“Jack Kirby’s writing is not the subtlety of Hemingway, it’s the scream of myth.”

The King’s Gambit. Comics legend Jack Kirby invented the villains of Justice League in one of the wildest experiments in superhero history.—Abraham Riesman, The Vulture

“Y’know,” the late Jack Kirby told his assistant, Steve Sherman, “I’m competing against myself.” It was 1970, a little over three decades after Kirby stopped being Lower East Side street brawler Jacob Kurtzberg and became a professional writer-slash-artist under his percussive nom de plume. In that period, he had dreamt up much of the visual vocabulary and dramatis personae of the American comic book. His art style was explosive: foreshortened punches smacked into the reader’s eyeballs, and impossibly detailed sci-fi machinery littered his scenes. His genius for superhero storytelling was unparalleled: Along with Joe Simon, he had created Captain America in 1941; along with his frenemy Stan Lee and scattered others, he had spent the 1960s dreaming up stories that introduced and developed most of the Marvel pantheon, including the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury, Doctor Doom, Black Panther, and even the anthropomorphic tree-creature Groot.

But Sherman recalls the so-called King of Comics feeling dissatisfied at age 52. “I’m competing against myself because I did all these characters and stories,” Kirby mused, “and now I need to come up with something different.”

So he did.

“It would be nice if I could just say, ‘Go back and read the original Mister Miracle. But if you straight read it, it’s like sticking your head into the id of the country. It’s like you get drowned under the ideas of it. Jack Kirby’s writing is not the subtlety of Hemingway, it’s the scream of myth.”

The Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, Ron Lim, and George Pérez is pretty understandably epic in scale. I don’t know how the upcoming Avengers movie can get to this story without more setup than we’ve seen so far. But, who knows? I’ve heard rumours that they might not start with this story right away, which means I started in the wrong place. Oops.

It really seems like a huge story arc designed to launch Adam Warlock into an eternal hall of fame at the expense of the entire Marvel universe. Jim Starlin’s Adam Warlock. Jim Starlin the writer of this story. Nothing suspicious here at all, nope.

The cosmic elements are the best. There’s panels with Doctor Strange, Adam Warlock, Celestials and Eternals that knock it out of the park with delicious cosmic visuals. There’s some mind bending bit here to love.

There’s also a cameo of a Trump property getting natural disastered that gave me mean chuckle.

But really, it’s Doctor Strange who gets some of the best visuals.

The framing story is that Thanos is desperate for Lady Death’s love. It’s kind of pathetic, and perhaps a funny commentary on desperate but unrequited nerd ideas of “love”. The framing story seems stuck on repeat for most of the series, until the story catches up to where Thanos is at; then the story gets stuck on repeat as the writing plays the same sequence of heroes trying to defeat Thanos while Silver Surfer or someone doubts Adam Warlock over and over for a while.

But there’s some great “who’s it” with the Infinity Gauntlet including a couple steals and a fumble to liven things up.

As stuck as it may seem repeating in places within this collected volume, it isn’t anything I’ve read before elsewhere. It’s new, but repeats within itself a bit, is what I’m saying. But, it’s good, and, where it does internally new stuff, it does it really well. There’s tons of visuals and moments that struck me, and which I hope to see on the big screen eventually as a bonus.

In the end everyone returns to where they were, except Thanos and Adam Warlock, who both, sort of, escape the cycle of statis, ironically by getting stuck in a different, or maybe the same, from a certain point of view, cycle of stasis.

I’m certainly curious about the rest of the Infinity Gem Saga, but that’s a lot of material. I hope it stays fresh across the whole sequence of 6 collections. It’s a bit daunting and I feel like I got a good complete story in this collection alone, so I’m not super hype about the rest, to be honest. In that sense, this volume is a nice complete thing in itself without feeling left tricked into needing to read anything else.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Infinity Gauntlet

Pride and Joy

Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy by Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona is a story of six friends that stumble upon a shocking super-powered secret about their parents, and discover their own secrets in response to their parents as they become a team in spite of themselves. They become their heroic selves and find they have meaningful purpose for being in the world. The art and writing are not complex, but, even still, a lot happens in these first 8 issues in the collection. Also, the promise and premise provides ideas that are complex, and offer a depth for those looking for it. I hope the rest of the series develops those potentials further and eventually reveals itself to be narratively as superpowered as the heroes.

A live action adaptation of Marvel’s Runaways, once planned to join the cinema releases, is now scheduled as coming to Hulu in November 2017, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Pride and Joy

Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, &al, is something I’ve wanted to read for a long time and finally got a round tuit.

This was originally an 8 issue series, now available as a collected graphic novel. Apparently there’s been others created in the 1602 universe, but this is the core story. This is an alternate universe story about the main Marvel superheroes out of time, for some reason, which is eventually revealed. On the main, the cool part is the period drama and how the heroes have turned out in another time, and an extended thought experiment about this alternate reality in which essential natures and essential stories still play out.

I think for me the real feature that drew me to this story was that it featured Doctor Strange, and moreover in the era of John Dee, but it turns out there’s a lot more I enjoyed. Lots of little things that tickled my interests, like Daredevil talking about mystery and audere, Fury and Peter Parker talking about secrets, powers and mysteries, & c.

I think I was really hoping that Doctor Strange would use Dee’s obsidian mirror, but if it was there, even in the background, I missed it. But there’s plenty I found interesting. Two moments that come to mind are the villainization of libertarian, individual as the myopic measure of right Doom opposed to the excellence in a collective of the various others coming together, and an almost Zen parable about tools and weapons that resolves into an oblique takedown of filthy lucre.

On the other hand, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that the Fantastic Four could be seen as the four classical elements. I still don’t enjoy FF much, but it’s a dimension to them I’d not thought about before, that’s kinda obvious now that I’ve read it.

The art is in that almost over-perfect style that is hand-drawn but finished on a computer, which tweaks that peculiar Alex Ross-like trigger of glossy detail while still being minimal. The writing is good, though not stunning, to be honest. The primary novelty is in the time-twist and what-if-ism, which does deliver a solid series. Overall, worth reading and a fun adventure that kept me interested and thinking beyond just what the story presented.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Marvel 1602