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Everyone Loses: Hibbs on 9/3’s cape comics

Brian Hibbs

Four superhero books below that cut!


AVENGERS VS X-MEN #12:  Man, it would be nice to have a Marvel crossover once that ended right. I don’t know what frustrates me more: Captain America’s extraordinary hypocrisy in the face of the breaking point he engendered, or why no one is asking about what happens with all of the *good* stuff that the Phoenix Five engineered (food, energy, water, worldwide). but, these are superhero comics, and superhero comics don’t like dealing with ramifications, do they? Like I said back at the review of #1, this comic clearly is reviewer-proof; nothing I could say or do would impact it’s entire success as a commercial juggernaut — I’m certainly selling twice or more copies of AvX than I do of either of the component characters any longer.

The thing is, I’m afraid that this series fundamentally broke the X-Men — what are they any longer?

With Xavier dead, the mutants no longer an “extinct race”, Cyclops considered a super-villain, what’s presumably the world’s stock of Sentinels melted down (along with all of the battleships and nuclear weapons in #6) “Uncanny Avengers”, and so on — well, what’s next? Where can you go from here? The core metaphor might still have need today — but can the X-Men still be the spirit of alienation in any clear way when mutants are now responsible for bringing peace and food and water to Africa, y’know? I have my doubts, especially because the first new x-book off the blocks this week is actually an Avengers title, and the “flagship” X-comic is going to be a time-travel story, which doesn’t even sound remotely sustainable to me as an ongoing monthly.

At the end of the day, I thought AVENGERS VS X-MEN #12 was pretty AWFUL. Though I doubt that’s any real surprise to anyone out there. I also thought that the X-Men “won”, in that Cyclops was right, and his species is now viable again… even though they’re left at the end as being a largely irrelevent concept in the Marvel Universe. Funny how those things work out.



AVX #6: As a modern piece of comedy, I thought this was generally pretty darn GOOD. “Captain America is level 15 in Guilt Trips,” indeed! Though the Hawkeye sexploitation dream was pretty dang grody, and prevented the book from scoring higher.



DAREDEVIL END OF DAYS #1:  I was originally looking forward to this, because on paper, at least, it sounds good: Bendis, Mack, Janson, Sienkiewicz all back on Daredevil for one final story. Too bad the result is a gory mess, with multiple scenes of people beating each other to death. Yay, comics? Overall the art, mostly Jansen being inked by Sienkiewicz, has the worst of each artist’s tics, though there are a few nice and painted panels that entirely work. Seeing those lovely panels make the rest of the book look that much worse, sadly.  Pretty AWFUL.



LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #1: So, this is a collection of  Batman stories that, as far as I know, ran as digital content before being collected here.  This is the fourth (fifth?) “re-purposed” digital comic, and, at my store at least, sales have all been uniformly awful on these books, but I can’t tell if it is the chicken, or if it is the egg. Batman, in serialization, is going through a pretty nice period right now — BATMAN itself is my top selling DC comic. and all five of his monthly books are selling at least 25 copies a month for me. This one? I sold 2 copies in week 1, and I’m not expecting that to grow in any manner I’m willing to carry the risk on. So, is LDK flopping out because it is digital first, and people don’t want leftovers? Or is it flopping because it’s Batman-led comic #6? Or is it flopping because it is shitty?

There are three stories here, one by Damon Lindelof & Jeff Lemire which is close to the worst Batman story I’ve ever read being, I think, a “what if?” of “What If Batman was an arrogant drunk?” Hrf?!? The second two stories are kind of  NEW TALENT SHOWCASE teaming newer writers with solid artists (JG Jones, Nicola Scott) — but the stories aren’t any great shakes, neither rising above what you might hope for in a new talent anthology series: not shitty, exactly, but not so great either. At least not for $4.

The bigger problem, for me, is that these comics are kind of the “proof of concept” for the problem of what you do for natively-digital work when the iPad landscape/computer monitor being different proportions from the printed page.  Mark Waid was the first person I ever heard who said, “Duh, just plop the two screens on top of each other, and your back to normal proportions”, and I thought he was genius when he said that.

Except… now I’ve seen what it looks like in practice. It is… not very good.

So, first, if you’re even slightly aware of it, you can “see” the weld made on each page as writers are aiming the “beat” for the bottom-rightmost panel of each “page”, except each page now has two of THOSE, and it TOTALLY blows the “rhythm” of the comics page.

Second, because you have to present the page smaller than it displays on monitor/iPad, it feels oddly cramped, with too-small lettering.

Third, it really shows just how limited the landscape format is for density-of-content — It is hard to cleanly fit more than 4 “panels” on any “page”, then, which gives you an extremely limited number of choices of page layout and panel arrangement. then you see that twice on each printed page, and it is kind of a mess.

So, I guess now I really don’t think that digital comics can be reformatted to print in this way without kind of crashing out the beauty and strength of the real unit of comic books: the page. I thought the Lindlehof story was AWFUL, but the rest was decent enough it could drag the entire book closer to an EH.



That’s me, what did YOU think?



18 Responses to “ Everyone Loses: Hibbs on 9/3’s cape comics ”

  1. so, wait, Sienkiewicz is inking Klaus Janson? I haven’t seen it yet but I bet it would look better the other way around

  2. What you describe in LotDK is my one problem with “Love and Capes”. It is an otherwise perfect book, but at least twice every issue the 2 blocks of 4 panels format throws me out of the story by drawing attention to the format. (By comparisson, I hardly even notice the transparent speech balloons.)

    I would love to the L&C in a “Little Golden Book” format, square bound and square paged.

  3. I’m the ideal audience for that “Legends of the Dark Knight” book; a Luddite afraid and confused by digital comics who would like to read a Batman comic drawn by Jeff Lemire or Nicola Scott. (I’m gonna try “Amecomi Girls” tomorrow, too). I don’t know how representative a comics-buyer I am, but since these are paper leftovers of digital content (some of which sure looked like it was in a drawer for a long time), then maybe DC doesn’t need to sell many (or any?) copies to make making paper ones worth while…?

    Your point on the formatting was funny, as it’s so rare I ever see a DC comic with more than four panels on a page these days (But maybe I’m just reading the wrong ones…?)

  4. I think post-AVX 12, the idea is that mutants are considered pariahs again for having nearly blown up the world. Some people will also probably be mad at them for effectively conquering it (which some people don’t consider mollified by the fact they also solved hunger in Africa, etc.). And as for all the world’s problems they solved, my guess is that the magic went away when the Phoenix dispersed to make new mutants.

    The destruction of the world’s major stockpiles of weaponry… was it all weaponry, or just mutant-hunting stuff? If everything, well, THAT’ll be quietly overlooked. It certainly doesn’t make any sense that Hope recreated them; the impression I got wasn’t that she hit a reset button.

    Essentially, Mutants are supposed to be in many ways essentially restored to their status quo, as of MARVEL NOW’s start – except the Avengers will be providing some official support for human-mutant relations. There is also the added wrinkle, if Marvel acknowledges it, that anyone who doesn’t want to be a mutant has the X-Men to blame for them being one.

    As for Cyclops, I’m actually quite interested in where he goes from here as a character. His new quo is one of the cool results of the crossover, to my mind.

  5. I liked the Squirrel Girl/Pixie part of AvX #6. It felt like Slott was channeling himself from the old She-Hulk days.

  6. the print editions of the DC Digital line , are doing really well , i mean really well , at our store. I think this is one of those things that may really vary from city to city / shop to shop. Our customer base seems to hate digital, tomorrow will be crazy , phone is ringing off the hook for tomorrows comics

  7. Cyclops was “right,” based on the results, but what exactly did he base his assumption on?

  8. Pete: also, hey, all those people who became mutants, was that their choice? Nope.

    Cyclops is not the good guy here.

