Skull main

If there was ever a time to write about Skull The Slayer, the time is probably now.  Yes, that’s right.  Forty years after the debut of the character’s short-lived Marvel series? That’s when we need to sit down and talk about a little known fourth-rate character dearly loved by a select few (in part because he’s little known and fourth-rate).

The time is now to talk because the character has sort of/kind of returned in the third issue of Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo’s Weirdworld, which means Marvel released a ridiculously expensive trade paperback collecting what you could call the entire arc of the character—all eight issues of his series, and a two issue wrap-up in Marvel Two In One a few years later—which also means digital versions of both the collection and the individual issues hit Comixology.

(Which also means I bought them as soon as I figured that out.)

[And pro-tip: if you have access to the Kindle app or the full-color Kindle tablets, you can get the Kindle version of the trade for $9.99…which is a dollar an issue and half the price I spent.  Normally, I’m leery about recommending the Kindle app because I learned the hard way it’s not great with double page spreads, but there’s literally one of those in the entire ten issues. ]

Anyway! Yes, there truly has never been a better time to talk about a little known fourth-rate Marvel character…except maybe ten years from now, when Marvel turns the character into a startlingly successful motion picture franchise.  Until that happens, however, join me after the the jump for the first part of the preamble to that discussion, won’t you?

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Sinestro14

Since my very first post here on Wait, What?, I’ve been holding up the Green Lantern family of books as an example of … maybe not the worst of the DCYou initiative, per se, but certainly the most dull. (In fact, I was dismissive enough in that first post that I openly tried to make up for it with a capsule review of Green Lantern: Lost Army in my second — a noble effort that failed miserably when I was left bored and cold by GL:LA.)

But Sinestro #14 happened to be sitting on the top of a pile while I was trying (and, as ever, failing) to relax earlier, the only book in easy reach, so I read it for lack of anything better to do … and it’s the first recent Green Lantern family book that has made me want to come back for more.

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Chalk it up to professional curiosity, reader masochism or somewhere in between, but this weekend I found myself reading Inhuman #1-11 — which is to say, everything available on Marvel Unlimited — to try and see what they fuss was about when it comes to the Inhumans, and more importantly, whether there’s enough in there to justify the output that Marvel is demanding of the concept, once All New, All Different Marvel launches. (For those unaware, Inhumans will be replaced by two different series: Uncanny Inhumans, All-New Inhumans, with an additional Karnak spin-off coming, while Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur will co-star an Inhuman, Ms. Marvel will continue to dip into Inhumans mythology as needs be and Uncanny Avengers adds “Inhumans” to its attempt to build bridges between mutants and humans.) Continue reading

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                                 Strong Female Characters, by the mighty Kate Beaton

It is almost the end of August.  IT IS ALMOST THE END OF AUGUST.  Sorry, but my brain is broken just a little bit by that fact.
But hey!  After the jump, why don’t you check out the show notes for Episode 183 of Wait, What? It’s a two-plus hour episode where Graeme McMillan and I answer questions posed to us by those wonderful people on Patreon who help keep us afloat.  (I’m not sure what that term means for Graeme, but for me “afloat” means, “oh god, Comixology has the entire run of Super-Villain Team-Up for $1.99 an issue, and some of those are by Englehart, hope I can hold out for the first of the month…”)
Join us, won’t you?

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Other Sonja

Not my preferred issue to buy, but I don’t want to run the same image at the top of a post twice so…

From The Dept. of “Act Now”:  I can’t tell you how surprised and immensely pleased I am that only two weeks after I sung the praises of Frank Thorne’s Red Sonja comics, Dynamite put them up on sale over at Comixology.  You’ll have to act fast to catch them—this post goes live on August 22 and the sale ends on the evening of August 24—but even if you don’t want to pick up the first collected volume (which is on sale for two dollars less than the sale price I paid for it, the sad man said sadly), you can snag individual issues for ninety-nine cents.  I guess I’d recommend issue The Adventures of Red Sonja #6 (a.k.a. Marvel Feature #6), since it’s got Thomas back on the scripting and features some of the art sequences I excerpted?  But honestly, I snagged the remaining two collected volumes before I even thought to post this.

That out of the way, let’s get down to the book reviewing, eh?  And for a change, these are new books! (Ish.) From Marvel!

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SWLuke

I’ve noticed something odd recently: I no longer care about the recency of the comics I’m reading, or reading about — or reviewing, for that matter. Once upon a time, I thought reviews that went up Sunday for books that had come out the Wednesday prior felt stale and useless. Now, a smart and entertaining bit of comics reviewing and/or criticism feels like a smart and entertaining bit of reviewing and/or criticism, regardless of if the book is a day old, a month old, or half a decade old.

I think a lot of factors have contributed to this shift. Some, like being a so-called grown-up and the associated responsibilities and timesucks, are obvious. (I never thought my college Wednesday afternoons, reading new issues of Preacher and Stormwatch in a bar or divey Chinese restaurant, would become quite such objects of personal nostalgia.)

But then there’s other, external factors. Like the way digital comics remove the risk of a comic being hard to find after its first week of sales. Or the way Marvel Unlimited has basically timeshifted most of my Marvel reading by 6 months.  Or the way that Marvel has, y’know, totally disrupted the continuity and flow of their books by ending the universe and telling like 800,000 What If stories. Or the way that the library has made single issues and collections unexpectedly available at times of their choosing, not mine. Or the way sales on Comixology will suddenly bring a whole host of new books into my life.

All of these things have made me much less concerned with only reviewing books that came out in the last 20 seconds; hopefully you all feel similarly. Because if not, it’s going to be really jarring when you see that, like, half the capsules below are from earlier than Wednesday — starting with last week’s All-Star Section Eight #3 after the jump.

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I’ve been re-reading the “Day of Chaos” run of Judge Dredd over the last couple of days — two trades collecting the entire story are getting U.S. releases in September and October — and just marveling in its scope all over again. Continue reading

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Previously on Baxter Building: We’ve pretty much worked our way through the truly classic Jack Kirby/Stan Lee run, with Inhumans, Black Panther, Galactus and the Silver Surfer and even Him all making their debuts. Sadly, that means that we’re now onto the slow decline of the title, which is going to last… for awhile. But don’t worry; it’ll all look better in comparison to what we’re starting off this episode discussing…!

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0:00:00-0:56:33: Our attempt at a cold open doesn’t really work, because Jeff had just returned from seeing the Fantastic Four movie, and so we end up talking about it pretty immediately. (We’re also talking about Fantastic Four #68-73 and Annual #5, but that doesn’t start until the 56:34 mark. For those who’re concerned about spoilers for the movie, jump to that point!) “Although I was pretty aware that this wasn’t a good movie, I found it a really, deeply interesting, oh, I could see how this maybe could’ve worked, oh, here are two or three things that are really interesting but are so far from the spirit of at least the later Fantastic Four comics [movie],” Jeff says at one point and, really, that’s pretty much the way we both felt about it. It’s not good, but it’s certainly not dull. Plenty of things under discussion in this chunk, including the ways in which the movie isn’t true to its characters or even itself, with scenes that would be obviously missing even if we hadn’t seen a bunch of them in the trailers for the movie. Also: Jeff comes up with the ways in which the movie might have worked had director Josh Trank been left to do his stuff (I reference this Hollywood Reporter story a bunch, in relation to the Trank/Fox tussles), the miscasting of Miles Teller, the waste of Michael B. Jordan, and why two random kids and Jeff’s wife Edi would make better movie reviewers than the two of us. I apologize for nothing when it comes to “Victor Von Boom,” however.

Look at all these scenes that aren’t in the finished movie!

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0:56:34-1:20:49: We start on the comic books with Fantastic Four Annual #5, which is certainly the best of the bunch this time around, in no small reason because of the debut of Psycho-Man — arguably the last great character creation from the Lee/Kirby run, and certainly one of Kirby’s best designs from the entire run — as well as three of the greatest minions you’ll see. Do we focus on them, though? Nowhere near enough, because we’re more concerned with Sue Richards’ pregnancy and the ways in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are moving out of creative synch again. Also: how bad is Stan Lee’s memory that he can’t remember the name of his own Macguffin across seven pages, quite how do Psycho-Man’s powers work, and just how coincidental can a plot be before we call shenanigans? (Spoilers: Apparently very, very coincidental.)

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1:20:50-1:28:27: Annual #5 doesn’t just have the Psycho-Man story; there are also two back-up stories, including “This Is A Plot?” which gives an inside look at the Lee/Kirby relationship, as seen by Kirby. (Also, me utterly misremembering the story of it despite having only read it days earlier — always a sign of a memorable story; thankfully, Jeff’s on it.) Also, if you’ve been wondering when Roy Thomas would make his first appearance in Kirby’s work, you might be nearly as excited as Jeff here. There’s also a Silver Surfer short that we don’t spend a lot of time on, for obvious reasons.

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1:28:28-1:41:45: Holy deja vu, Whatnauts: Fantastic Four #68 starts a serious lull of the series, and it does so by… surreally rehashing a storyline that happened less than two years earlier (We talk about the fact that you couldn’t really do that kind of thing these days). On the plus side, we get a great (and, sadly, temporary) new look for the Invisible Girl and one of the greatest pages in comics history ever:

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I promise, it’s all downhill from here on. No, really. Even the existence of a scene which proves that Stan Lee should have never written teen dialogue doesn’t match up to that wonderfulness, even though it appears to magically predict Grease.
1:41:46-1:49:09: “By Ben Betrayed!” is the title of #69, and maybe it’s an allusion to the fact that it’s the readers who are getting betrayed by this impressively throwaway issue. How throwaway is it? Jeff and I find more to talk about in alternative careers for the Mad Thinker than we do with what’s actually in the issue. There is a random King Kong reference to lighten the readers’ load, however, and Jeff reveals who Reed Richards’ true love is.

