Archives for September 2013

UPDATED: Times That I Really Wish I Could Be a Superhero

by Aaron Einhorn
This past weekend, Christina went to the Type-A Moms Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, leaving me to play the role of single parent. This isn’t a big deal – it’s hardly the first time that I’ve been flying solo with the kids, and other than the fact that they probably eat too much fast food when she’s gone, nothing problematic has ever really occurred.

(Advance warning: Please read on, but despite how scared we got, everything worked out ok.)

My Mother-In-Law agreed to help out a bit so that I wouldn’t need to leave work early on Friday to pick the kids up. We had put Cosmo into “Doggie Day Care” on Thursday, and I was going to pick him up on Friday, then return home to relieve my MiL. So, I left work, went to get the dog, and while part of the way there, got a call from MiL asking “When do the kids normally get home?”

The answer is “4:30 p.m.”. It was about 5:25 when she called me.

I told her I didn’t know, and that I would call transportation. I did so, and the phone never picked up. Apparently, there’s no one there after 5:00 p.m. – at least not to answer that line.

By the time I picked the dog up around 6:00 (traffic was terrible), Christina called me from Atlanta. “Mom is calling the police.”

And she was right to do so. Because what other choice did we have? There was no one answering the phone at the school, at the school board, or at the transportation office. My MiL had been at the house since 4:00 to wait for the bus, and had the door opened. And if the bus had come by and no one was there to take the girls, the bus is supposed to keep the kids on the bus and take them to Children’s Protective Services.

So, by the time I got home around 6:30, we still didn’t know what was happening. The officer had taken a statement and was parked in his car at the end of our driveway. I was on the phone with Protective Services, trying to navigate through the automated menu. And my wife, who should have been enjoying her conference, was in her hotel room in Atlanta crying.

Finally, the officer walked up to the door saying he had reached transportation (through some access that the police have which the public does not), and was told that there had been some sort of emergency with the bus, and that it was “about 5 minutes away.” He stayed with us until the bus arrived, and finally I was able to see my daughters.

They were over two hours late. They had been on the bus for over three hours.

Never in my life have I felt more helpless.

Below is the e-mail I just sent to the school superintendent and city school board, with the personal details redacted:

Dear Interim Superintendent REDACTED and members of the Columbus Board of Education,

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure about what happened with my daughters during their bus ride home on Friday, September 27.

My daughters attend REDACTED Elementary on the north side of the city, right off REDACTED. Our home is on the south side, near the border of Grove City. Typically, their bus ride home takes roughly an hour, with their arrival sometime at or around 4:30 p.m. They are scheduled for drop-off by 4:15, but we understand that the school transportation system is currently under some strain. The bus they normally ride is REDACTED.

As much as I would prefer my daughters to have a shorter bus trip each day, I am not writing to complain about that.

I am writing because on Friday, they did not arrive home until after 6:30 p.m.

When the bus driver arrived, we were told that there was a family emergency for the regular driver, and so the regular driver’s route was added to the driver who came Friday night. I’m not unreasonable, and I acknowledge that this was the best option for the available resources. It’s not at all ideal, but I understand the solution.

What I do not understand is why no one notified my family.

At the start of the school year, information cards were collected for both of my daughters. On those information cards are our home phone number and the cell phone numbers for my wife, myself, and other families designated as alternate contacts for emergencies.

While I do not consider a “typical” delay to be an emergency, a delay of over two hours is far beyond typical. What is equally unforgivable is the fact that there is no one available to be reached at the school board offices, transportation, or the school itself after 5:00 p.m.

It was a Friday afternoon, and everyone just wanted to get home to their families, which I understand. That was what I wanted myself. But when there are still busses out for drop off, there needs to be someone who can be reached.

Instead, my two daughters, one aged six, and one aged nine who is on the Autism spectrum, were on a bus for over three hours, and we had no idea where that bus was. We didn’t worry when the bus was half an hour late. We didn’t worry when it was forty-five minutes late. After an hour, we began to worry, and when we could not reach the school, the school board, or transportation, we realized we had no choice but to call the Columbus Police department.

Because at this point, my wife and I had nightmare scenarios of my kids getting off at the wrong stop and being abducted by a stranger going through our heads. And there was no one we could reach to tell us that we were wrong.

The police did come out to our home and took a report, at which point they called some number they have access to which we do not. From this call, we were able to discover that the routes were combined, and that the bus was “about five minutes away.” The officer waited at our home until the girls arrived on their bus, and I asked why no one had called us. The driver did not have an answer – and I am sincerely hoping that you do.

I am a big supporter of Columbus City Schools. I am a product of the system myself, having attended REDACTED. Despite my wife’s frequent fears and worries, and beliefs that we should consider private schooling or moving to another district, I have always been the first to defend the City Schools. We vote for almost every tax levy to support the schools, and we absolutely adore the teachers and administrators at REDACTED School Name who have done an amazing job with helping my oldest daughter overcome the difficulties from her autism, to the point where she is now classified as doubly-exceptional.

