by Nevs Coleman

Uncanny, Awesome.

This stares back at Comics Retail Staff all day. I assume we're being punished.

This stares back at Comics Retail Staff all day. I assume we’re being punished.

Marvel babies Uncanny AvengersWhy do you read so much in continuity stuff?’

….asks a mate of mine. i won’t name names, but i will tell you his casket will probably made of Starman Ominbuses. We were talking about S, my love of it and frustration at his refusal to read it because ‘It’s all capes, and why do you need to bother reading it, anyway?’

Well, K Of The Dragon, 2 reasons:

1) When I were a lad, there weren’t so many comic shops in my immediate orbit. Whenever I got a chance to go to a proper Comic Shop, it was less a purchasing encounter and more a sacred pilgrimage to a Sanctom Sanctorum full of mad covers and exotic smells that I couldn’t spend enough time ingesting. Being a poor child, I couldn’t afford much. I’d have my small stack of whatever, and what I took away from both shops (Which will remain unnamed, but both are closed down and profoundly deserve to be so.) was sheer contempt . From the staff., mind.

Not just for the fact that I couldn’t afford very much, but that contempt that comes from elitism. The sort of snobbery that sneers at you because you don’t know that Stan Lee, Jae Lee, Jim Lee and Elaine Lee aren’t all related or that Spider-Man 1st appeared in Amazing Fantasy 15, not Amazing Spider-Man 1. ‘Yeah, Kid, come back when you know the difference between Monday Night Raw and art spigelman’s Raw, y’know?’ I thought, back then, that being behind the counter of a Comic Shop was probably the greatest job in the world (I’m not convinced it isn’t now.) and if, by chance or fate, I wouldn’t be a snob about it, and I’d always remember that the person coming up to my counter might be as intimidated by the shop as I was back then.

So, I decided I would learn stuff about comics. As much as I could. I worked out the divisions pretty early and decided they were all bollocks. Marvel vs DC, Mainstream vs ‘Indy’ Animated vs ‘Adult Version’ Single Issues vs Trades. All these silly reasons that an already niche audience would find to divide each other. And all that fake grumpiness? Why be that surly, bitter guy who basically wouldn’t do anything but grunt at you unless you knew about every cartoon strip Bill Watterson pitched to the syndicates before hitting success with Calvin & Hobbes?

Where, frankly, was the fun in that? I’d worked in pubs in Deepest South London where the Locals alternated between violence and incest where it was worth having a mean demeanour so you didn’t get glassed whilst doing a Double Shot Of Jameson’s for a punter. Why would you need that defence level in a comic shop?

So, I wanted to be the fun, knowledgable one who reads everything from A-1 through Avengers (New, Secret, Dark, Unleaded, etc) all the way to XXXenophile and back again. If you came in while I was working, the idea was that you could talk comfortably about anything from Metabarons to Mighty Mouse without some looming prick turning their noise up at you. After all, it’s not like any side could claim to be absolutely right about ‘Bestestness!’ Marvel published stormingly great things like Elektra:Assassin, The Kirby/Lee FF’s, Old Man Logan, Strange Tales and Howard The Duck by Steve Gerber. They also have published Secret Defenders, Force Works, Marville, The Clone Saga and Howard The Duck Magazine (Decidedly NOT by Steve Gerber.)

Less a comic. More a way of life.

Less a comic. More a way of life.

There are not sides. Merely publishing houses, whatever Stan Lee wanted you to think. If you want to try to tell me that Optic Nerve has an ounce of the compassion, humanity, understanding or tragedy that Before Watchmen:Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke does just because it’s a black & white distributed by a small publisher, I’ll argue all day that you’re wrong. Equally, I also know that all my opinions are just that. If I ever got to the point where I’m writing my magnum opus behind the counter and I become indignant that someone has dared to ask me, an artiste of my caliber about….a Marvel comic. Then it’s time I went home. And learned that I am a vending machine with a pulse, not a ‘Superstar Retailer’ or whatever egomaniacal phrase is doing the rounds at the moment.

Considering how many of my customers are now my friends in real life, I don’t think I’ve done too badly at that one.

That’s the 1st reason. Here’s the Second.

I Love Comixology Love it, love it. Mainly because it solves so many of the problems I had with the business. Worrying whether the shop you were going to would sneer at you because you had the temerity to want the new issue of Cavewoman rather than the latest Dan Clowes HC about how crap humanity can be. Or if the person doing the ordering only looked at Previews long enough to order in enough copies of Transformers so they could get their variants and accidentally forget to order all of Fantagraphics’s output for the month. Maybe failed to recognise that your customer base might be interested in that obscure British comic character called ‘Dan Dare’ and get in enough copies to last more than ten minutes on New Comics Day. Suddenly you’re having to pay a comic that only came out last week. Oh, and should you be lucky to actually find your comics, you still have to store them. Every week, that pile of paper becomes more and more boxes and shelves filling up your house…

Think about the future, Eckhart...

Think about the future, Eckhart…

And Comixology solves every single one of those problems. No more worrying about any of the above. Pop open your laptop and buy all your comics in one fell swoop, for cover price. Variant covers chucked in at no extra cost.  Don’t even have to queue up or spend any money on travel fare. Comixology is going to be to Comic Shops what Winamp/Napster/Spotify was to the Music Industry. So, we can get into a huff about it, fold our arms and wonder why nobody wants to pay £10 for the Superior Spider-Man variants on the wall.*

(N.B. You can argue that sales figures are up compared to the last few years. And then I’ll ask you to show me those figures in comparison to the mid 1980’s, the last period where actual comics were a major part of the culture. Not movie adaptions, video games, action figures or some such, but actual comics. Show me your orders for Dark Knight Returns 1 compared to any five comics from any publisher you’ve ordered from in the last year and tell me that sales are really up again.)

Or, we can say ‘Well, what can we do that IndyPlanet.Com or Comixology can’t?’

Which is why I read everything. Because what you can’t get from a website is informed conversation, a bit of mickey taking. Some recommendations. (I’ve got it down to simply saying ‘HAWKEYE! BUY HAWKEYE! BUY HAWKEYE! HAWKEYE!, which works surprisingly well.) Essentially a decent human interaction with a bit more friendliness to it than ‘That. Will. Be. £11:65.’

Are you buying this yet? BUY THIS!

Are you buying this yet? BUY THIS!

So, yeah, that’s why I read In continiuty stuff. Including ‘Gasp and Egad!’ things I don’t particularly like.

Under which you can file ‘The last Ten years of Avengers comics’. Not that I was a particular fan of the title pre Avengers Disassembled, but it was overshadowed massively by the Ultimates and hadn’t become the centre of the Marvel Universe yet. I don’t want to slag things off anymore, having been inspired by reading by Caitlin Moran’s Moranthology over Christmas. (The column about reviewing Ned;s Atomic Dustbin, if you’re curious. You should read it anyway, Because Reasons.) so I;ll just say that I thought the main problem with Bendis’s Avengers was that all of the lead characters sounded too similar.

It was essentially like reading him talking to himself whilst taking forever to wrap up storylines. Also by the time his run ended, all of the big changes and deaths (The decimation of the Mutant Population, Norman Osborn being a major power player, the deaths of Captain America, Hawkeye, The Wasp, Evil Wanda The Registration Act, etc) of the period have been retracted. So basically, all that’s happened in the last ten years of Avengers comics is I learned that no event has any long-term effect

(Which, inversely, is why I really like the first few issues of All New X-Men. Those characters are so well-defined that they escape Bendis’s imposing voice, and as there’s only one book at the moment, plot points have to be wrapped up in that title rather than bleeding over into another related title. It remains to be seen if that’ll continue when Uncanny starts, though.)

Bringing us via the scenic route, finally, to Uncanny Avengers 1-3 by Rick Remender & John Cassady….

1st off, LOOK AT THOSE COVERS! Except for the slightly dull 1st one (although the Neal Adams one is a bit Boom!), The Red Skull looks ….evil. Giant, geometric globs of malevolence screaming out from the shelves in a burst of Steranko Vision. Except for that horrible Marvel NOW! red band, these are the most garish, lurid nightmare inducing slabs of dark intent that Marvel have put out for ages

The art from John Cassady is as sublime as it always is, and Marvel have done well to get this many issues out of him. Some people complain that slower artiists shouldn’t be given books of this magnitude unless they can do them on a regular basis. I think the idea of kicking off with someone like Cassady really helps this book in terms of gravitas and FOOM factor. Any rotating art team that features the much underrated Daniel Acuna is doing alright, frankly. If anyone’s been quietly knocking out work of a high standard anf being the general genius pinch hitter for Marvel over the last few years, it’s Acuna. In a better world, he’ll be rewarded for his work with a book that gets the same promotion and high quality writing teams that both Daredevil & Hawkeye benefitted from. Personally, I’d like to see him and Dan Slott do a She-Hulk book, but that’s just me.

Possibly with covers by Frank Cho. No real reason.

Possibly with covers by Frank Cho. No real reason.

So, Uncanny Avengers, then. Well written, beautiful looking, absolutly mental bizarre story from cover to cover/ No need to read any other Marvel comic to understand what’s happening. The best thing by miles to come out of the whole Avengers Disassembled to Avengers/X-Men waste and time of money and only matched by Hawkeye as potential Best New Marvel Comic of 2012.

*JUST because this comes up every time I mention digital comics in any conversation, I’m aware that there is a percentage of people who have almost a fetish like love of comics in their physical form (Heck, I know someone who can tell you what year a comic was published by smelling it. Not a typo.) I think we’re going to have to understand that this is going to be a generational thing.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but in the same way people aren’t going to the Record shop on a Monday for their new music anymore, I think while the same day digital and physical comic releases are happening, the clock is ticking on the new comic day…



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