a dude. Moral relativity is a necessary evil — I feel like there’s a pun there — but is a Fantastic Four comic the best place to explore it?
2:14:17-end: Jeff and I talk about the strangeness of the past ten issues, and how we feel about them overall, especially compared with Byrne’s first half-year on the book, and then set your reading assignment for the next episode: Fantastic Four #248-260. Ambitious? Yes indeed! But we think you can handle it. When you’re not reading FF, don’t forget to check out our Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon pages. As always, thank you very much for reading (and listening).
I’ve been looking at the DC Rebirth books monolithically, determined to catch up on entire runs before writing. It has been a slow, tedious process. At times, reading 12+ issues of a book has felt like too much, like trying to eat six bags of cotton candy in one sitting (as opposed to spreading them across two or three sittings, like a sensible person).
This Last week, I tried something different. Rather than sifting through the week’s review books and filing them by title to return to in a run, I decided to just read them as a batch, as if it was my haul from the store. Part of the mandate of these books is to be fun and readable, I think, so why not try just, y’know, reading them, regardless of how much backstory I had handy. At a minimum, it turned out that this was more fun than slogging through an extended backlog of Superman books. More detailed capsules are after the jump.
0:00-34:58: Greetings, and wishes for a happy new year! Believe it or not, we are super-hasty in this part and in literally less than a minute we are discussing….Rogue One: A Star Wars Story! Jeff finally saw it after hearing good things about it and…well….yeah. A little disappointed, y’all. Turns out Graeme didn’t like it much, either, so listen to a lot of interstellar griping with the occasional tie to a useful article. FULL SPOILERS! JEFF TALKING ABOUT METATEXT! LOTS OF GRIPING! STEERING US INTO MODERN AMERICAN POLITICS STARTING AROUND 23:09 (hey, this was recorded on the day Trump shit-talked John Lewis) AND EMERGING AROUND 34:58.
34:58-1:05:13: Okay, it’s not too hard to imagine how we got from Trump to Marvel, I hope, but yeah that’s where we ended up, considering Marvel has been doing some really strange stuff recently? “Free” overships, Secret Empire and its promotional art (with a long digression from us about how well Black Panther is currently selling), and then we’re talking about the casting call descriptions for The Inhumans TV show. Also discussed: Imax, Who Watches The Watchmen in Imax?, the opening to the theatrical release of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the Sinbad movie that never happened, Candle Cove, interviewing Max Landis, and all too much more.
1:05:13-1:16:54: Other things Jeff didn’t enjoy and is surprised and baffled he didn’t: Superman #14 by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado featuring characters invented by Grant Morrison for Multiversity. Also discussed: the next stage in the Rebirth master plot with the Batman/Flash crossover and more.
1:16:54-1:28:07: Oh, and another thing that Marvel is doing that’s weird and does not seem good: modifying their digital code plan so you no longer get a digital copy of the issue you’re buying! Jeff talks about how that and Rebirth’s publishing schedule may be pushing him to make a hard decision he doesn’t necessarily want to make.
1:28:07-1:49:10: Graeme re-read Morrison’s run on New X-Men and also Neil Gaiman’s Book of Magic! What’d he think? And how much will Jeff interject? (the answer: “a lot” probably is not that much of a spoiler, sadly.)
1:49:10-2:16:36: By very sad contrast, Jeff finished the digital trade of Son of Satan Classic, a big ol’ collection of one of the stranger heroes from Marvel’s very strange superhero horror phase. Jeff talks about the character, why the character doesn’t work, and why Son of Satan #8 is the only SoS comic you really need. Also discussed: misunderstanding superhero comics and Understanding Comics; Tom Scioli and more.
2:16:36-2:43:41: In talking about books where we actively find ourselves eager to find out what happens next, Graeme talks about enjoying the velocity of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. Also discussed: the last issue of Civil War II, the first issue of Unstoppable Wasp #1, the most recent issues of Moon Knight by Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Francesco Francavilla, Wilfredo Torres, and James Stokoe, Plus a lot of other comics we’ve read!