But what happened on Friday was unacceptable. Not the delay itself, but the lack of transparency and information about it. Not only should we have been contacted, but we should have been given the option to come and pick our children up from the school if this was the only possible solution.

And I need to know that it will not happen again – either to my family or to any other family – if I am to continue to enroll my children in the Columbus City Schools and to support future tax levies to go to the school system.

Please respond to this message to let me know what steps will be taken in the future regarding making information about transportation available to concerned parents. My wife and I would be happy to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation, if that would be of interest. We can be reached either via e-mail or via our cell phones.

Thank you,

Aaron and Christina

For those hours, I would have given the world to have Superman’s flight, or Batman’s deductive skills, or the Flash’s speed. Instead, all I could do was sit and wonder and worry. I never reached the levels of fear my wife did – but that was because I was still too far into anger. I would have hit scared eventually.

I’m waiting for a response. I hope I get one soon.

UPDATE:
I received the following response from the interim Superintendent of Columbus Schools.

Hi Aaron,

You are correct! This is unacceptable. Deputy Superintendent REDACTED is investigating what happened and what didn’t happen and why. Either he or REDACTED, Transportation Director, will be in touch.

Dan

So, it’s progress.

Marvel Promises More Excitement From Month Two of X-Men: Battle of the Atom

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 Variant Cover

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 Variant Cover

X-Men #5 Second Printing Cover

X-Men #5 Second Printing Cover

by Aaron Einhorn
If you’ve been reading my Weekly Comic Round-Ups, you know that I’m an absolute convert to the X-Men with “Battle of the Atom.” I was one of those fans who had burned by too many “event” crossovers, too many time-traveling Messiah figures, and far too many pouches and trench coats. Despite being an avid reader of the X-Men through the eighties and the first part of the nineties, by the time I graduated High School in 1995, I was done with the X-Men.

I occasionally dipped my toe back in, of course. X-characters would show up in other titles I read. I purchased the issue where Scott and Jean finally got married, and when Joss Whedon took over Astonishing, I stuck with that title as long as Joss did – even while being confused at the relationship between Scott and Emma. And of course, then there were the Ultimate titles.

But I still stayed away from the X-Men as much as I could. Because each time I had dipped my toe in, I felt like the battered half of an abusive relationship. “Come back, baby, it’ll be better this time.” And it would be for a few months. Then the pain would start again.

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37

Wolverine and the X-Men #37 Variant Cover

Wolverine and the X-Men #37 Variant Cover

(And my sincerest apologies to anyone who has actually endured an abusive relationship for this metaphor.)

Still, after reading A vs. X, I was kind of hooked again. And the aftermath made me determined to pick up at least the all new Uncanny X-Men title, just to see what happened with Scott and Emma and Magneto. Then it was an easy sell to buy All-New X-Men with the original team back. And being a strong advocate for seeing more titles with women and minority leads, how could I refuse Brian Wood’s X-Men?

(But I’m still not buying X-Force, X-Men Legacy or Wolverine and the X-Men. Not yet, anyhow.)

And “Battle of the Atom” has exceeded all of my expectations. I’ve loved it.

So, when Marvel sent me the following press release, I was overjoyed. More twists and turns with the X-Men of the future? A possible return of the Phoenix Force? (Personally, I’m betting on seeing some version of Jean get taken once more, complete with her fresh-from-the-Marvel-Avengers-Alliance-Facebook-game Phoenix Five armor.)

All-New X-Men #17 Variant Cover

All-New X-Men #17 Variant Cover

All New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant

All New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant

Sign. Me. Up.

The press release follows.

EXCITING TWISTS AND TURNS AS MONTH TWO OF X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM BEGINS!

If you thought the first month was exciting – you ain’t seen nothing yet! They’ve come from the past. They’ve come from the future. They’ve come from….the future again? Who are the REAL Future X-Men?! Find out this October as X-Men: Battle of the Atom heads into its second exciting month full of even more twists and turns!

“We have been waiting to reveal these images since the day we planned this event,” says Senior Editor Nick Lowe. “Who are these characters who claim to the be the X-Men of the future? And if they’re not lying, WHO ARE THE OTHER GUYS?!?!?!”

Chaos at the Jean Grey School! The return of the Phoenix Force! And more! Plus a game-changing conclusion that will shake the X-Men to their very core! Don’t miss out on the exciting second half of the blockbuster X-Men event of the year, X-Men: Battle of the Atom!

Marvel is also proud to announce that due to overwhelming demand, All-New X-Men #16 and X-Men #5 will be returning for second printings! That’s right, chapters 2 and 3 of X-Men: Battle of the Atom have sold out at the distributor level, and will be going back to press immediately. Retailers are strongly encouraged to increase orders of the final chapters, Wolverine & The X-Men #37 and X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 in anticipation of future demand.

All-New X-Men #16 2nd Printing Variant
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen
Cover by David Lopez
On-Sale October 23, 2013

X-Men #5 2nd Printing Variant
Written by Brian Wood
Art by David Lopez
Cover by Phil Noto
On-Sale October 23, 2013

Wolverine and the X-Men #37
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Kris Anka
On-Sale October 23, 2013

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Esad Ribic
On-Sale October 30, 2013

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 25, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

ax12_c01A+X #12
Do you remember a time when comics were fun? I mean, really, seriously, fun? If you’re a younger comic reader, the answer may be “No,” but I assure you that it existed. A+X has consistently been a throwback to those days, and this particular issue shows how you can keep comics fun, but at the same time, let serious storylines still matter.

The first part brings The Beast and Wonder Man together. These two were incredible friends in the 80s era of the Avengers, when both were light-hearted, somewhat silly characters. These same two characters have now gone on to become the Mutant Messiah and is responsible for all sorts of time-travelling insanity, and a “pacifist” super-strong character who assembled a team to destroy the Avengers as recently as a year ago.

But they used to be friends, and this story gives them a night together to bring that friendship back to the forefront. And it is glorious.

The second story pairs Captain America with the now-vampirized Jubilee, as they go to find an undersea U-Boat filled with Nazi vampires.

Nazi. Vampires.

There’s a bit of meta story here as Jubilee wonders if Cap brought her along to serve as an example to the former Reich soldiers, or if he brought her along so they could serve as an example to her. But the real truth is that it’s a story about two heroes fighting Nazi Vampires, and what on Earth could be bad about that?

Ultimate_Comics_Spider-Man_Vol_2_27Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #27
So, the Ultimate Comics version of Taskmaster sure seems a lot more like Bishop or Sebastian Shaw, which means that Spider-Woman and Spider-Man are a little bit out of their depth in this battle – at least until Bombshell comes back, and Cloak and Dagger come in to help out.

Ok. That’s the entire comic.

No, seriously. That’s it. And it really disappoints me.

Look, I really like Miles. I like the Ultimate version of Jessica Drew for all of the issues in her head. I even think I like the Ultimate version of Cloak and Dagger. So, this is a team that I find interesting – in theory. But this issue is almost completely devoid of Bendis’ trademark dialogue and wit. It’s a big slugfest, and one that was not terribly compellingly illustrated (despite my overall love for Pichelli’s art.)

So, this one here is really not my favorite issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. It’s far from the worst comic on the market, but considering how much I usually enjoy this title, I’m awfully disappointed.

Wolverine_and_the_X-Men_Vol_1_36Wolverine and the X-Men #36 “Battle of the Atom Chapter 5”
At risk of sounding like a broken record, “Battle of the Atom” remains poised to become one of the three best story arcs in X-Men history.

Ever.

I don’t generally read Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, but I decided I would buy both issues that tied in to this storyline, and I am glad I did (although I still didn’t care for the art in this issue). As things have gone along with my prediction, the future X-Men are now quite as trustworthy as we might have wanted to believe, and the original team kids are finding themselves in over their heads as their older incarnations (both of them) scheme to get them sent back to the past.

There isn’t a lot more I can say without seriously revealing spoilers, but I will say that the psychic battle between Jean/Xorn and Jean, Emma and the Cuckoos is a lot of fun, and seeing the tension between the Jean Grey School X-Men and Scott’s merry band of mutant misfits remains great. The barbs that are traded between Ororo and present-Scott are particularly nice, and the contempt that future-Beast has for present-Beast is awesome.

I would also like to say that I still hate Deadpool.

There’s only one thing that really bothers me about this issue is Wolverine’s line about “wondering why they aren’t still friends.” I’ll confess that I avoided the X-Men for pretty much everything from 1995 until 2012, but was there ever a time that Logan and Scott were friends? Allies? Sure. Family even? Maybe. But friends? Logan, or Scott, would easily take a bullet for the other. (Or death beam. Or whatever.) But I don’t think the two men have ever been something that could be described as friends.

Meanwhile, Avengers #20 continues the “Infinity” storyline with Captain America preparing to surrender and a revelation about Ex Nilho and Void that would have mattered more if I had ever cared about these characters, Green Lantern #23.4: Sinestro #1 provides a totally unneeded rehash of Sinestro’s origin and makes me wish I’d stuck by my promise not to buy any more of the Villains Month titles, Guardians of the Galaxy #6 effectively Mary Sue’s Angela as she fights most of the Guardians to a standstill and the Watcher tells us that we’re screwed, Uncanny Avengers #12 has the Apocalypse Twins outwit Kang and convince Wanda to use Wonder Man’s power to move the mutants off of Earth, and Young Avengers #10 gives us some witty repartee between Mother and Loki and sets Teddy up to be completely decimated.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham – A Tale of Two Television Series

by Aaron Einhorn
Last night, Christina and I had some friends (and fellow members of the Heroes Alliance Ohio team) over to watch the premiere/pilot episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and while we were waiting for the episode to air, we saw the news about Warner Brother’s new show for 2014 – Gotham.

“Wait,” you might say, “Warner Brothers is going to make a show to directly compete with Marvel, focusing on the ordinary policemen who make up the police force of Gotham City? Isn’t that a case of copying their rival?”

Well, no. For one thing, AoS will already be in to its second season by the time Gotham airs. For another, AoS is a show that is much larger in scope than Gotham. Coulson and company are clearly globe-trotters, taking on threats and concerns all around the world – Gotham will be focused on Jim Gordon in a pre-Batman Gotham City. We may see some action in the outer burroughs , but we can expect the show to be much more local than global.

x700

Furthermore, AoS takes place within the timeline and constraints of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The action of the show picks up several months after The Avengers, and the conflict of the first episode ties directly in to the events of Iron Man 3 – which coincidentally came out on Blu-Ray/DVD the same day that the first episode aired. Conversely, Gotham will probably not be tied to any existing version of the DC films. In theory it could take place in the same setting as Nolan’s films, but Gary Oldman is unlikely (and indeed, unable) to come back and reprise his role as Gordon. Similarly, the reboot that the Batman universe is in store for will be placing an older, experienced Batman into Man of Steel – which doesn’t fit into the scope of the show either.

The bigger difference is right there in the names of the shows. Marvel’s offering proclaims itself Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a throughline in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and the first episode showed us Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill, Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson, clips from The Avengers, action figures of each of the heroes, and most of the heroes mentioned either indirectly or by name.

”Technically, I don’t think Thor’s a god.”
“Well, you haven’t been near his arms.”

AoS is unapologetically, unabashedly a part of the greater Marvel superheroic film universe. We’re going to see bright, flashy elements. We will probably see costumes of some sort as the show develops – not that the S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms are far off on their own, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo is prominent across the sets. Heck, in the episode, when someone asks what they just saw, Coulson responds with “That’s a superhero.”

Meanwhile, in both DC’s films and in recent, successful television shows (Smallville, Arrow, Man of Steel), costumes are all-but forbidden and the phrase superhero is never heard. (Despite DC having half of the trademark on that phrase.) You’ll here heroes called “vigilantes,” or “costumed crime-fighters,” but “superhero”? Never.

James_Gordon-1The title of this show is Gotham. It’s not G.C.P.D (an actual comic title) or Gordon, it’s Gotham. It follows the mold of Smallville, hiding the show’s comic roots, and it promises that we will never see Batman. We may see Gotham’s famous villains, but I’m sure that it will be Selina Kyle and Edward Nigma and Oswald Cobblepot that we see, not Catwoman or the Riddler or Penguin. (And my suspicion is we won’t actually see most of the well-known villains, and that the show will instead focus on the crime bosses of the Batman mythos.)

We’re seeing two competing philosophies about using comics as the base for film and television in action. And it isn’t my place to say which is right and which is wrong, but I think my preference is clear. Marvel has embraced the comic book roots of their characters and their world, and that is visible everywhere from the overall tone, to the dialogue, to the pace, to the costumes and codenames.

DC on the other hand, continues to do everything they can to mask that the show or film is based on comics. “Please, excuse the fact that these characters came from ‘funnybooks’,” they seem to say. “Really, they can be compelling despite that. We promise not to do anything too flashy with superpowers or costumes. We won’t even call them Superman or Green Arrow.”

All I know for sure is that I am eagerly awaiting the second issue episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while I have little incentive or desire to find out anything more about Gotham.

Heroes Alliance Ohio at Wizard World Ohio Comic Con

by Aaron Einhorn
Heroes Alliance Ohio was once again on-hand at Wizard World’s Ohio Comic Con to meet the excited children attending the convention and to help raise money for the Hero Initiative. Through the course of the weekend, Captain America, U.S. Agent, Wonder Woman, Rogue, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Superman all appeared at the Heroes Alliance table.

Hundreds of children were met with, most of who were overjoyed to meet the heroes, and after a very full three days, close to $100 in donations were taken in to provide to the Hero Initiative.

Special thanks to Stephen Blanzaco and Christina McMenemy for providing out-of-costume support.

The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays’ creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It’s a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment. Since its inception, The Hero Initiative (Formerly known as A.C.T.O.R., A Commitment To Our Roots) has had the good fortune to grant over $500,000 to over 50 comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today. More information can be found at http://www.heroinitiative.org/

To learn more about the Heroes Alliance, please visit HeroesAlliance.org

HA_WWOCC_11HA_WWOCC_12 HA_WWOCC_03 HA_WWOCC_04 HA_WWOCC_06 HA_WWOCC_07

 

HA_WWOCC_05 HA_WWOCC_02

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 18, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

daredevil31_c01Daredevil #31
In an era dominated by big events (Yes, I’m looking at you Infinity, Forever Evil and Battle of the Atom), it’s easy to forget how good a stand-alone title can be, even when it exists within a larger world. Mark Waid has consistently been knocking it out of the park with Daredevil, and this issue is no exception. The Jester’s continuing plan to drive Daredevil to the edge of madness continues here as a racially charged trial (that in no way, shape or form bears a similarity to a recent “Stand your ground case”) comes to a conclusion and a riot erupts thanks to the Jester’s leaking of the names of the jurors involved.

Solid storytelling, spot-on characterizations and honest-to-goodness tension as we actually have to wonder if Matt Murdock will be able to defuse this situation, all with a chessmaster villain who is playing Daredevil like a pawn. This is when Daredevil is at his best. I don’t know that this is my favorite title this week, but it’s probably the one I enjoyed the most.

infinity3_c01Infinity #3
Hickman, Hickman, Hickman…

Infinity continues at a break-neck pace, with the Inhumans dispersing to the four winds (setting up Inhumanity, no doubt), the Illuminati stopping another incursion, Doctor Strange being compromised, Thanos getting personally involved, and the space-faring Avengers taking the battle right to the Builders.

And yet…

Much the way I felt during Fear Itself, this feels like an outline, not a story. Everything going on here is great, and epic, and sets up an awesome new status quo. But it doesn’t feel like the characters are actually a part of the story. Hickman needs a certain set of abilities here, but for the most part, the personalities of the characters just aren’t there. This isn’t completely true of course, Captain America has some good moments, as does Maximus, but for the most part, this story is too big to be about the characters, and I find that to be to the detriment of the story – especially compared to what Marvel is doing in their other big cross-over event right now (more on that later).

thunder2_c01T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2
It takes some impressive storytelling to make a reader feel sorry for the world’s strongest man, and yet that is precisely what is going on inside the pages of this book. Len Brown may be the one man in all the world capable of harnessing the Thunderbelt, but he’s still very much a schmuck and a schmoe and an everyman.

Which is made all the more obvious as he hangs out with NoMan (literally the smartest guy in the room) and not one but two more competent THUNDER Agents. Which would be bad enough, except for the fact that Iron Maiden is brilliant, cunning and competent in her own right.

What feels best about this title is that, as a fan of the old series, I recognize the tropes and ideas, but not so closely that I feel like I know exactly what is going to happen.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is probably the best comic that none of my friends are reading, and it’s probably my favorite superhero comic that doesn’t come from one of the Big Two publishers. You owe it to yourself to check this out.

superiorspiderman18_c01Superior Spider-Man #18
It is with an overpowering sense of shame that I must confess that, while I always found the character to be cool in concept, I never read much of Spider-Man 2099. He has a cool costume design and powers and personality that make him a great “Spider-Man” without just being “Peter Parker in the future.” But it never quite clicked for me.

Which doesn’t change the fact that I am loving watching him school Doctor Octopus on “how to be Spider-Man.”

One of the threads that has been consistently running through the pages of “Superior” has been seeing all the ways that Octavius is able to be a better Spidey than Spidey. Watching him succeed at things that Peter routinely failed at has been fascinating. But at the same time, if we’re ever going to get Peter back (and we all know that, eventually, we will), we need to see it fall apart for Octavius. Fortunately, that has started here.

Between seeing Liz Allen and Normie react with disgust towards Spider-Man, watching Horizon in chaos and “Peter” likely to get fired, and the growing resentment of the Mayor and in many ways, the city, Octavius’ charade is unlikely to last a whole lot longer. But the destruction of his carefully balanced house of cards looks like it will be glorious.

I’m in no rush to see this story end, because as much as I, too, want Peter Parker back, watching Octavius self-destruct has been too much fun. He almost doesn’t even need Norman Osborn to return, riding the glider of the Hobgoblin. (And am I the only one who is expecting to see Roderick Kingsley take a not-so-kind view towards Osborn’s portrayal?)

Finally, I have to give a call out to Octavius’ line when looking at Spidey 2099. “Is this cosplay?” I dunno, is it?

uncannyxmen12_c01Uncanny X-men #12
When last we left Young-Scott and Young-Jean, they had turned to the Uncanny X-Men for help in protecting them from the Future X-Men and the other X-Men who live at the Jean Grey School.

Even writing that sentence makes my head hurt.

Look, I am not the biggest fan of time-travel stories, but this has been done so well that it defies belief. Almost every member of the teams is solidly at odds here, and each and every one is acting perfectly in-character. And it’s not as simple as lines being drawn between the different “teams” either. Present-Scott wants to help the original team stay, but Magneto and Emma disagree (and Emma is not even pretending to hide the fact that her decision is partially based on not wanting Scott to moon over teenaged Jean). Meanwhile, Kitty and Rachel have opposed their team in wanting the kids to have the freedom to make their own choices, while Storm and Logan are the most vocal proponents for “Send them back.”

And the future team? They may be united, but I can’t help but feel like there is plenty they’re not telling the present members of the X-Men. Jean isn’t disguising herself as Xorn just for the sake of keeping her face hidden. There is something sinister going on.

But aside from a really compelling story, we’ve also got all of those little moments that make the characters come to life (and which Jonathan Hickman is sadly missing in Infinity). Look especially to Emma, the Stepford Cuckoos, Jean and Future-Jean and how they have been dealing with one another to see precisely what I mean.

We’re on Chapter Four of Ten, and right now, I am confident in saying that “Battle of the Atom” is one of the great X-Men storylines. It may yet end up replacing “The Dark Phoenix Saga” as my favorite, and that impresses me.

Meanwhile Batman Beyond Universe #2 continues the story of powerless older Clark Kent as he enters the Phantom Zone, Captain Marvel #16 addresses Carol’s memory loss and power fluctuations as Binary in a way that is marginally of interest to Infinity readers, but really pulls away from the story we were developing in this title, New Avengers #10 retells the events of Infinity #3 from the point of view of the Illuminati, Secret Avengers #9 shows us how Daisy was subject to the same mind-wiping technology as the Secret team, Thunderbolts #15 uses Infinity as a backdrop as Elektra, Punisher and Venom hunt down the hidden head of the mob families, and Ultimate Comics X-Men #31 puts James onto Tian as an escaped refuge, shows Kitty step down as head of Utopia to become a soldier, and officially turns Jean Grey into an outright villain.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Want a Sneak Peek at Uncanny X-Men #13?

by Aaron Einhorn
So, it seems like almost on a daily basis (actually, several times a day), my inbox gets hit with a preview from an upcoming comic issue from Marvel, DC, Image or Valiant. When I was running Comic Hero News, I would dutifully post each and every one of these as soon as it arrived, along with the full text of the press release. Now? I’m a bit more choosy.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally post them. See, as someone who has spent most of the past two decades studiously avoiding the X-Men titles, I am a serious convert back since Marvel Now, and the “Battle of the Atom” storyline has been really pulling me in. So, given a preview look at Uncanny X-Men #13, I am all too eager to share it.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot to the preview – just two covers and one interior page without dialogue. But the teaser (which follows) is pretty cool. So, check them out below!

BATTLE OF THE ATOM CONTINUES IN YOUR FIRST LOOK AT UNCANNY X-MEN 13!
This October, the X-Men event of the year heats up as Battle of the Atom rages on in Uncanny X-Men #13! Wolverine is down and bleeding out with no healing factor and the Jean Grey School is under attack from mysterious foes! Is that a Phoenix Quentin Quire and who is the blue man on the cover?! From blockbuster writer Brian Michael Bendis and critically acclaimed artist Chris Bachalo, comes the next can’t miss chapter of the X-Men event of the year!

UNCANNY X-MEN #13
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo
Cover by Ed McGuinness
Variant Cover by Chris Bachalo

UNCX013 UNCX013COVER_var UNCX2012013005_colCLASSIFIED

Weekly Comic Round-Up, September 11, 2013 Edition

by Aaron Einhorn
Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

astrocity4_c01Astro City #4 “On the Sidelines”
There are a few things that you can safely skip mentioning when talking about comics. You hardly need to say that “The Hulk is strong,” or that “Reed Richards is smart,” or that “Bruce Wayne is rich.”

In that vein? It’s almost beside the point to say that any particular issue of Astro City is good. It’s not that the series has been perfect (as it has evolved from publisher to publisher), but overall, Busiek, Anderson and Ross have managed to create an extraordinary world of supers by focusing on the human inside the superhuman. This latest issue focuses on a middle-aged telekinetic, but she isn’t a superhero, nor is she a supervillain. She mainly works in film, providing special effects work. She’s not alone – there are any number of superpowered individuals who just aren’t wired for hero work, but who also aren’t dishonest enough to become villains. These “sideliners” have an informal network, keeping in touch with one another and helping each other out.

Of course, this wouldn’t be much of a superhero comic if all it ever dealt with was their personal lives, so sure enough, an idiotic supervillain-wannabe tries to coerced the sideliners to work for him. With predictable results.

As always, this gets my strongest endorsement. There aren’t many books out there that are more worth your purchasing dollar than Astro City.

mongul_c01Earth-2-15-2-Solomon-Grundy-0Earth 2: Solomon Grundy #15.2 and Green Lantern: Mongul #23.2
You may recall that last week, I had some kind things to say about Forever Evil, the “cornerstone” book of DC’s entire Villains Month. I stand by that statement.

That said? Don’t waste your money on the individual titles. At $3.99 (thanks to their 3-D covers), these books are already overpriced. They insult the creative teams by not including their names on the covers. And the biggest offender? They’re almost entirely pointless.

I tried Desaad and Relic last week, and in both cases, was underwhelmed but not offended. They filled in some back story elements for the characters, and it was story that for the most part, we hadn’t seen yet.

To be fair, that’s true here as well. But by the time I had finished reading them, I realized that while it may have been new, it was entirely pointless. Did I need to see Solomon Grundy’s first incarnation, complete with “let’s rape the main character’s wife and have her commit suicide to give him pathos”? No. I knew everything I needed to about the New 52 Solomon Grundy from reading Earth 2. Similarly, watching Mongul destroy a civilization and kill a hapless admiral established him and Warworld as a threat – but that had long been established in the pages of Green Lantern.

I was expecting these titles to advance the ongoing story of their parent titles. I wasn’t expecting the Villains Month books to just rehash a backstory. I’m disgusted that DC has gotten as much money out of me for these books as they have, and really don’t intend to give them any more.

mightyavengers1_c01Mighty Avengers #1
I was a big fan of the original run of Mighty Avengers, and I’ve always been a fan of Luke Cage and his team of heroes. The down-to-Earth nature of Cage, compared to the more “big picture” views of many of the other Avengers, has always been a nice contrast. So, I was really excited for this book.

Sadly, what I got was fairly disappointing. Doctor Spider-Octopus has been entertaining to read in his own book, but in a crossover title, he’s just an ass. Cage was uncharacteristically slow to respond to Spidey’s accusation about being “mercenary,” and the actions of White Tiger and Power Man were just abrupt and cold.

It was great to see Monica Rambeau/Spectrum again – I enjoyed her brief appearance in Captain Marvel, and I have long been eager to see Marvel do more with her, but I also thought she was acting out of character. And I neither know nor care who the new Ronin is, which is a major failing for the primary mystery in the first issue of a series.

Perhaps I’ll enjoy the comic more once it moves away from Infinity, but I don’t know if my desire to send Marvel the message that, yes, books with heroes who are of color can sell, can win out against my “But it’s not very good right now, why spend the money?” desire.

XMen_BattleOfTheAtom_XMen_5_CoverX-Men #5
The third chapter of “Battle of the Atom” is here, and I’m happy to report that Brian Wood and company deliver. This meshes seamlessly with the last two installments, and I am loving seeing where this story goes. Young Scott and Jean are on the run, hijacking a Blackbird and fleeing from both the future X-Men (including a very scary vision of Xavier’s grandson and an older Jean), and the current team.

The X-Men being who they are, of course there is dissent among the team about what should happen to Scott, Jean, Hank, Bobby and Warren, and we see that as Kitty and Rachel express their… displeasure with seeing how their teammates are treating the kids.

Ultimately, Jean realizes that they will need allies to protect them from their fellow mutants, and she reaches out to a rather unlikely group of mutants to assist. The final panel wasn’t completely unexpected, but it still left me eager to see what will happen next. And that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with a story that can take you down a familiar road if you’re enjoying the trip.

“Battle of the Atom” rages on next week, and I’ll be happy to pick it up. I hope that this gets collected as a single trade, instead of having the issues appear in the trades of their respective titles. Because if it does? This could sit proudly next to “Days of Future Past” or “The Phoenix Saga” as being among my favorite X-Men arcs.

Meanwhile, Avengers #19 shows us a little bit more about what is happening to Carol Danvers and company among the Builders, and also sets the alliance up for betrayal, Avengers Arena #15 has the teens take down Bloodstone, while one (possibly two) of the youngsters join the ranks of the dead, Indestructible Hulk #13 takes the time-traveling Hulk into Camelot to defeat the next chrono-thief, Infinity: The Hunt #1 ties in to Avengers Arena as the Avengers Academy, Jean Grey School, Braddock School and other schools for superpowered teens come together for a contest, while Atlantis is devastated by Thanos’ forces, and Ultimate Comics Ultimates #30 brings an end to Reed Richards, the Hulk and “Kang”’s reign of terror in a rather unsatisfying whimper that sets us up for Hunger.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

Underneath the Mask: Why Marriage In Comics Matters

by Aaron Einhorn
A few days ago, the word came out that due to an editorial edict by DC Comics that Batwoman (Kate Kane) and her fiancé, Maggie Sawyer would not be permitted to ever actually get married, the creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman would be walking away from the title.

At first, this seemed like a feckless move that was insulting to the LGBT community. I certainly looked at it as such. But in the light of a recent statement made by Dan DiDio during the Baltimore Comic Con, I have realized that it isn’t just a short-sighted move designed to avoid dealing with the possible backlash from showing a gay marriage in their comics (despite the fact that Marvel certainly didn’t seem to suffer after Northstar’s marriage in the pages of X-Men a few years back.) No, if DiDio is to be believed, this instead shows a serious flaw in the attitude towards marriage from DC Comics as a whole.

No happy marriages can be here, so we'll just pretend these two never existed.

No happy marriages can be here, so we’ll just pretend these two never existed.

The statement is as follows (from The Beat):

Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.

That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace—oops shouldn’t have said that,—Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.

Wow, this strikes me as an incredibly sad and pathetic statement, although I will confess that it makes a lot of the decisions from The New 52 make a whole new sense. The dissolution of Clark Kent and Lois Lane as a couple, the erasure of the marriage of Iris West and Barry Allen, and the absolute lack of existence of either Wally West and Linda, or Ralph and Sue Dibny suddenly makes sense. (Along with the invisible erasure of the marriage between Arthur and Mera. And we won’t even touch on the just pre-New 52 murder of Lian Harper.)

Yes, fans had waited nearly fifty years for this, and we had ten years of compelling stories, but it's better to keep Clark and Lois apart.

Yes, fans had waited nearly fifty years for this, and we had ten years of compelling stories, but it’s better to keep Clark and Lois apart.

Each of these couples illustrated that marriage can co-exist with superheroic activity. It’s hard, and none of these marriages were perfect, but they showed that it can work. Meanwhile, despite erasing one of the highest profile weddings in their history in the form of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, Marvel is happy to have Reed and Sue Richards running around the Marvel Universe along with their family, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and their child, along with many heroes with non-super-powered wives.

On the first hand, I find this troubling for the reason that it paints a terrible image from our “role models.” What DiDio is saying there is essentially that being a superhero means sacrificing everything that makes life worth living. We look at superhuman characters as heroes and role-models, but I’m not certain I can agree that setting aside everything that a hero wants in their family life in service to their duties as a hero is actually admirable.

I’m a father. I have two little girls who I absolutely adore and love and would do almost anything for. I’m also an employee of a company, and the head of a local branch of superhero costumers for charity. I have responsibilities that override my desires – and while the world I live in doesn’t mean my choices have the same stakes as “Go home to be with your wife or the Joker will destroy Gotham,” it doesn’t change the fact that I have situations come up where what I want for myself, or for my family, conflicts with my other responsibilities. And sometimes work wins out, and sometimes family wins out, and every day is a different struggle.

reed_sue

All of which is my way of saying that having the line be clearly drawn, that a married superhero is compromising their duty to “the mission,” seems terribly black and white. And it means that being a superhero ultimately means cutting yourself off from the very humanity you are vowed to protect.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the other area that DiDio is missing. Outside of Disney movies (ironically, the owners of Marvel Comics where marriage between characters is not verboten), marriage does not mean “Happily ever after.” DiDio is married himself, so I’m sure he knows this, but being married doesn’t mean “a happy personal life.” Marriage is a commitment, and a two-way street, and it is often hard. Is it fulfilling and worthwhile? I certainly think so, but I also don’t think that it’s always easy. Christina and I fight. We disagree about many things and our life together is a series of compromises and balancing our own desires and needs with the desires of each other and our children.

Luke-Cage-Jessica-Jones

We also love each other, and we take a great deal of joy in each other’s company and we are stronger together than we are apart. Which just means that the daily struggles are worthwhile. Kind of in the same way that superheroes struggle against their obstacles, using the powers that make them stronger than an ordinary human, huh?

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones struggled with what being members of the Avengers meant for two people (even two superpowered ones) who were trying to raise a child. Reed Richards must often decide between spending another hour in his lab or taking time to have dinner with Sue and Franklin. For both of these cases, the struggle to balance family and their roles as heroes wasn’t a boring story or an easy out – it made for some of the best stories in their character’s histories.

And of course, through their parent company, Marvel also owns these guys, who are all about finding that balance between family and heroism, and showing that the struggle is never easy, but is always worth it.

1483059-the_incredibles_the_incredibles_620936_1280_994

Love is hard, but endures. That's a terrible message to see from our heroes.

Love is hard, but endures. That’s a terrible message to see from our heroes.

Back in the pre-New 52 days, DC was able to do this same thing. Lois Lane gave Superman the perspective and humanity he needed to stay among man and not fly above it. Linda West gave the Flash the emotional anchor he needed to return from the Speed Force. And in the poorly conceived Identity Crisis, the murder of Sue Dibny broke the Elongated Man, and ultimately led to the path that had him losing his life, only to finally be reunited with Sue as a ghost.

I don’t know whether or not the “no marriage” edict is better or worse than the idea that DC simply wanted to bury the idea of a marriage between Batwoman and Kate Kane. But I do know that, either way, it reinforces my belief that DC Comics no longer wants my money, and that the stories being created by Marvel are much more in line with what I want and need to be reading.

I want to see stories where my heroes are human underneath their powers. I want to see those family connections. And yeah, I’m ok if that means that some of these marriages fail, either because the stress of being a superhero is too much and one member cracks under pressure (like Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne), or because of infidelity (Scott Summers and Jean Grey), or because of a literal deal with the Devil. Because marriage is hard, and just like we want to see heroes fail from time to time when fighting Doctor Doom or Thanos, it’s ok to see them fail in their personal lives.

But the counterpoint is seeing the strength that Reed Richards can derive from Franklin, Sue, Valeria, Johnny and Ben. Because if heroes are meant to show us where our own strength is, then they shouldn’t be cut off from the same relationships that make each day better for so many of us.

peter_mj_wedding

Are We…? Are You… Inhuman?

by Aaron Einhorn
So, for the past few days, Marvel has been teasing us with the following teaser images.

Is he…? Are they…? Is she…? Are We…?
IsHe__ AreThey_ IsShe__ Are We_

Now, finally, they all make sense as they lead up to the final question…

Are you Inhuman?
Are You Inhuman_

And here’s the first teaser or possibly cover image for Marvel’s Inhumanity.

Inhumanity_1_Cover

Considering the major role the Inhumans are playing in Infinity, I should have seen this one coming. Expect something bad to happen to the Blue Area of the Moon by the end of Infinity

We’ll learn more on September 18th.