  9. That half-page format is actually very common in French-language comics (BD). The normal rate of serialization for something like Asterix was one half-page per week in the pages of a magazine like Pilote. Pick up a collected edition and look for the tiny A and B on the corners of the half-pages and you can spot the weld. Those indicators are really obvious in the Gil Jourdan reprint that Fantagraphics recently released.

    The big difference between something like Asterix and the American implementation of what is a very old serialization device is that Rene Goscinny had years to get good at it, to the point where the cliff-hanger beats are almost invisible in the final collections unless you know what you’re looking for. Here, not so much.

    Of course, a big part of that probably has to do with the fact that BD is meant to be presented in what is essentially magazine format, which gives more space on the half-page for extra panels and creativity in layout. The “standard” comics page already has less real estate and cutting that in half really limits the creative choices.

  10. Well, neither Cap nor Cyke is the “good guy” in any of this — that’s why I titled the piece “Everyone Loses”!


  11. “Well, neither Cap nor Cyke is the “good guy” in any of this”

    That reminds me, was there every ANY sort of in-continuity fall-out from the whole “killing Bill Foster” thing in CIVIL WAR?


  12. MBunge: I think Henry Pym had a redemption arc concerning it in the Avengers Initiative series, but considering that the Pym who helped create Clone thor and the Pym who got “redeemed” were both the Skrull imposter, which sort of retroactively strips away some of moment’s meaning. (Although the real Pym has an arc going over some his guilt over Foster later in Mighty Avengers. Funny that the guy who had nothing to do with it showed a lot more remorse than, say, Stark and Mr Fantastic. You’d think they’d have some sort of moral response to creating a weaponized version of one of their friends.)

    But to recap on AvX: we have a huge planetwide fight caused by both sides behaving in a generally hostile and uncooperative manner, with neither of their leaders being “good guys.” I guess we’re officially out of the Heroic Age, huh?

  13. and Person of Con for the win!

  14. Mr Hibbs, if you don’t mind my asking, how does Batman Beyond Unlimited sell for you? It’s also a comic reprinting stories that were first released digitally, correct?

    I was curious if it sold similarly to Legends of the Dark Knight, or does it do better? I know it isn’t the same thing, since there are lots of books about Bruce Wayne Batman, but no other about the Beyond universe, but it was something that I became curious about after you mentioned Legends poor first issue sales.

  15. 3 subs, zero rack sales on the last three issues for BBU.

    LDK has 1 sub (though that might have been just for #1), and now we’re at two who rack sales.


  16. Yeah, whatever happened to the whole “Tony Stark and Reed Richards made an evil Thor clone who killed a dude” thing? They totally don’t seem to be losing any sleep over that one at all.

  17. I liked the second 2/3rds of LDK (with the 2nd the best) and completely agree that the Lindeloff story was one of the worst ever. I wish he’d leave stick to his TV/movies and comics alone, already.

  18. A typo in:

    Everyone Loses: Hibbs on 9/3′s cape comics

    Should be:

    Everyone Loses: Hibbs on 10/3′s cape comics

    I thought that AvX was shit from start to finish, but it can also be seen as the most extreme signs yet of creative bankruptcy. The premises for events are nonexistent or abandoned.

    AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE, for example. The reason for the limited series was to rehabilitate the Scarlet Witch as a heroine. To do that, Heinberg et al. retconned “Avengers Disassembled, etc. as due to the witch being possessed by the Life Force. A:CC was supposed to tie into AvX, but at some point, Marvel Editorial decided to abandon the Life Force retcon, to say that the witch’s basic power was as strong as the Phoenix Force, and to make her newly-(re-re-)redefined power a critical plot point in AvX.

    The handling of her power in AvX is, by itself, proof of blatant editorial incompetence.


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