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1:49:10-1:55:47: “We’re speeding through these, because I swear to God, they’re not worth paying attention to,” I say, as we spin into Fantastic Four #70. I’m not joking, apparently, because I really do speed through the plot of this issue, at least until we hit the point of true Kirby logic: no matter how much thinking you can do, a good punch is always better. Meanwhile, Jeff ponders the way in which the series starts to fulfill Stan Lee’s ideal (which is to say, Reed Richards Spotlight Monthly.) and the surprising lack of design when it comes to the Mad Thinker’s androids. There’s also this memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Kirby splash page (We can all agree he’s checked out at this point, right?):

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We also talk about the other sign that Kirby isn’t paying as much attention: The lack of subplots in these issues.
1:55:48-2:01:11: Fantastic Four #71 brings a slightly revived Kirby (art wise, at least) and a Lee that’s perfectly prepared to sell Sue down the river if it makes Reed look good. It also brings the first appearance of a future FF trope, which is bad news for the Negative Zone, but that’s really about all you can say about it.

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2:01:12-2:10:13: Even though I finally ‘fess up and say that I don’t like the Silver Surfer (Sorry, everyone), there are things I find fascinating about #72 — not least of which is the fact that the Silver Surfer is very explicitly depowered, which will never be mentioned again. Oh, and the Watcher reveals that he’s all about Jesus:

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Meanwhile, Jeff blows my mind with a theory that Superman and Silver Surfer are pretty much the same character with just one important difference (I’m unconvinced, but it’s something that never would have occurred to me). Also, is this the era where Stan Lee goes from wanting his characters to evolve to wanting it just to look like things are evolving? Jeff has another theory that suggests that’s just where we are. And if you’ve never considered the possibility of the Watcher as a boy scout, prepare your mind.

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2:10:14-2:19:27: Oddly enough, Fantastic Four #73 is the third part of a storyline that began in Daredevil #37, and so I fill Jeff in on what he missed — I highly recommend everyone who has Marvel Unlimited checks it out, because it’s wonderfully fun, if utterly ridiculous (The panels above come from Daredevil #38, AKA “Superior Spider-Man, but 50 years earlier”) — before we tackle the fall-out, in which Stan doesn’t really realize whether or not the FF think the Spider-Man and Thor they’re fighting are the real thing or not. I’m not a fan of this issue, which feels like filler for me, but trust Jeff to find a subtext that makes it more interesting, speaking to Kirby’s dissatisfaction with his place at Marvel at the time. There’s a textual reason to enjoy it, too: more proof that Sue is by far the most important member of the team when it comes to ensuring that they don’t do something dumb to destroy themselves. Where would the team be without Sue? We’ll find that out next episode.

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2:19:28-end: In which we look back on the issues we… enjoyed? Kind of? and look forward to what’s to come in the next episode — #74-81 — promising that, honestly, it’ll be a better batch of things than what we had this time. Really. As ever, you can find us on Tumblr, Twitter and Patreon, as well as on this very site, where we’ll have no less than three written posts this week before returning next week for a regular Wait, What?. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick — or, for that matter, having to sit through that Fantastic Four movie again. Thanks for listening (and reading these notes), as always.

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classassination1

From the Department of Grr:  So last week Viz had a digital sale or two.  To be more precise, they had two sales at Comixology, one for Shojo Beat titles (which is, more or less, their girly romance books) and one for Viz Signature (which is, more or less, their mature reader titles).  And they also had a sale at their own digital storefront for their Shojo Beat and Viz Signature titles that ran the same time.

Now, Viz’s iPad app is, technically speaking, pretty darn nice.  Of course, it’s naturally set to read from right to left, it seamlessly handles moving between single page layouts in portrait mode and double page layouts in landscape mode, and it has a bookmarking function that I wish every app had (both Sequential and 2000 AD’s old app have one as well). I prefer it quite a bit to the Kindle app, which in my experience had problems with extra-wide gutters on double-page spreads, no pinch to expand function, etc., etc.

But there’s one thing their iPad app doesn’t have which I think is kind of a big deal:  consistency.  You can buy just about every manga Viz has in print via their digital website….but that doesn’t mean you can read it.  Years ago—maybe in year one or two of my Shonen Jump subscription—I threw down some cash on a few books…only to discover after the fact the books I’d bought (the first two volumes of Dorohedoro) I couldn’t read on the app because of their mature content.

I’d bought books I could only read online in a web browser.

To quote the cool kids of yesteryear: TEH SUCK.

So yeah.  I was a little bummed I missed the sales on Comixology (which inconveniently listed neither start nor end dates) because I knew I could actually read the books I bought on my tablet of choice where and when I wanted.  Also not so great,  some series at Viz (like Detroit Metal City) started on sale at Volume 1, whereas on Comixology, the earliest volume on sale was Volume 6 or 8 or something.

Now, from what I can tell, over time Viz has widened the range of what they’ll allow on their app.  You can read the two volumes of Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu on the app, but you can’t read Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom.  You can read the Viz Signature titles Solanin and What A Wonderful World by Inio Asano on the app, but you can’t read any volumes of the Shojo Beat classic Nana by Ai Yazawa.  All those volumes of Detroit Metal City you could buy on sale on Viz’s digital storefront?  You can’t read them in the iPad app.  As far as I know, you can’t read them on any tablet Viz has an app for.

According to this article, the difference appears to be that that books that are actually rated ‘M’  for Mature can’t be allowed on the app or Viz loses its 12+ rating, and books like Solanin  and Cat Eyed Boy are rated T+ for Teens.  So why doesn’t Viz create a mature readers version of the app, either with or without the storefront?  I dunno.  Maybe I’m missing something but doesn’t it seem like most of the hard work has been done in creating an app that syncs with your account and all that?

Between that, the weird disparity in volumes offered for sale across platforms, and what previously had been a pretty low-key warning that mature titles were only available in a flash browser (it’s gotten better since), I feel Viz is being disingenuous with their approach to digital manga.

Even though my checkbook is happy I missed out on the Comixology sale, the part of me that digs manga on my iPad is sad.  Because as much as I love Viz’s titles, I don’t really feel like buying any of them for their app if I can’t read all of them.

There.  Now that the griping is out of the way, feel free to join me behind the jump for brief reviews of Assassination Classroom, Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, and a very late Fuuka update. Continue reading

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Housekeeping! First, make sure you don’t miss new posts from Jeff (on Red Sonja) and Graeme (on autobio comix) below. Second, also don’t miss Graeme’s similarly-themed (but much better-written!) post over at Wired; he and I only overlap on one run, so you shouldn’t be TOO bored. Now fire up the existentialators and let’s gooooooooooooooo!

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So the Fantastic Four cratered at the box office again, a flame-out so spectacular that it makes their widely-mocked last outing (“a juvenile, simplistic picture”) look like The Dark Knight by comparison. This has led to a whole bunch of thinkpiecing and podcast chatter wondering what this means for superhero movies in general and what it says about the Fantastic Four specifically.

Should the movies have followed the comics more closely? Less closely? Is a body horror take appropriate for the property? Maybe it should be all high-gloss pop? But wasn’t that what the last ones were? Maybe it’s impossible to make a good Fantastic Four movie AT ALL! And so on.

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually seen the current movie. But I have found myself compulsively reading (and listening to) these dissections of the aftermath, and — in true internet pundit fashion — have decided that I totally have the answers despite only having a third-hand approximation of the problem. And my basic answer is this: they started off with the wrong comics.

For all that this isn’t adapted from any particular set of Fantastic Four comics, it seems pretty clear that they’re using the Ultimate Fantastic Four as their starting point: younger lead characters; childhood friendship between Reed and Ben; working together at an institute; Doom being their peer; the Storm’s father being involved; etc. And those comics, for all the palpable talent lined up behind them (Bendis! Millar! Ellis! One of those Kubert people!), were not particularly memorable. It was the first major-character misfire (i.e., not that stupid Ron Zimmerman book) in the Ultimate line, and no amount of flailing ever seemed to cause it to make a dent in the gestalt psyche of comic fandom.

Which makes it a questionable foundation on which to build the edifice of a movie that had plenty of other potential problems as well. You understand the impulse — who wants to watch OLD PEOPLE in a superhero movie, amirite?!? and superhero teams with silly names????!? — but it’s the same impulse that missed the mark in the Ultimate comics.

But Fantastic Four is a comic that’s been published for something like 54 mostly-uninterrupted years. Surely somewhere in that vast catalog of lunacy there are some ideas that might better inform a film? (Or a Netflix series? Or whatever Oculus Rift thing we’re doing by the time someone feels brave enough to try again with these characters?)

Yes. Yes, there are. Since binging on the movie’s autopsy reports, I’ve spent some time thinking about my favorite Fantastic Four stories, and trying to figure out what elements made them work for me — I’m an intermittent reader of the book — and how they might translate to the screen. So here, in the spirit of this poor, beleaguered piece of comic book IP and fine internet listicles everywhere, a countdown of four fantastic comic book Fantastic Four eras that might have something to offer the big-screen FF.

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