2:43:41-end: Closing comments! But first: We make a plan for a January podcast episode! Look for us on Stitcher! Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! Matt! Tumblr, and on Patreon where a wonderful group of people make this all possible, including the kind crew at American Ninth Art Studios and Empress Audrey, Queen of the Galaxy, to whom we are especially grateful for their continuing support of this podcast.
Next week: Next week is another Wait, What?! (Wait, What?) Come back and join us, won’t you?
Well, it’s 2017 now and I am *STILL* trying to dig out from under a ludicrous pile of DC Rebirth comics. (I’ve also been meaning to respond to a question the guys asked each other on a podcast weeks ago and review all the books I read as “new releases” via Marvel Unlimited, but that’s not here yet either.) Rebirth, you may remember, started in May of last year. At this rate, I’ll be doing my Best-Of-2016 sometime in 2019, if we all live that long. Anyway, this week I’m writing about Superman #4-14 (bringing me right up to this week in that book, at least!).
These issues are written by Patrick Gleason & Peter Tomasi, with pencils by Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jorge Jimenez, and Ivan Reis; inks by Mick Gray, Jaime Mendoza, Trevor Scott, Mark Morales, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Norm Rapmund, and Joe Prado (the accelerated schedule is clearly murder on inkers); colors by John Kalisz, Wil Quintana, Alejandro Sanchez, and Marcelo Maiolo; and letters by Rob Leigh and Saida Temofonte.
Previously on Baxter Building: We’ve made it through the wilderness years, which was perhaps a fitting way to spend 2016 in retrospect. But now, we’ve finally arrived at the point in our read-through of the first volume of Marvel’s Fantastic Four where the second classic run begins! Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. John Byrne.
0:00:00-0:03:11: After a few episodes where we really tried to get through as many issues as humanly possible, we’re taking things easier this time around, covering Fantastic Four #232 through 237, A.K.A. the first six months of John Byrne’s run. Surprisingly to both of us, we both really enjoyed these comics, so let’s chalk this up to a successful 2017. Wrap it up, people, we’ve already peaked.
0:03:12-0:25:43: We slip right into a discussion of the first John Byrne issue, Fantastic Four #232, via a brief discussion of anagrammatic pseudonyms, but there’s a lot to be talked about here, as Byrne follows through on his promise to take the book “Back to The Basics.” It’s a surprisingly packed issue as each character gets a chance to shine and reintroduce themselves to the audience without things seeming overly expeditionary, and we get the return of Jeff’s and my least favorite Reed Richards! All this, plus the also-return of Frankie Raye (who might be the new Crystal or a color-swapped Gwen Stacy), and a reminder that other people live in New York City.
0:25:44-0:39:09: FF #233 and the following issue “are very non-Fantastic Four stories,” I say, and I stand by that: this issue is a Human Torch solo story that mostly avoids super-villainy in favor of a morality play as Byrne plays with both expectations about the series and some formalist elements. (A silent, black and white flashback that feels very “comics.”) All this to continue the task of redefining the Fantastic Four as something that exists within a larger community context! As Jeff puts it, “it’s not just a surprisingly good done in one, Byrne puts a shit-ton of effort into it.”
0:39:10-0:53:03: And if #233 was a change of pace, Fantastic Four #234 is… well, it’s a Will Eisner Spirit story that guest-stars the Fantastic Four. It opens with “the most Will Eisner narration that Will Eisner never wrote,” as I put it, and continues from there, mixing in the near destruction of New York City and the death of countless people, all seen through the eyes of a schlub who’s far more powerful than he knows. We dig into the Eisner-isms, the joys of the issue’s dual feints, and Jeff’s theory about just what the idea of an all-powerful man who doesn’t know how strong he really is really means. All this, and the sensational character find of 1981: the skeevy son of the issue’s protagonist.
