Greetings from the Odinson,
Poor Rom only gets one week out of the year to shine and unfortunately, this year, his moment was overshadowed by far more important news. So, just to show the Big Guy we still care, the Odinson is making ROM this week’s Preferred Customer Password. Also this week, the Odinson took the time to revisit a couple of graphic novels - one that came out fairly recently and another from a while ago, but topical, nonetheless, due to upcoming events.
New Teen Titans: Games – Odinson Rating: 4 Hammers - This was a story twenty years in the making and it was executed by the legendary creative team that made these teenage heroes a force to be reckoned with in the first place. New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez is a huge reason why I read comic books to this day. So, obviously, I was excited when I heard this baby was going to hit stands. Games was well worth the wait. This original graphic novel helped me remember why I fell in love with these characters in the first place all those years ago.
This GN is unique, as half of it was drawn way back in 1988 and the rest was finished only recently. Though the plot had been originally worked out by the creative team all those years ago, the script had yet to be written. There is a whole section in the book discussing the genesis of this project, and the changes that went into the story from its inception in 1988 to its release in 2011. That in itself is an interesting read. George Perez is a master storyteller and his considerable talents are on display here. And what can I say about Marv Wolfman? The man just knows how to write characters and make the reader actually care about what happens to them.
In Games, a criminal mastermind known simply as The Gamesmaster uses henchmen and the Titans themselves as game pieces and New York City as the game board for his insane “game.” During the story, someone very close to the Titans is murdered, one member is pushed to the brink of murder himself, one member is crippled, a DCU monument is destroyed, and the world and mythology of the Teen Titans is forever changed. My only complaint about this tale, and it’s a small one, is that I guessed the identity of the mysterious arch villain halfway through the story. I just chalk that up to many years of comics reading experience.
Everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine. Raven is confronted with her demonic past and what she might have become if not for the love and support of her friends. Nightwing proves that all those years under the wing of the Caped Crusader were not in vain as his investigative and leadership skills are on full display. And Marv Wolfman truly shows why Starfire was a breakout star of the original series. I love this version of the character and miss the days when Koriand’r and Dick Grayson were an item. I wish the current rendition of Starfire in the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws could be a little less tawdry, and a little more like the original. But, c'est la vie.
Longtime fans will love it, as it fits seamlessly in with the narrative of the Titans mythos. New fans can also enjoy it because…well, because they have eyes. This is truly a modern masterpiece, and I hope Wolfman and Perez are not done and have another Titans story for us at some point in the near future. I don’t think I could wait another twenty years.
The Ultimates – Odinson Rating: 5 Hammers - The Odinson is not a fan of the Ultimate Universe. For the most part, I just see it as a playground for modern creators to put classic character into ridiculous situations and/or kill them off in outlandish ways they never could in the Marvel Universe. However, that being said, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch really caught lightning in a bottle in their little corner of the Ultimate U. They truly capture the essence of these legendary characters - the man out of time, the billionaire/playboy/philanthropist with flaws, the meek man of science that becomes an unstoppable force of rage when provoked, and the power and awe of a thunder god walking amongst mere mortals. It’s been said many times before…there is no way these people should be in the same room with one another. But when they come together they are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and they assemble to take on the threats no single hero can defeat alone.
Everything that makes the Avengers great is on display here. I could spend hours talking about this character or that scene so I’ll just focus on the main reason why I really dig this book – Captain America. Ultimate Steve Rogers (as is the case with most “Ultimate” versions) is more violent than the real Captain America. But what I really dig is that when they say he’s a super soldier, they mean it. If there is one thing that gets under my skin, it’s when some people (it could be other characters in the comics, some of the creators that make the comics, or even other fanboys) refer to Captain America as a regular guy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He’s not just a soldier…he’s a SUPER soldier. There is nothing regular about a guy that can break chains, jump out of ten-story windows, and take a punch from the Hulk. Cap can run faster, jump higher, see farther, and bench press more than any regular Joe on Earth, and no version illustrates that better than Ultimate Captain America. Like I’ve said before, when I read super hero comics or watch a super hero movie, I want to see my super heroes doing super hero things – extraordinary feats beyond the capabilities of ordinary men and women. The Ultimates got it right. The Captain America movie got it right. And, most of the time the creators get it right with the Marvel U Cap. But every now and then there’s that writer that treats him like he’s just a dude in blue chainmail that orders the other guys around.
But I digress.
The Ultimates is a modern take on a classic book and is the number one reason why the world will be treated to a live action Avengers movie this May. Ironically enough, Ultimates HC Vol. 1 features an introduction by none other than Joss Whedon himself, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the aforementioned Avengers movie. In this introduction, he mirrors a lot of my own feelings about Millar and Hitch’s take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (and he articulates it far better than I ever could). The Ultimates has been adapted into a really cool animated DVD movie (Ultimate Avengers: The Movie) that paved the way for the extremely awesome The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series.
The Ultimates is the book of the decade and is well worth another read and New Teen Titans: Games, in a modern landscape of many new great original graphic novels, is a standout piece of art and well worth your hard earned shekels.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell