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Mycomicshop's Comic Blog

Mycomicshop's Comic Blog

Entries Tagged as Comics

The Odinson’s Top 5 Ultron Tales

May 15, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


 Last week I reviewed Avengers: Age of Ultron.  This week I want to focus on the villain of the piece – Ultron.  This malevolent, murderous machine is truly one of the most menacing super villains in the history of comics.  He is a true All-Time great.  A hero is only as good as his villain.  A villain is only as scary as his deeds.  Well, the Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, so you can imagine that Ultron’s sinister deeds must be quite diabolical.


Physically, Ultron is an imposing adversary.  His body is made out of nearly indestructible Adamantium and can withstand the pounding fists of the Incredible Hulk and the smashing might of Thor’s Hammer. His mechanical limbs give him inhuman strength.  He has an array of energy based attacks not the least of which is his devastating Encephalo-Ray, a powerful attack that immediately renders its victims unconscious and can even place them into a coma.  And, his computer brain puts him on par with the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe.  Tony Stark has even said that Ultron may be smarter than him!     


The greatest villains in comics are not just simple black-and-white cut-outs.  No, they are complicated and complex characters.  There is a reason why names like Magneto, Deathstroke, Two-Face, Sinestro, and Mystique have resonated over the course of decades.  They are interesting and if not for one reason or another, they could have been on the side of angels.  Doctor Doom and Lex Luthor could be the greatest heroes of their respective universes if they weren’t so darn evil. 


Ultron is also a complicated creature.  He’s a walking contradiction.  He’s a machine with an Oedipus complex.  Ultron was created by Hank Pym, who he wants to murder, and he has an unhealthy obsession with the Wasp, Pym’s ex-wife.  Isaac Asimov is turning over in his grave at the thought of Ultron’s lack of respect for the Three Laws of Robotics.


For the Odinson, the moment when the legend of Ultron truly captured my imagination was in the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  In the very first issue, this brash robot turns on his villainous comrades and tries to take on Galactus, GALACTUS!  That didn’t work out too well for him but nevertheless, Doctor Doom reactivated the fallen droid and made him his personal bodyguard.  During the course of this classic tale Ultron vaporized Kang, proving once and for all who the most dangerous Avengers foe is, he stood toe-to-toe with the Mighty Thor, and nearly crippled the Hulk, an injury that carried over with the Jade Giant even after his return to Earth.  In a final showdown that almost cost Captain America and the Human Torch their lives, it took Johnny Storm going Super Nova in order to bring this nearly unstoppable force for Doom down for the count.  From that point on, I have always been an Ultron fan and I will read any issue he is in. 


Which brings me to…           


The Odinson’s Top 5 Ultron Tales


 5 – Ultron vs. Daredevil: Hollow Victory! -  During the Acts of Vengeance campaign, Doctor Doom reassembles his Secret Wars bodyguard and sends him after the Man without Fear.  In this harrowing tale guest-starring the Uncanny Inhumans, Matt Murdock is pushed to his physical and mental limits as he tries to overcome a foe that is much, much more physically superior to the foes he normally faces off against. 


4 – Annihilation Conquest – The Phalanx is a techno-organic race of aliens that sweep through the cosmos and assimilate anything and everything in their path.  The mutant heroes, the X-Men, have barely managed to keep the Phalanx at bay when they set their sights on Earth (see Uncanny X-Men #192 and The Phalanx Covenant).  This is a truly scary adversary.  So, in the wake of the Phalanx’s defeat of the Shi’ar Empire, the Spaceknights of Galador, and the Kree Empire, it was truly awe-inspiring to see that it was in fact Ultron who pulled the strings of the Phalanx.  The Phalanx assimilates everything in its path, but Ultron conquered the Phalanx.  That feat alone puts Ultron in the Hall of Fame.   


3 – The Tale of Mark V – It all begins when Pym starts receiving mysterious phone calls.  Pym agrees to meet with the stranger on the other end of the line but is horrified to discover the caller is in fact Ultron!  However, this Ultron wants to be called Mark V and all he wants to do is love and adore his creator.  As you can imagine, Pym is very leery but he does not have long to contemplate his peculiar situation as Ultron-11, the sinister version from the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, shows up and all hell breaks loose.  Let’s just say that Pym is very lucky he has friends like the Ionically-powered Wonder Man on his side.  This beloved issue answers the question –What If Ultron were a force for good?  If you are a Hank Pym and/or Ultron fan then this is simply a Must Read tale.     


2 – Ultron’s Vision – Part of what makes Ultron so dangerous is that he is constantly upgrading and evolving.  Also, his plight against Marvel’s Premiere Super Team is personal.  He’s family.  During one of his most notorious campaigns against his hated foes, Ultron created and unleashed his vision.  Using the derelict body of the World War II android, the Original Human Torch, and Wonder Man’s brainwaves, Ultron created the super android known as the Vision.  Physically, the Vision is a powerful adversary who can go toe-to-toe with just about any heavy-hitter in the Marvel U.  However, unlike Ultron, the Vision believes in the Three Laws of Robotics and actually turns on his creator, ironically the same way Ultron had turned on his creator.  Vision has gone on to become one of the most classic figures in Avengers History and his romance with the Scarlet Witch continues to make the Avengers Family Tree the most complex and interesting one in the history of comic books.


1 – Ultron Unlimited – This is not only the greatest Ultron story of All-Time, it is also one of the greatest Avengers stories of All-Time.  It has everything.  Right off the bat, Ultron establishes himself as a truly sinister and deadly force to be reckoned with as he slaughters an entire country and turns the dead into an army of cyborg-zombies.  All the dysfunctional family drama between Giant-Man, Wasp, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, and Ultron is present.  The climactic battle scene in the movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was inspired by these mind-blowing pages that saw Earth’s Mightiest Heroes face down an Army of Ultrons!  Plus, this story gives us perhaps the greatest single moment in Avengers History.  Simply stated – “Ultron, we would have words with thee.”  Anyone who has read this tale knows exactly what I’m talking about.  Kurt Busiek and George Perez crafted a true classic here. 


Honorable Mentions: We Stand at Armageddon, The Torch is Passed, The Bride of Ultron, Ultron Unbound, and, of course, Age of Ultron. 


Lex Luthor.  Doctor Doom.  The Joker.  Thanos.  Darkseid.  These are the faces on the Mount Rushmore of comic book villainy.  Well, it’s time to break out the hammer and chisel and add the sinister glowing Jack-o-Lantern visage of Ultron to the mix.   


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

No CommentsTags: Comics

Man and Machine: Forever at Odds?

May 01, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theatres now!  Next week the Odinson will drop his official review. For now, I’d like to take a closer look at the villain of the piece - Ultron.  But even more specifically, the complicated relationship between man and machine.


1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.


These are the Three Laws of Robotics as conceived by renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov (I, Robot).  Man makes machines to help him improve his state of living.  Man evolves and with evolution comes advancement in technology.  Eventually, man creates A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), A.I. reaches singularity, A.I. perceives man as either inferior or a threat, and inevitably A.I. tries to destroy man.  As Morpheus once told Neo – “Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive.  Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” 


The snowball effect started with HAL 9000.  In Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning 2001: A Space Odyssey, an astronaut crew bound for Jupiter is systematically taking out by their onboard A.I., HAL, when they threaten to disconnect the computer.  HAL’s reinterpretation of Asimov’s third rule ended up contradicting the whole formula and subsequently rewrote the rule book.  After this mechanical transgression, machines all across the landscape of science fiction began to turn on their human benefactors.


A few months after HAL 9000’s malfunction, Marvel Comics unveiled a new super villain.  Ultron is an A.I. created by Hank Pym, the super hero known as Ant-Man and a co-founding member of the Avengers.  However, as super smart as he is, Pym is a flawed man and he passed those flaws on to his greatest creation.  It wasn’t long before Ultron sought not only the destruction of his father but the annihilation of all mankind.  Constantly evolving, Ultron continues to come back and plague Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and every time he does, he comes back smarter and deadlier than the time before.  So much so that in order to vanquish the machine’s last attempt, Marvel’s heroes had to fracture the very time-stream and set the Marvel Universe on a collision course with oblivion in order to defeat the mechanical monster (see Age of Ultron, Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand, and Time Runs Out).  


A few years later, a very different kind of artificial intelligence arose to plague mankind.  Arnim Zola was a World War II Nazi scientist who through the use of super science downloaded his criminal brain into a computer and now to this day haunts the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America, and the free world he protects. 


In Alien, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic, Ash, the science officer of the ill-fated Nostromo, a deep space vessel, and resident android goes rogue and starts breaking Asimov’s rules left and right in order to preserve the crew’s landmark find for his employers.      


Perhaps the most infamous A.I. in the annuals of science fiction is Skynet.  This military computer network becomes self-aware and decides that it is in its best interest to wipe out humanity.  It declares war on the human race by simultaneously launching all nuclear warheads around the globe.  In the Apocalyptic aftermath, Skynet sends out machines, Hunter/Killers and Terminators, to exterminate the remnants of the human race.  However, a human resistance led by John Connor rises up to fight back.     


Even good machines can go bad, as was the case in Absolute Vision.  After sustaining serious damage investigating a Negative Zone incursion, the Vision, resident super android of the Avengers, is hooked up to ISAAC, an alien super computer, to help speed up his repair process.  However, this strange connection between the two A.I.s awakens an idea within the synthetic superman to take control of the Earth and force utopia on mankind whether they want it or not.     


In 1986, Stephen King’s unique take on the Apocalypse, Maximum Overdrive, showed planet Earth fall into the tail of a mysterious comet.  The radiation from the celestial event awakened a consciousness in all machines big and small around the world.  Planes, trains, and automobiles of all shapes and sizes were suddenly given sentience and awareness.  So what does every single vehicle, machine, and piece of equipment whether electrical or gas-powered want to do with its first day of self-awareness?  Why destroy mankind of course.  


If Skynet is the most sinister example of man vs. machine, then The Matrix has to be the most diabolical.  In an unspecified time in the future, man creates an A.I. that declares war on its creators.  Knowing the machines depend on solar energy to sustain themselves, mankind uses nuclear bombs to scorch the earth and blackout the skies.  So, the machines enslave mankind and use the energy produced by the living for power.  They grow human beings in fields and fields of mechanical pods.  However, to keep the human race docile and subjugated, the machines created The Matrix, a computer-generated world where mankind lives out their lives within their minds and completely oblivious to the fact that they are all slaves.      


One minute you are playing chess against your home computer, and the next minute, Skynet is launching a full scale nuclear attack to wipe out humanity from the face of the earth.  How has the relationship between man and machine gone so poorly that we've gone from Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics to The Matrix?  At least benevolent robots and machines like Data, the Autobots, X-51, Red Tornado, the Vision, and C-3PO and R2-D2 seem to have our best interests at heart, mechanical as they may be.


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

No CommentsTags: Comics · Movie · Pop Culture

The Odinson Reviews Marvel's Daredevil

April 24, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


Ok, I waited two weeks to give everyone a chance to watch it.  It’s now time for the Odinson to review Marvel’s Daredevil.  I will try to keep the enthusiasm in check and apologies to those that have not seen it yet (shame on you) for any spoilers that might slip.    


Netflix debuted Daredevil, the first of its five new shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The other shows will be about Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and finally, they will all come together in The Defenders.  I’m not going to bury the lead.  I absolutely loved Daredevil!  For me, as a lifelong fan, I sat there and watched the comic book literally come to life right before my eyes.  It’s an origin story without being mired in quicksand.  The cast and crew do an amazing job bringing the gritty world of Hell’s Kitchen to life.  It’s easy to tell, they were inspired by the story of Daredevil: The Man without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr.  From the first episode to the last, the audience sees the growth and evolution of Matt Murdock and Daredevil, the legend he will become.       


Let me get into the first of two sidebars.  I have long been a vocal defender of Daredevil: The Movie starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.  The film has its flaws and warts to be sure, but it is a film that is way underrated and not nearly as bad as a lot of folks have claimed.  To be honest, I believe most of the negative energy surrounding this film was due more to events happening in the real life of the lead actor rather than the material itself.  It’s a completely watchable movie.  It’s more Batman Forever and less Batman and Robin.     


I want to take a moment and talk about the amazing cast this show has.  Charlie Cox looks like Matt Murdock.  He absolutely nails the part.  At no time does he go way over board either.  His transformation from Murdock to Daredevil is seamless and his choices from mannerisms to voice are fantastic.  And, the kid they got to play young Matt Murdock looks like he was plucked right off the page of a John Romita, Jr. drawing.  Deborah Ann Woll, who many viewers may recognize from True Blood, portrays the complex Karen Page, a character whose past, present, and future, as most DD readers know, will have a huge impact on the lives of Murdock and Nelson.  Speaking of…Eldon Henson as Foggy Nelson, with his acting and delivery of the lines, breathes life into the character and makes him even more interesting than he ever was on the page.  The supporting cast of Vondie Curtis-Hall as reporter Ben Urich, the beautiful Rosario Dawson as Night Nurse, and the great Scott Glenn as Stick, Murdock’s blind mentor, were all absolutely fantastic.     


One of the main complaints I’ve heard about the show is how violent it is.  That doesn’t really bother me so much because Daredevil is one of the most street level super heroes in all of comics.  It was amazing to see ole Horn Head’s Rogues Gallery come to life.  I got great pleasure in seeing Turk, a street informant and small time hood, be included in the show.  We also get to see classic DD bad guys like the Hand, Gladiator, Arranger and the Owl.  However, Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk the Kingpin of Crime was just remarkable.  I love his portrayal of Daredevil’s arch foe and he is arguably, next to Hiddleston’s Loki, the single best Marvel villain brought to life so far.     


Which brings me to the second of my sidebars.  I have heard the following complaint several times now.  I hear people in articles, interviews, and podcasts complain that the Marvel Cinematic Universe only has one villain – Loki.  Now, Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the Trickster is Top Shelf for sure but he is not even close to being the only villain we’ve seen and enjoyed.  Iron Man has faced off against the Iron Monger, Whiplash, Justin Hammer, and AIM.  In the Thor films we’ve seen Malekith, the Frost Giants, Kurse, and the Destroyer!  Captain America has faced down the Red Skull, the Winter Soldier, Crossbones, Arnim Zola, Hydra, and Batroc the Leaper!  We have seen Graviton, the Collector, Nebula, Ronan, the Celestials, oh yeah, and THANOS!  We are about to see the sinister Ultron come to life.  And, these are just the villains we’ve seen I can think of off the top of my head.  As a fanboy, the Odinson gets so much joy every time one of these characters makes an appearance.  So, yes, Loki is great and arguably the best villain so far, there is a reason why his actions cause the formation of Marvel’s Premiere Super Team, but ease up on the whole “Loki being the only villain we’ve seen” bit. 


OK, I’m off my soap box.  Now, back to DD. 


Netflix released the entire 13 episode First Season all at once.  It’s basically a thirteen hour movie and it goes by all too quickly.  All the little Easter Eggs like references to the Avengers, Elektra, and the mystical city of K’un L’un remind me of the comics and the wonderful continuity of the shared Marvel Universe.  And, there are plenty of shocking surprises and Game of Throne-like OMG moments that I will not spoil for you here. 


Season 2 has already been announced!  Moving forward, the Odinson would love to see an adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic Born Again saga, an adaptation of Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada’s tragic tale Guardian Devil, appearances by the Punisher and Elektra, and appearances by Daredevil and the other Netflix heroes in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie.   


I highly recommend this show to longtime DD comic fans and fans who only know the characters through the movies. 


The Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers


The reason Marvel just keeps on knocking it out of the park and getting it over on their competition is because they do it right.  They never stray too far from the source material.  When I go see an Iron Man movie, it’s not Hollywood’s version of Iron Man.  It’s Marvel’s Iron Man!  In an interview with Kevin Smith (Director of Clerks and Mallrats), Stan Lee once joked that back in 1961 he should have took his ideas to Hollywood.  Smith laughed it off and said “No, sir.  You were needed in comics.”  Well, that is true, and thankfully for generations of comic fans Stan Lee did stay in comics and launch the Marvel Age with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but it is fun to see all these years later this universe come to life on the Big and Small screens. 


Whether it’s in comics or books, cartoons or video games, television or movies, the Marvel Universe translates, and translates well.        


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

No CommentsTags: Comics · Television

The Odinson’s Top 20 Moments in Marvel History: Part 2 of 2

April 17, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


As the Marvel Universe prepares to usher in a brand new era with 2015’s Secret Wars, the Odinson has decided to rank his most significant moments in the illustrious history of the House of Ideas.


The Odinson’s Top 20 Moments in Marvel History: Part 2 of 2


#10 - The Creation of Ultron – If a hero is measured by the strength of his enemies then Ultron is the reason why the Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  With his computer brain, he is as smart as Iron Man.  With his Adamantium shell, he is as indestructible as the Hulk.  With his analytical sensors, he is as cunning as Captain America.  And, with his robotic limbs, he is as strong as Thor.  But, these attributes are not what make him the Avengers’ greatest foe.  No, it’s because it’s personal.  Hank Pym as Ant-Man is a founding member of the Avengers and Hank Pym is Ultron’s creator, his father.  This is a twisted Family Tree that includes Wasp, Vision, Jocasta, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, and more!  The scariest thing about Ultron is that he always comes back smarter and deadlier than the time before.  The heroes can win a thousand battles.  The villain only has to win once.    


#9 - Demon in a Bottle – Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil could have filled this spot, but it’s Demon in a Bottle that makes the list.  This is the tale that ushered in a new, more mature style of storytelling.  Marvel characters have always been more relatable than others.  It’s hard to relate on a personal level to a strange visitor from another world that can leap tall buildings in a single bound or a billionaire with good looks, women, and all the wonderful toys money can buy, but a young photographer struggling to pay his rent, a mild-mannered guy with anger issues, a dysfunctional family, a hot-headed young man who has a strained relationship with his father, now those are stories that real people can relate to.  Demon in a Bottle really shined the spotlight on Tony Stark’s struggles with alcoholism.  It cost him his relationships, it cost him his company, and, ultimately, it cost him his role as Iron Man.  It set up a hero’s journey, a long arduous quest for Stark to pick himself back up, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and come out the other end a better man.      


#8 - The Death of Jean Grey – With the Dark Phoenix Saga, Chris Claremont and John Byrne gave us a tragedy on par with Shakespeare himself.  They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The fall from grace and ultimate sacrifice of Jean Grey was not only shocking, but earned.  It’s not the first death in comics history and by no means was it the last, but it is easily one of the most memorable.  Years later, with the Return of Jean Grey, it was like a weight had been lifted and the sun shined down on the Marvel Universe once again.  I never realized just how important a character like Jean Grey was until she was gone.  She is the glue that binds the X-Men together.  She is the heart and soul of the Children of the Atom.      


#7 - The Death of Gwen Stacy – This was not only one of the most shocking, unexpected moments in comics history, but it was one of the most poignant.  Gwen Stacy was the love of Peter Parker’s life.  They were young with a whole future in front of them.  These are just comic books, right?  There’s no real consequences.  The heroes always save the day and evil is always punished.  This was the moment that changed everything.  This is the moment when Spider-Man and the comic book medium grew up.    


#6 - Avengers Disassemble/House of M/Decimation – Several prominent heroes meet their untimely ends and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Marvel Universe’s premiere super hero team, is completely dismantled and worse, it’s by one of their own.  The Scarlet Witch has descended into madness and she takes the world with her.  Using her reality-warping powers, Wanda rewrites the history of the Marvel U and changes the world into a place ruled by her father, the notorious Magneto.  As this illusion begins to unravel, Wanda utters three simple little words – “NO MORE MUTANTS.”  Those three words empowered by chaos magic and fueled by psychosis brought an entire race of people to the verge of extinction and completely changed the landscape of the Marvel Universe for many years to come.


#5 - The Coming of Galactus – In this 3-part tale, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby expanded the Marvel Universe exponentially and told a grand science fiction tale that cemented the Fantastic Four as the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.  In this epic adventure, we witness the defining moment of Uatu the enigmatic Watcher.  We are introduced to the gleaming Silver Surfer whose noble sacrifice and origin story would not only inspire but establish the Sentinel of the Spaceways as one of the greatest characters in Marvel History.  And, we are introduced to the Devourer of Worlds, the mighty Galactus.  A true force of nature, Galactus has to be one of the most feared, awe-inspiring, complex, and interesting beings in the entire Marvel Universe.  This is the tale that showed the Fantastic Four that despite their amazing powers and skills, they are mere mortals in a much grander scheme, a much bigger universe than they or the readers could have ever possibly imagined.    


#4 - The Gamma Bomb – On that fateful day when mild-manner scientist Bruce Banner dashed out onto the test site to save the life of teenager Rick Jones, the first hero of the Atomic Age was born.  Caught in the heart of an exploding Gamma Bomb and bombarded with immense amounts of Gamma Radiation, Bruce Banner’s chemical make-up was forever altered.  Now, whenever he becomes angry he transforms from a hundred and eighty pound weakling into the juggernaut the world has come to know as the Incredible Hulk!  Usurping elements from Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and King Kong, and mixing in romance, tragedy, and modern day science fiction, the pathos-filled tales of the Hulk and his alter-ego, Bruce Banner, have become the stuff of legend.    


#3 - Avengers #4 – He was the greatest super hero of World War II, but that was decades ago and the Sentinel of Liberty was long thought dead and gone.  However, on that fateful day when the Savage Sub-Mariner tossed a frozen idol local Eskimos were worshiping into the sea and that object was recovered by the Avengers, who were in pursuit of Namor, Captain America returned to the world!  The initial trials of Steve Rogers as a man-out-of-time with survivor’s guilt made for entertaining dramatic storytelling.  Over the years since his return, Captain America has become the undisputed leader of the Avengers and the super hero community as well.  With his sense of honor, duty, integrity, and never give up attitude, Captain America is one of the most inspirational characters in not only Marvel History, but in comics history as well.    


#2 - The Death of Uncle Ben – This is the defining moment in the life of one the most defining super heroes in history.  After teenager Peter Parker was bitten by that radioactive spider and given the super human abilities of a human-spider, he didn’t set out to become a hero.  No, quite the opposite.  He set out to make money off his new found gifts.  However, on that fateful night when he selfishly allowed a criminal to escape when he could have helped Peter Parker learned a poignant and tragic lesson.  That very same criminal later broke into Parker’s home and murdered his Uncle Ben, the man who raised him.  This is the moment when Peter Parker learned that “with great power must also come great responsibility.”  This is the moment that Spider-Man was truly born.   


#1 - Fantastic Four #1 – It’s the issue that launched the Marvel Age!  As the legend goes, a young writer named Stan Lee had had his fill of writing romances, westerns, and sci-fi O. Henry stories and was ready to give it all up.  His beautiful wife, Joan, suggested that if he were going to quit anyway he may as well write one last tale the way he wanted to write it.  Thus, the Fantastic Four was born, and over the course of the next 100 issues, from Atlantis to Attilan, the Savage Land to the Blue Area of the Moon, from Queens New York to Wakanda, Stan Lee and his co-creator and partner, Jack Kirby, established the landscape of what we now today call the Marvel Universe.  From the Inhumans to the Kree Empire, the Skrulls to the Watcher, the Silver Surfer to Galactus, the Black Panther to the Doctor Doom, through the eyes of Marvel’s First Family the readers were introduced to all the different and colorful denizens that inhabited the Marvel Universe.  This is the issue that started it all and therefore the issue that tops the Odinson’s list.  


Honorable Mentions: The Kree/Skrull War, Death of Captain Marvel, The Infinity Gauntlet, The Fall of the Mutants, Annihilation, ROM Spaceknight, and Marvel vs. DC. 


These are the moments that shaped the 616 into the greatest fictional playground in pop culture history. 


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


No CommentsTags: Comics

The Odinson’s Top 20 Moments in Marvel History: Part 1 of 2

April 10, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


The summer of 2015 will mark a significant milestone in the history of comic books – The End of the 616.  The mega event they are calling Secret Wars will change the landscape of the Marvel Universe forever, and that’s saying something for a universe that has had some of the most reality-bending stories to ever see the light of day.


As the Marvel Universe prepares to usher in a brand new era, the Odinson has decided to rank his most significant moments in the illustrious history of the House of Ideas.


The Odinson’s Top 20 Moments in Marvel History: Part 1 of 2


#20 - Onslaught/Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return – When Professor Xavier’s essences merged with Magneto’s latent evil a powerful destructive force known as Onslaught was born.  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Marvel’s First Family were forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world.  As the 616 moved on without its greatest champions (see Thunderbolts, Ka-Zar, Alpha Flight, Elektra, etc.), the Avengers and Fantastic Four in one of the darkest moments in Marvel History were REBORN in a pocket universe of Franklin Richards’ creation.  There they lived out lives with similar but slightly different origins.  That was until a cataclysmic event ushered in their triumphant RETURN to the 616 and arguably one of the shiniest moments in Marvel Comics History. 


#19 – Incredible Hulk #180-181 – In these bone-crushing pages, the mighty Hulk and the world are introduced to Wolverine.  The man simply known as Logan with his Adamantium-laced unbreakable bones and claws and super human healing factor would not only capture the imagination of readers for generations to come but he would inspire the creation of countless characters over the years.  Next to Superman, no comic book character has been homaged more than Wolverine. 


#18 - The Contest of Champions – Through the machinations of the cosmic Elder of the Universe, the Grandmaster, and his cohort, the very first companywide crossover event in comic book history happened. 


#17 – Secret Invasion/Dark Reign/Siege – This alien conspiracy had a yearlong lead in.  The heroes of the Marvel U are suddenly faced with the realization that their ranks have been infiltrated by the shape-shifting Skrulls.  This led to an epic battle that saw the fall of a beloved hero and the trust between heroes and the public they protect broken.  Enter: Norman Osborn.  Osborn takes control of SHIELD and the power in the Marvel U shifts over to the dark side.  The bad guys are in control and the heroes are now on the run.  Even the power of the gods are challenged.     


#16 - Planet Hulk/World War Hulk – The heroes of Earth have decided that the Hulk poses to much of a threat to the world at large so they trick him and blast him off to the far side of the galaxy.  There the Hulk lands on a strange harsh world where he becomes a slave, a gladiator, a revolutionary, and ultimately a savior.  He returns to the planet of his birth angrier and more powerful than ever.  The vengeance he wreaks on those that wronged him nearly breaks the world in half, literally.    


#15 - The Mutant Massacre – Someone sends the mutant hit squad known as the Marauders into the tunnels below Manhattan to wipe out the “inferior” mutants known as Morlocks.  The only thing standing in their way is the X-Men.  The Massacre leads to Angel falling into the hands of Apocalypse and becoming the Horseman Death.  The injuries sustained by many X-Men would lead to Fantastic Four vs. X-Men and the formation of Excalibur.  This storyline would have legs for years to come.  As the conspiracy unfolds secrets about Gambit, the Summers Brothers and Mister Sinister, and more would be revealed.     


#14 - Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars – This is the Grand Daddy of all mega events.  All the greatest heroes and their deadliest foes are whisked to the far side of the universe where they will do battle on a patchwork planet known as Battleworld.  The legacy of this event is enormous and the aftershocks of this one are too numerous to mention but here are a few – Spider-Man’s Black Costume, Thing’s Sojourn, She-Hulk Joins the FF, the Hulk’s Descent into Madness, Kitty Pryde and Colossus Break-Up, and the Beyonder.      


#13 - Civil War – This tale did for the Iron Man/Captain America relationship what the Dark Knight Returns did for the Batman/Superman relationship.  It took two of the Marvel U’s biggest icons and put them at odds.  What resulted was a divide amongst the super hero community that to this day has never truly healed all the way.  The result of this conflict left one icon dead, a super hero community susceptible to a Secret Invasion, and a world ready to fall under the shadow of a Dark Reign.


#12 - Uncanny X-Men #150 – In this issue, the Master of Magnetism sinks a Russia submarine that threatens him with nuclear weapons.  This is the moment when Magneto ceases to be the one dimensional arch villain of the week and sets out on a path that will make him one of the most complicated and interesting characters in comics history.  The events of this issue led to God Love, Man Kills, it led to Magnus taking over Xavier’s school in Uncanny X-Men #200, it led to the trial of Magneto in X-Men vs. Avengers, which led to Magneto’s fall from grace in Uncanny X-Men #274, and ultimately it led to all the ups and downs of this deliciously complicated man over the course of the next three-and-a-half decades. 


#11 - Age of Apocalypse – In a desperate act to do right by his father, the demented Legion travels back in time to kill Professor X’s greatest enemy, Magneto.  However, it is Charles Xavier that is accidently murdered and in that one moment, the history of the Marvel Universe is completely changed.  Years later, North America is in the iron grip of the mutant despot Apocalypse and the world is on the verge of nuclear annihilation.  The death of one man has brought the world to the brink of destruction.  This mega event clearly illustrates the significance of the role Charles Xavier plays as one of the major pillars of Marvel Universe History.     


Those are some mind-blowing, ceiling-raising moments, but the Odinson is just getting warmed up.  Tune in next week when the Odinson will reveal his Top 10 Moments in Marvel History.


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


No CommentsTags: Comics

Batman Begins Ten Years Later: The Odinson Revisits the Nolan Trilogy

April 02, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


Over the course of the last few nights, the Odinson sat down with his son and watched the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy.  First off, Nolan is an amazing director and wonderful storyteller.  These films are top drawer for sure when it comes to quality.  As for my opinions on them nothing has changed.  Batman Begins is yet another origin story but still an entertaining watch.  The Dark Knight is quite possibly a perfect movie, and that’s even before it’s qualified as a Batman flick.  And, The Dark Knight Rises is highly overrated with many, many points to jeer. 


As I sat through the films this time I got to really appreciate all the nuances and homages to the Batman comics, TV shows, and films director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer (Blade, JSA) put into these movies.  Some of my favorite moments are those Money Shots of Batman standing vigilant high atop a skyscraper keeping watch over a Gotham City sprawling out far below him.  All three films have a version of these “Splash Page” shots and in all three films it works.


Homages in Batman Begins include: Obviously the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents on Crime Alley as seen in Batman: Year One.  Years later when Bruce returns from college intent on killing the man that murdered his parents was a reference to the earliest depiction of the Caped Crusader when he actually carried a gun as seen in Detective Comics #27 and explored and expanded upon even more in Batman: Year Two and Batman Odyssey.  When Bruce first joins the League of Shadows, Henri Ducard pummels him into submission while pointing out the different fighting styles Bruce Wayne is using to try and defend himself.  This is a reference to the fact that Bruce has been traveling the globe and learning many different fighting styles on his way to becoming the Batman.  In the years before he became Batman, some of the people Bruce trained with were Ted Grant the two-fisted Wildcat, Zatara the magician, Kirigi a master of ninjitsu, and David Cain the master assassin.  Also, the sliding wall in Wayne Manor’s library that reveals a lift down to the Batcave is a shout out to the Batpoles seen in Batman ’66.     


Homages in The Dark Knight include: In this film, Bruce Wayne and his accomplice, Lucius Fox, address an issue that has plagued every Batman in the five films that preceded this one, the Dark Knight’s ability to turn his head (see Batman Forever for the best example).  The fact that the Joker asks several different people if they’d like to know how he got the scars that give him his rictus grin and he has a different tale to tell each time is reference to the fact that in the comics, the Joker has half a dozen different origins and nobody, not even the creators themselves, know which one is the real origin (see The Man Behind the Red Hood, The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, The Killing Joke, Joker, Endgame, and many others).  The scene when Batman is barreling down on the Clown Prince of Crime and the Joker stands defiantly shouting “Hit Me!” parallels the scene from Tim Burton’s Batman when Batman is drawing down on the Joker in the Batwing and the villain stands there defiantly until he shoots Batman out of the sky.  The onscreen relationship and partnership established by our three heroes, Batman, Harvey Dent, and Commissioner Gordon, is by Nolan and Goyer’s own words inspired by the tale The Long Halloween.  Wayne Manor was destroyed in the previous film causing Bruce and Alfred to take up residence in a penthouse in downtown Gotham.  This mirrors events that occurred during Denny O’Neil and Neil Adams classic Batman run.  Also, the sonar device Fox creates and Batman turns into an all-seeing machine in order to find the Joker’s location with the side effect of unprecedented access to everyone could be seen as a precursor to Batman’s creation of Brother Eye.       


Homages in The Dark Knight Rises include: The scene where the Special Forces soldiers are hung from the bridge as a warning to others is a panel right out of Batman: The Cult.  The final film loosely adapts, barrows from, is inspired by and, in some cases, flat out cribs material from The Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, and No Man’s Land.    


Now, I know there are many, many more homages and wonderful comics references in these great films.  These are but a few.


The Odinson Rating:

Batman Begins – 4 out of 5 Hammers

The Dark Knight – 5 out of 5 Hammers and a Thunderclap (The Odinson’s Highest Praise)

The Dark Knight Rises – 3 out of 5 Hammers


Watching these films again and thinking about the current landscape of the Batman universe, the Odinson imagined a tale so delicious that it gave him goosebumps –The League of Shadows vs. The Court of Owls! 


The League of Shadows is a death cult that has been around for centuries and influences the world through culling methods.  Their leader, Ra’s Al Ghul, is a criminal mastermind and himself hundreds of years old thanks to the mystical Lazarus Pits.  They are an army of the deadliest trained assassins in the world.  Their ranks include David Cain, Lady Shiva, Cheshire, Bronze Tiger and more.  Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, they surface to restore the balance.  They sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground, and now they have set their eyes on purging the modern day equivalent – Gotham City. 


The Court of Owls is a secret society that has operated from the shadows and manipulated every aspect of Gotham City’s evolution from the time the city was founded in 1635 up to present day.  They are led by a mysterious cabal of masked individuals that represent the oldest and wealthiest of Gotham’s families.  Their singular purpose is to make sure Gotham survives and thrives and to obtain wealth and power through criminal means.  They enforce this with an army of nigh unkillable assassins known as Talons. 


So, one is a powerful secret criminal organization determined to burn Gotham City to the ground and the other is a powerful secret organization determined to see that Gotham City lives on in criminally-fueled decadence.  The League of Shadows and the Court of Owls are two sides of the same coin.  This would be a classic example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object and the Bat Family would be stuck right in the middle of it all!  Please, please, please, DC Comics, make this happen and put Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on it!                 


It’s hard to believe it but it has been ten years since the release of Batman Begins.  Ten years?!  My how time flies by.  Christopher Nolan gave us a fantastic Batman Trilogy that will stand the test of time for generations to come.  Now, let’s just hope the next incarnation can do the Dark Knight “Justice.”      


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

No CommentsTags: Comics · Movie

It's Fight Night 2015 with the Odinson

March 27, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


Ding!  Ding!  It’s time once again, boys and girls for that time-honored tradition when the Odinson thinks about the super heroes (and villains) he’d love to see duke it out for the heavy weight championship belt.  It’s time once again for Fight Night!  Every comic fan has done this.  They’ve sat around with friends, or gathered at the local comic shop, or simply pondered “who would win?”  Here are some showdowns the Odinson would love to see come to fruition. 


Sherlock Holmes vs. Hannibal Lecter – Holmes is the greatest detective in the history of popular fiction.  With his super human deductive reasoning, sharp as a hawk observational skills and rapier wit, Holmes, alongside his ever faithful partner, Dr. Watson, has solved some of the most perplexing mysteries of All-Time including A Study in Scarlet, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Final Problem, and more.  Hannibal Lecter is quite possibly the most diabolical criminal mastermind in history.  His genius level intellect and inhuman observational skills allow him to read a person like a book just by looking at them and break a person’s spirit just with his words.  Lecter is a serial killer of the highest order.  He was a psychiatrist that dined on his victims.  A census taker once tried to test Lecter.  He ate his liver with side of fava beans and nice Chianti. 


Winner: Sherlock Holmes.  Holmes would be able to decipher the clues that would eventually lead him to Lecter’s lair. And, though Hannibal Lecter has demonstrated superior human strength and the ability to subdue would-be challengers, Sherlock Holmes is a capable boxer, fencer, apt with a firearm, and has been known to utilize martial arts, so he would be quite capable of defending himself.  Plus, he has Watson on his team.


Black Adam vs. the Sub-Mariner – One is a pointy-eared monarch with a fiery temper and a knack for straddling the line between good and evil.  The other is a pointy-eared monarch with a fiery temper and a knack for straddling the line between good and evil.  Prince Namor the Savage Sub-Mariner is the original comic book anti-hero.  He’s been around since almost the beginning, debuting in 1939 exactly one year after Superman.  He is the king of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis.  His super human strength knows few rivals.  In the pages of World Trust, Namor changed the course of gigantic battleship against the pull of a monstrous whirlpool with his bare hands!  Namor can breathe under water (where he is practically invincible) and fly through the air.  He’s armed with a magical trident and a shell-horn that can summon leviathans from the deep.  A little used power he possesses is the ability to absorb and emit a shocking charge like an electric eel (see Fantastic Four #6).  Namor is one of the few beings around that can claim a one-on-one victory over the mighty Hulk.  He has fought both against and alongside the Avengers.  Teth-Adam is a 5,000 year old Egyptian prince who is endowed with the immortal might of the gods.  When he utters the word SHAZAM, a bolt of lightning transforms him into Black Adam and gives him the stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton, and the courage of Mehen.  Adam has the ability to bestow his power on others and thus create a super family (see Isis and Osiris).  Black Adam is such a force to be reckoned with that even the DCU’s biggest guns like Superman and Captain Marvel are hard pushed to keep him in check.  He has fought against and alongside the Justice Society. 


Winner: Black Adam.  This one was almost too close to call, but I believe in the end that Adam’s immortal stamina and nigh invulnerability edges out Namor’s, but just barely.  However, if Namor could somehow move the brawl to the ocean…


The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers vs. the Voltron Force – The first is a group of teenagers from Angel Grove that are trained in martial arts, possess superb agility, and work well as a team, and that’s all before they morph into super human ninjas.  The Power Rangers each possess special weapons and all pilot Zords, mighty robots replicating the monstrous might of dinosaurs.  These Zords can also merge and transformer into the giant Megazord, an invincible robot armed with an array of destructive weapons not the least of which is the mighty Megasword.  They have defeated the witch Rita Repulsa and the alien despot Lord Zedd and their army of monsters both big and small.  The other team is a band of space explorers that have traveled to the far side of the universe and rediscovered a legend.  They each pilot a mighty lion robot.  Each lion is capable of amazing feats, but when the lions merge together they transform into Voltron: Defender of the Universe!  The Voltron Force has defeated the alien dictator Zarkon, his witch Haggar, and their army of RoboBeast time and again. 


Winner: The Voltron Force.  Though in hand-to-hand combat the Power Rangers easily take the V-Force, once the battle continues over, as you know it will, to the giant robot portion of the brawl, the Blazing Sword trumps the Megasword every time. 


Marvel’s Masters of Kung-Fu vs. DC’s Fists of Fury – First off, the rules.  Rule #1: No Super Powers.  So, characters like Daredevil, Black Canary, Moon Knight and Deathstroke are out because of their unfair advantages.  Rule #2: No Healing Factors.  Guys that rely on healing factors like Wolverine and Deadpool are not allowed to play.  Rule #3: No Captain America and Batman.  Because, these two ultimate fighters would just wipe the floor with everybody.  Now, on to the competition. 


In Marvel’s corner we have: Shang Chi the Master of Kung-Fu, Danny Rand the Immortal Iron Fist, Elektra, the Daughters of the Dragon, Black Widow, Mockingbird, Batroc the Leaper, and the Sons of the Tiger.  In DC’s corner we have: Richard Dragon, The Question, Lady Shiva, King Snake, Wildcat, Judomaster, Connor Hawke, Bronze Tiger, Karate Kid, and Katana. 


Winner: The Fans!!!  Everybody wins when we get to witness a free-for-all featuring the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu on this list!


NOTE: The Odinson does not count the “Iron Fist” as a super power because it is a manifestation of Rand’s martial arts chi. 


Now those were some good brawls.  Somebody call Damage Control and the Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew because the collateral damage is going to be epic!  


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

No CommentsTags: Battles · Comics

The Odinson Asks Who is Superman’s Forgotten Rival?

March 20, 2015 · 4 Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


Lex Luthor is the Man of Steel’s undisputed arch nemesis.  Villains like Metallo and the Kryptonite Man challenge his, albeit few, weaknesses.  Femme fatales like Star Sapphire, Maxima, and the Silver Banshee challenge the Man of Tomorrow’s sense of chivalry.  Mr. Mxyzptlk challenges his patience.  From Brainiac to Toyman, General Zod to Bizarro, Mongul to Darkseid, the Last Son of Krypton has many super villains and space despots to challenge him on many different levels.  Many of these diabolical names have become legends in the DC Universe.  But once upon a time, there was another “superman” that challenged the Man of Steel in a different way.  He challenged Superman for the love of a woman.


Who is Superman’s Forgotten Rival?


His is name is Vartox.  He, like Superman, has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.  Vartox possesses super human strength, invulnerability, super speed, flight, super human mental powers like telekinesis and telepathy, and on and on….  Like Superman, his powers are many.  Like Superman, Vartox’s homeworld, Valeron, has been destroyed.  And, like Superman before him, Vartox has fallen in love with the Man of Steel’s high school sweetheart, Lana Lang.


Like many rivals, Vartox and Superman are friends, but sometimes circumstances can pit them against each other.  In Superman #281, the Man of Steel is confronted by Vartox for the first time.  Vartox has come to Earth to punish the criminal responsible for the death of his wife’s twin whose death psychically caused the demise of Vartox’s spouse.  It is a difficult task, even for the Man of Steel, to stymie the efforts of a man seeking revenge, especially when that man’s powers and abilities are just as super as Superman’s.        


In Action Comics #476, Vartox has decided that he would make a better protector for mankind than Superman and he aims to prove it.  After the destruction of his own homeworld, in Action Comics #498-499, Vartox decides to take up residence on Earth once again that is until he finally finds a new adoptive world. In Superman #356-357, even a hero as powerful as Vartox learns he has limitations and he must swallow his pride and ask the Last Son of Krypton for his help in defeating a cosmic menace whose power dwarfs them both.  In a 3-part tale from Superman #373-375, the love triangle between Superman, Lana Lang, and Vartox takes a more complicated and serious turn when Vartox’s ex-lover, Syreena, executes a diabolical scheme to murder Lana and frame Vartox for the crime.   


The reason why the Odinson brings up Vartox is because I remember as a child reading Superman adventures and the fact that there was another “superman” in the DCU that could do everything Superman could do and also challenge the Man of Steel for the affections of Lana Lang just captured my imagination.  All these Vartox appearances I’ve mentioned were Pre-Crisis appearances.  Vartox didn’t make his Post-Crisis debut until many years later in Superman #148, but his powers were greatly diminished as was his role in the life of Superman and the greater DC Universe.  His most recent appearance that I know of occurred in the tale from Power Girl #7.  In this storyline, Vartox has come to Earth to court the affections of Power Girl.  It seems the women of Vartox’s homeworld have become sterile and he wants Power Girl to help him repopulate his world.          


It has not gone unnoticed by the Odinson that this larger than life hero who once upon a time was an actual rival for the greatest super hero of them all has been reduced to little more than a throwaway joke.  His homeworld has been destroyed; he’s a powerful man without a purpose; he is in love with a mortal woman but cannot be with her because she cannot survive on his new world - Vartox has all the classic Shakespearian roots to be an outstanding source for dramatic yarns.  Whether it be in The New 52 or the aftermath of Convergence, the Odinson would love to see the glorious return of Vartox to the fold of the DCU.  Think about it.  Just how delicious would be for Vartox to show up now and challenge Superman for the affections of his current girlfriend – Wonder Woman?  


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


4 CommentsTags: Comics

The Odinson Takes a Look Back on The Time of Troubles

March 13, 2015 · No Comments

Greetings from the Odinson,


Universal changes are nothing new to the worlds of science fiction and action/adventure.  From Crisis on Infinite Earths to The New 52, from Heroes Reborn to Secret Wars, from Star Trek: The Original Series to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, every fictional universe eventually experiences change on a grand scale.  A reset button is pushed.  These are usually great jumping on points for new readers and future fans. 


One of the Odinson’s all-time favorite universal changes has to be The Time of Troubles.


In the History of the DC Universe there is Pre-Crisis continuity, The Crisis, and Post-Crisis continuity.  The same can be said for the Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons and Dragons universe.  In 1987, TSR (later to be known as Wizards of the Coast) launched the Forgotten Realms, a massive campaign for the AD&D role-playing game.  Over the last nearly three decades, the Realms have spawned countless adventures for gamers, novels, comic books, and video games. 


Before the Time of Troubles, the daring exploits and gallant achievements of heroes like Drizzt Do ‘Urden, Priam Agrivar and the Companions of Selune’s Smile, Alias and Dragonbait, and the brave Crew of the Realms Master were already making the myths and their names were becoming legend.  Then came the Time of Troubles when gods walked the earth and the Realms were thrown into upheaval.  Finally, there was the aftermath of the Avatar Crisis and the Forgotten Realms have not been the same since.  To truly realize just what a major event this was, one must first know what the Time of Troubles was.


High above the mortal coil, in the heavenly realms where gods dwell, the fabled Tablets of Fate, the artifacts responsible for maintaining the balance between good and evil in the universe, were stolen.  The pantheon of gods was assembled before the superior being, Ao.  When none would confess to the crime they were all cast out of the heavens and forced to walk amongst mankind in earthly Avatars.  Though they were still quite powerful, these Avatar forms left the former immortals vulnerable to true death.  Also, a side effect to having the gods not at their celestial stations meant things like magic and divine blessings did not work properly.  A wizard trying to cast a simple Light spell may set his entire town on fire. 


As the plot unfolds, many of the gods and Realms heroes, both good and evil, meet their ends.  And, a few mortals actually ascend to divine status to fill the void of power left by the passing of certain deities.  The meat of this tale plays out in The Avatar Trilogy.  However, every corner of the Realms was affected by this crisis.


In Waterdeep, the City of Splendors, the Companions of Selune’s Smile are caught in the middle of a divine feud between Selune the goddess of the moon and Shar the goddess of night.   It is a quarrel that will reveal a stunning secret about their longtime friend and confidant, Luna, the proprietor of the inn where they gather - Selune’s Smile.


Aboard the fabled Realms Master, the crew’s resident cleric, Vartan Hai Sylvar, becomes the earthly avatar for his deity, Labelas the Lord of Continuum.  During The Hand of Vaprak campaign these brave heroes overcame the mad schemes of an ogre-mage and a cursed artifact.  In The Dragonreach Saga they solved the mystery of a dragonslayer and stopped his sinister plot that would have led to a flight of dragons that would have caused untold destruction throughout the Realms.  In Undead Love, they faced down the powerful magic of a deadly Lich.  The Crew of the Realms Master is made up of some of the most stalwart and legendary heroes in all the Realms, yet their confrontation with Labelas left them broken and on the verge of ruin.  In fact, they never truly recovered from the Time of Troubles and the survivors retired from adventuring altogether.     


With many heroes, villains, and gods meeting their demise during the Time of Troubles, the landscape of the Forgotten Realms was forever changed.  The assassin Cyric destroyed Bhaal the Lord of Murder and took his place on the skulled throne.  The sorceress, Midnight, absorbed the essence of Mystra and became the goddess of magic after the former goddess fell in battle to Helm the Vigilant One.  Bhaal, having foreseen his own demise, set in motion a plot to keep his essence alive.  In the years leading up to the Time of Troubles, he fathered children all throughout the Realms.  This progeny would become known as the Bhaalspawn and their war and eventual sacrifice could lead to the former Lord of Murder’s return.  This is a spectacular tale that played out in the Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn video games and continues to this day in IDW’s Legends of Baldur’s Gate comic series.   


Big changes are coming to the Marvel and DC Universes this summer.  Secret Wars and Convergence will leave our favorite super hero universes different.  These kind of changes come in different grades – The Good: Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Bad: Heroes Reborn, and The Meh: The New 52.  Whether good or bad, change is sometimes necessary (Azrael replacing a Broken Bat or Wally West replacing a martyred Barry Allen) and oft times unnecessary (Superman’s costume).  Sometimes change is cool and interesting (Superior Spider-Man) and sometimes change can go practically unnoticed (Inhuman).  When it comes to truly epic times of change in the worlds of fiction, the Time of Troubles ranks right up there with the best of them.


There are few things in this life that are constant, but one of them is change.    


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


No CommentsTags: Comics · Pop Culture

How Do the Independents Challenge the Big Two?

February 27, 2015 · 1 Comment

Greetings from the Odinson,


One of the best ways to be successful in life is to find a niche.  Find that one thing that you are really good at and run with it.  Now this doesn’t mean you aren’t good at other things, you just so happen to really excel at this one particular thing.  In the landscape of comics it cannot even be argued that Marvel and DC have the market cornered on the super hero genre.  Their two slices of the pie take up nearly the entire sales chart, but what about those other smaller slices of the pie?  There must be some reason why those other companies not only challenge the Big Two for shares of the market, but in some instances even surpass them.


They do so because they have found their niche with the fans.


Image is the King of Science Fiction – The astronomical sales of the space opera Saga and the survival horror The Walking Dead alone would be enough to crown Image but their knack for sci-fi doesn’t end there.  They explore the multiverse with Black Science.  They explore the relationships between man and machine in Alex Plus Ada.  They explore mysteries and horrors of science gone wrong in titles like Clone and Wildfire.  They pull back the curtain on the end of days in East of West.  And, they blast off to the stars in titles like Starlight and EGOs.  If there were a genre to be king of, Science Fiction has got to be near the top of the list. 


Dark Horse is the King of Horror – Dark Horse gets a lot of credit for bringing manga into the mainstream, but what they really excel at is really scary stories starring really compelling characters.  With the epic crossover Fire and Stone, Dark Horse brought together three “monster” franchises – Aliens, Predator, and Prometheus – and created an intertwining tale of horror and evolution the Odinson hopes to one day see on the Big Screen.  Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse, a place filled with vampires, witches, and zombies, is alive and well with the continuing adventures of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Faith.  Not to be out done.  Nobody defeats the forces of darkness better than the aquatic Abe Sapien and the supernatural agents of B.P.R.D., and nobody pounds monsters into pulp better than the legendary Hellboy and the two-fisted Goon.  In Leaving Megalopolis, we see just how scary it would be to live in a world where the super hero community turns against the very people they have sworn to protect.  Tiger Lung reveals what the world was like at the dawn of time and how mankind survived in the face of the old horrors that once stalked the earth.  And, Dark Horse allows modern day readers to feel the tension and terror yesterday’s readers did with the classic horror stories from the Creepy and Eerie magazines.           


IDW is the King of the Licensed Properties – If, like the Odinson, you were a child of the 80s, the decade that gave us Pac Man and the Rubik’s Cube, then pop culture juggernauts like GI Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Garbage Pail Kids are no strangers to you.  IDW has brought these viable franchises into the New Millennium and taken them to new heights of popularity bridging the gap between Generation X and the Millennials.  IDW has explored the perils of Dungeons and Dragons, resurrected The Crow, and given the Angry Birds a new platform.  IDW has also produced some of the best Star Trek and Godzilla comics in history.  And, IDW has continued the adventures of Agents Mulder and Scully and their pursuit of The X-Files and Jack Bauer’s further adventures in 24.  Nobody does the licensed property like IDW.  It’s a huge reason why they are constantly challenging Dark Horse for that fourth spot on the sales chart.      


Dynamite is the King of Dusting off Old Treasures and Breathing New Life into Them – If IDW is the King of Licensed Properties, then Dynamite is the King of breathing life into old classics.  Pulp Adventure Heroes like Doc Savage, the Shadow, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, and the Black Bat enjoyed their greatest success in the 1930s and 40s.  The Green Hornet, Six Million Dollar Man, and the Bionic Woman were popular heroes of the 60s and 70s.  The sultry Vampirella was at the height of her macabre powers nearly four decades ago.  Along with the new TV show, Dynamite played a huge role in the comeback of the cult classic Battlestar Galactica.  Legendary heroes like John Carter, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger were products of a bygone era. And, characters like Red Sonja and Solar Man of the Atom have not experienced the kind of popularity and success they are currently having since their debuts in the 60s and 70s.  Once upon a time, each and every one of these properties were gold standard but along the way they lost some the luster that made them best-sellers.  Though they may have had some slight success here and there over the years, they are truly enjoying a renaissance under the umbrella of Dynamite Entertainment.      


Valiant is the King of “What was Old is Now New Again” – In the early 90s, Valiant exploded onto the scene and their comic sales even challenged those of the Big Two.  However, only a few short years later, when the comic market nearly crashed, Valiant all but imploded and disappeared from the landscape.  Then, suddenly in 2012, like a phoenix from the ashes, Valiant returned.  X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer and Armstrong, Ninjak, and more were back!  And, with great creative teams helming the ship, Valiant has returned to the fold, bigger and better than ever.


Each of these Independents may live in the shadow of the Big Two when it comes to sales in the super hero genre, but make no mistake, they have all found their niche, and each one of them is master of their own little piece of the pie.      


This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

1 CommentTags: Comics