0:53:04-1:06:36: After the previous issue’s off-kilter tale, FF #235 opens with a very obvious tribute to Fantastic Four #4, of all things, although that just sets us off on a brief discussion about why Byrne’s run looks so un-Kirby-ish. Is this, as Jeff puts it, “the flip side of the cover band approach we’ve seen up to this point,” and is he correct that Byrne, by this point in his career, had to live up to his own reputation even more than he did the Lee/Kirby legacy? Even beyond that, we talk about how amazingly packed this issue is — “this issue is plotted like a motherfucker,” as Mr. Lester says — and, not for the only time this episode, talk about how much John Byrne is fueled by jealousy of Chris Claremont.
1:06:37-1:35:54: Fantastic Four #236 is the series’ 20th anniversary issue, and that means… Well, for one thing, a genuinely terrible “return” from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, collaborating in the same way that I would be if I redialogued all the Roy Lichetenstein rip-offs. (Wait; I have a great idea.) “I don’t think I can convey how utter batshit this is,” Jeff says, more kindly than he needs to be about the genuinely appalling quasi-collaboration, but not to worry: Byrne continues his run of great stuff with a main story that takes the Fantastic out of the Four, and shows us what’s left. Considering that’s what’s left is some great, subtle character work for Ben Grimm, the completely unsubtle greatness of Vincent Vaughn and a reminder that the Puppet Master is scarier than you think. The highlight of the discussion, though, is Jeff’s theory that Doctor Doom (and by extension, John Byrne) is dissing Jack Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen run at one point in the story. Surely not. And yet… maybe…?
1:35:55-1:38:48: Before we move on to the next issue, I suddenly remember that I haven’t talked about the Frankie Raye subplot in the last few issues, which basically boils down to Frankie discovering that taking off your clothes can be shocking. It’s much funnier in Danish, believe me.
1:38:49-1:55:08: While the main story in FF #237 isn’t the best — there’s an alien and some misunderstandings and intoxication through breathing! — the issue is nonetheless fun thanks to some good character moments and our perhaps misplaced joy at the return of Reed Richards, Science Dick: a man who thinks that the best thing to do with someone in a coma is to stick them in a very dark box, because, sure. Why not. Meanwhile, Ben Grimm is feeling bad about sex, and so turns to weightlifting for some relief in a sequence that only Jeff Lester understands.
1:55:09-end: We look backwards and forwards, discussing how quickly Byrne has remade the series and wondering how important his earlier stint as artist was when helping him to work out just what the Fantastic Four needed overall. I go on about the ways in which his first six issues have moved the book away from pure superheroics, and why that attempt is different from what Moench and Sienkiewicz had just attempted, and then we look ahead to next episode, when we’ll take on Fantastic Four #238-247, featuring more Doctor Doom, the Inhumans and — just maybe — some more Byrne greatness. Until then, there’s always Twitter, Tumblr and Patreon to check up on. As always, thank you for listening and thanks for the patience of those of you waiting for the show notes in these deadline-troubled times!
I’ve been working on (and procrastinating around) this Star Wars-y post for a few days. I’m sad to be finishing and posting it just after hearing the depressing news of Carrie Fisher’s death, which also will probably kinda change my reaction to some of the below.
Last year around this time, I wrote about how people considered Star Wars: The Force Awakens a comic-book style remaking of the Star Wars story. I was responding to Ezra Klein writing at Vox about how TFA “goes too far to be a mere rip-off. It’s a new kind of retcon.” My argument at the time (which I stand by) is that TFA is not a retcon of any sort. It’s a remix, maybe, certainly a re-iteration of that particular myth. And, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter because it’s a fun movie that made me smile in all the right moments and that my daughter likes to watch over and over again just like I did with Star Wars.
(NOTE: gawdammit, Episode IV will always and forever be Star Wars to me. I can’t help it. I’m old. I’m sorry.)
