Monday, May 20, 2013

Comics are fun.

So, after a pretty long interregnum I have suddenly gotten back into superhero comics. In a big way.  Specifically, Marvel Comics.  I don't know if this is some slow-burning response to the Avengers movie reactivated by Iron Man 3 or what, but I recently spent like a day reading wikipedia articles and the back histories of tons Marvel characters and suddenly found myself interested in what was happening to the characters in Marvel comics RIGHT NOW, (or what's happening in Marvel Now, Ha!) and started reading articles trying to figure out was would be a good jumping on point, which lead to reading about Marvel Now and how that was basically set up by the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover event.  So I went on Amazon, where they tend to mark comic volumes down twenty to forty percent, and ordered that in hardcover (there are more comics included if you order the hardcover, also the pages are bigger), and well as some other Marvel Now titles that looked interesting, artist and writers I liked or had heard good things about. 

Thinking back on it, I think one of the main motivators was some tumblr I had stumbled upon that posted pages and scenes from various Marvel comics, including stuff from All-New X-Men, one o the first additional volumes I got.  Huh? Cyclops is a villain?! The Original Team has been transported into the present, which means Jean Grey is back, and a boss?  Where when why? How can I figure out what is going on here? 

So that's why I wanted to read Avengers Vs. X-men.  I hadn't read superhero comics in 6 years, I realized, and I simply missed the characters.  I mean, the movies are nice, and those are new versions of the characters, not the one that I grew up with and watched grow and change, that grew and changed, apparently, without me.  I had originally given up on them because I decided, what with the Civil War, World War Hulk, the Initiative, Captain America dying, Spider-Man's arc with the revealing of his identity and then apparently (I later found out) the in-continuity retcon of his marriage, that in some sense the Marvel universe had passed me by.  The stories, the characters, as I had grown up with them, the themes I had associated with them, they were gone.  The people working on them now just did not value them or think of them in the same way I did.  The Civil War, in a sense, seemed to me to be a nice to conclusion to the Marvel Universe as I knew it. I could get off the merry-go-round.  There were other, outside personal stuff, going on as well: my comic shop closing, moving to a new state, suddenly not having any money.  But even with all that I could have easily started up again, found a new comic shop, bought just the main titles I liked, spent money on comics instead of beer (probably would have been a wise move).  But I didn't.  I just stopped. 

So I got Avengers Vs. X-men and within a couple of pages the Scarlet Witch is fighting MODOK across a double-page spread, drawn by Frank Cho, with the White House centered in the background, and I just started giggling.  What I was looking at was just so delirious and ridiculous that I finally rediscovered everything I had been missing, I don't think I had had a moment of just such pure FUN from a piece of entertainment in years.  I mean, MODOK!  MODOK as a concept is just so completely fucking mad that I find it impossible not to smile whenever he pops up or even gets mentioned in anything.  And the Scarlet Witch?  I mean, following everything that had been happening to her with Avengers Disassembled and House of M, having her back in action was like a weird kind of relief, like characters can bounce back!  They eventually all come back!  Also, in front of the White House.  Yes.  And come on! Double Page spreads!  Way to take advantage of that canvas, Cho!

Reading through the rest of the arc, seeing characters I had like and even loved, fighting and getting on the wrong side of everything, having Professor X die, Captain America matching up against Cyclops, of all people (One of my biggest problems with the X-Men movies is that they failed to give proper due to Cyclops.  In there actual X-Men comics themselves, as the original team leader, Cyclops is pretty much THE most important character, even more so that Professor X, or Jean Grey, who is dead half that time and needs to be brought back NOW, and definitely Wolverine, who though central to the Marvel Universe as a whole, has ultimately, in the context of the X-Men been basically a loose cannon, a great side character.  You're not properly adapting the X-Men unless Cyclops has a fairly large role.  Seeing that the comics had, with their mutant properties, evolved Cyclops to a point where he was basically leading all mutantkind and was thus a character with enough stature to be pitted against Captain America, [nice to see him back and running things again, by the way. Stay in your lab building stuff, Tony.] of all people, was a nice sign to me that the Marvel U was doing a good job now of building on what had come before, even if this meant Cyclops had completely lost his gourd.  Though that was actually kind of in character too, what with M-Day and Cyclops having evolved over time into being a bit of a dick.) made me realize something about comics, about all the deaths and retcons and stuff.  I learned to just stop worrying about that stuff and love it.  They're superheroes!  They are like Celtic gods, constantly fighting and dying and being reborn in the Cauldron of Plenty, or at least the equivalent of it in a world of science fiction and magic.  I mean, of course heroes in such a world would keep dying and coming back. of course they would keep having their allegiances shift and mutate over time, that's just the way of Heroic Cycles.  Death is just something that happens and gets conquered in the course of a story.  Right now, in comics, Peter Parker is dead.  Doctor Octopus switched bodies with him and Peter died while in Doctor Octopus' body.  But Doctor Octopus has all of Spider-Man's memories and is now trying to be a hero in his place, even though he is still a tool.  Now, that doesn't mean that Peter is gone forever!  This is an arc!  An arc where Peter is dead, but don't worry, he will still figure a way or this, and come back and be Spider-Man again, and then Doctor Octopus with go back to being dead again, and a new arc with come after that one.  These just fun stories about impossible people, why not have them  conquer death a couple of times along the way? It doesn't cheapen anything, and if it's really bad and ruins a character, well, it can always be retconned.  Say it's something Mephisto did or something.  Or MODOK.  Seriously, why complain about death not meaning anything in a world where there is MODOK? 

So, after reading all that I was hooked, and started ordering more and more volumes online, and also, I started trying to work my way forward, ordering volumes starting with where I left off and moving forward, starting with a the first deluxe volume of Mighty Avengers (whose first arc was drawn by Frank Cho. I think after that one panel I just wanted more Frank Cho.).  After reading that, I saw just how tied in it was to New Avengers, so I was reading, that, which meant I had to read Secret Invasion, and wow.  Secret Invasion was an insane thing to read, because it basically turned all those new Avengers comics into a single story, going back to the first issue and on through to the end of Scret Invasion.  I had left off right in the middle of a massive story!  One that stretched from Secret War and Avengers Disassembled through New Avengers and and on, and one that was sandwiched inside of another massive story that ran from Avengers Disassembled through to Avengers Vs. X-Men.  (Avengers Vs. X-Men really does seem to wrap up a ton of long running story arcs, both in the world of the Avengers and in the world of the X-Men.  It's kind of awesome.)  I was totally wrong to think that the stories I was reading were over and done with.  Now I have a new hobby, trying to get complete runs of collected additions of comics off Amazon for the least amount of money possible.  I have now spent like 4 hundred dollars on comic volumes on the internet, and everyday is like waiting for Christmas now. I have the entirety of Avengers comics heading up until the present coming to me in the mail, as well as a fair chunk of X-Men and Thor comics coming was well. 

It is fun.