But now we have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and, man, that thing is not only 100% a retcon, it is a nearly flawless retcon.
A working definition, to back that up: To me, true retroactive continuity is an insertion that, as the name implies, retroactively changes our understanding of the underlying continuity. Alec Holland died and his body was never Swamp Thing. Peter Parker never made it out of that smokestack and we’ve actually been following his clone for all the years since. Mary Jane has known Peter’s secret since they were kids. All the old Miracleman stories were just brain implants. And so on.
They’re stories that not only change what we know now, they deepen it and expand on it and, ideally, IMPROVE it.
Which is where Rogue One succeeds so emphatically. I’ve seen it twice now, a pre-screening to determine if the kids could handle it (we decided they could, with proper advance warning of major plot points), and then a viewing with the kids. I loved it both times, far more than the average reaction I’ve seen online, but didn’t feel compelled to write about it … and then I rewatched Star Wars in light of Rogue One, and that impressed the hell out of me.
Here’s why. (By necessity, what comes after the jump not only spoils every element of Rogue One, it also flat-out presupposes that you’ve seen Rogue One. If you haven’t yet, head down to the theater now. This post will still be here when you get back.)
- The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
- Giant Days by John Allison, Whitney Cogar, Max Sarin and Lissa Tremain
- Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden
- Tom King’s untitled trilogy (Omega Men, Sheriff of Babylon, and The Vision)
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
- Doom Patrol by Gerard Way and Nick Derington
- Jason Shiga’s Demon
- Hot Dog Taste Test, by Lisa Hannawalt
- Panther by Brecht Evens
- The Wicked and The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
- We Told You So: Comics As Art by Tom Spurgeon with Michael Dean
- The DC line in general (by various)
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
- Batman: Superheavy by Snyder & Capullo
- The Vision by King and Gabriel Walta (completed)
- The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh
- individual issues of Sheriff of Babylon
- Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour
- Jason Shiga’s Demo
- Spider-Man/Deadpool by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinnes
- Spidey-zine by Hannah Blumenreich
- Kill or Be Killed by Brubaker and Phillips
- Transformers vs. GI Joe by Tom Scioli and John Barber
- The Colonel Corps by Tony Bedard and Tom Derenick and Trevor Scott (unavailable?)
- Super Powers by Tom Scioli (back-up within Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye)
- The Fade Out by Brubaker and Phillips
- Moon Knight by Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe
- Manhunter by Goodwin and Simonson
- Elektra Assassin by Miller and Sienkiewicz
- Madwoman of the Sacred Heart by Jodorowsky and Moebius
- Tales of the Batman by Carmine Infantino
- Batman #153: The Prisoner of Three Worlds by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and others;
- Machine Man by Kirby and Ditko (but really Kirby)
- Fury: My War Gone By by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov
- Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast by Starlin and Aparo
- Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles by Jack Kirby
- By The Numbers vols. 1 and 2 by Laurent Rullier, Stanislas Barthélémy, and Dominique Thomas
- Deathstroke by James Priest, Larry Hama and whoever else is in there
- Suicide Squad by Rob Williams, Jim Lee, and whoever else is in there
- Patience by Dan Clowes
- 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank by Taylor Boss and Matthew Rosenberg
- Sun Bakery by Corey Lewis
- Marvel’s Future Fight video game
- DC Rebirth #1by Geoff Johns and various
- The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn
- The Fix by Steve Lieber, Nick Spencer, and Ryan Hill
- Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye by Jon Rivera, Gerard Way, and Michael Avon Oeming
- Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack
- Kill Them All by Kyle Starks
- Red Team: Double Tap and Center Mass by Garth Ennis and Craig Cermak
- The Unbelievable Gwenpool by Christopher Hastings and Gurihiru
- Kaijumax by Zander Cannon
- Ultimates by Al Ewing and Travel Foreman
- Spider-Woman by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez
- Superman by Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke
- Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart