What I thought of Marvel Two-in-One #3

1970’s Marvel comics are a source of joy and derision. Sometimes both. One of those titles I’ve grown fonder of over the years is Marvel Two In One, one of those titles Marvel, and DC, published where a ‘big name character’ (Spider-Man, Batman, Superman) would team up with another hero in normally, a one-off adventure. Marvel Two In One featured the Fantastic Four’s Thing, a bit of an oddity as although the Fantastic Four sold well in the early 70’s, the idea of sticking The Thing as the ongoing character in a team-up book today seems daft.

These titles also allowed new writers to play around; in this case Steve Gerber was allowed to play with Marvel’s characters and in this issue he throws in Mr. Fantastic as well as Daredevil and the Black Widow.

These comics tended to follow a certain formula. Something would happen to bring our heroes together, they’d argue/fight and then team up to fight the main villain and the story would be wrapped up in 20-24 pages. In this case Daredevil wants his billy club back.

At this point Marvel was building its universe up to the point where any comic would reference any number of other Marvel titles.

This however is a Steve Gerber comic. This means after the soap opera superheroics we get a large chunk of political content which looks amazing even today.

Then it gets insane when Adolf Hitler pops up and he’s hip to the 70’s.

At this point The Thing and Daredevil have a sort-of-fight for the sake of a fight.

After some banter, The Thing and Daredevil team up, fight the bad guys and end up saving the Black Widow who is being controlled by the aforementioned bad guys.

There’s no end here, just a promise of continuing the plot in that month’s issue of Daredevil which seems a cheat but remember these comics were cheap. Kids had a load of disposable income and could buy all the titles they could which is at least what I used to do.

Marvel Two In One is a relic of a bygone age of fun, disposable comics, albeit one with some frankly bizarre political commentary from a writer who at this point was finding his voice as well as his feet in an industry where comics were disposable. Some good, solid Sal Buscema art makes the issue a joy of nostalgia though nothing here is overwhelmingly outstanding, just solid superhero comics that’s fun which is all that matters here.

 

What I thought of Fantomex #2

Last month I did a review of Fantomex #1, so as if often the case with monthly comics, here’s a review of #2…

Image

Before I dive in I will say this issue is much better structurally than #1 as we dive headfirst into the plot, but there’s things here and there which niggle, but I’ll get to that.

As we start this issue off, Fantomex  is in a submarine at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Image

We get a crisp and brief bit of exposition as to what Fantomex is doing and why he’s in this place. Nice simple superhero comics dialogue that isn’t clogged down with continuity, or fourth generation sub Alan Moore dialogue as you see in a massive amount of superhero comics today.

As I did last time I have to praise Crystal’s art. There’s a lot of potential with this lad’s art though I don’t find his depiction of Fantomex as a stupidly muscled superhero convincing. I find it amazingly forced, so that when he does draw him as this wonderfully flexible character it feels natural and fluid.

What doesn’t feel natural or fluid is this bit of dialogue that Andy Hope sticks in.

Image

We don’t need the exposition about Nauls being called after a character from John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’d have been a nice in-joke to keep the character genuinely called Nauls rather than this couple of bubbles of Claremontesque exposition. Again though, Crystal’s art here is excellent.

I also have a problem with the dialogue here.

Image

It’s the use of the word ‘cunt’ that seems forced. I’ve nothing against fucking swearing in fucking comics, but like Crystal’s muscly Fantomex it seems forced and trying too hard. The threat as it is without the word ‘cunt’ is fine.

There, that couple of sentences should clear out the Guardian readers.

Anyhow, Hope comes back with a blinding bit of dialogue a few panels later…

Image

You won’t see any other comic in any genre this year with a Jimmy Saville reference…

I do actually think that when Hope is more comfortable in a slightly more jokey, more fun, even camp tone than the more traditional superheroics that’s come up in the two issues so far. I know this isn’t a style the hardcore superhero readers of 2013 enjoy as they want grim grimness with extra grimness on top and a side-order of mutilation and a big glass of gore, but there’s something nice about bad guys being bad, good guys caring about a bloke called Nauls and an anti-hero who isn’t a rapist thug but a charming gentleman thief. It’s simple but Hope never makes it simplistic.

This is an example of what I mean.

Image

It’s fun. Frankly making this a Max title means that it’s cut out a potential larger audience. Ah well.

Anyhow, the rest of the issue is involved with setting up the plot, so there’s a lot more exposition, a conversation with a hologram that reminds me of a scene from Doctor Who, but I know Andy’s not seen the new series so it’s not a rip off or even inspired, and lots of people standing around talking. This is a problem of all superhero comics going back decades in that at some point you’re going to have people standing around explaining who is doing what to whom and why, but Hope makes these scenes pass as quickly as possible, plus Crystal’s art makes it easier to sail through.

Image

After several pages of setting up the meat of the plot, the issue leaves both our heroes (Fantomex and Agent Fleming) in peril. I won’t talk about this yet as obviously it’s to be resolved next issue, so you’ll wait til then.

All in all, Fantomex #2 is a vast leap on from the first issue. It’s got a great tone at times as Hope’s voice begins to be found, and Crystal’s art improves though tone down the superheroic cliched muscles! I do still think that both creators are struggling to be comfortable with the main character but they’re doing as good a job as possible, and as said, I do think the Max format is just an excuse for tits, gore and swearing to make it seem ”mature” but in this case, it doesn’t seem at all suited to the story as it could very easily be made a book read by a wider audience.

Also, Jimmy Saville being referenced in an American superhero comic. That’s glorious…

Be back next month for #3!

My Top 20 Horror Films-1-John Carpenter’s The Thing

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust10, The Wicker Man, 9Halloween, 8, The Blair Witch Project 7Hellraiser, 6, The Evil Dead series 5, The Exorcist, 4, Suspiria, 3George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead and, 2, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

We come in screaming to the number one film on my list, and it’s John Carpenter’s The Thing.

JohnCarpentersTheThing1982

 

I could just wrap this up with one sentence: I fucking love this film. I won’t, so here’s the blunt synopsis from IMDB for those of you who haven’t seen this sheer work of genius.

Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.

The film adapts the John W. Campbell story, Who Goes There? for the second time after the Howard Hawks film, The Thing From Another World, a great film in it’s own right but it only loosely took elements from Campbell’s story whereas Carpenter goes back to the story and uses it to virtual perfection.

It’s a story about paranoia, plus it serves as an allegory for the then relatively new stories about the AIDS virus, but most of all it’s a brilliantly made horror film with spectacular effects from Rob Bottin with help from Stan Winston.

It’s also this work as well as the creepy paranoid atmosphere that helped doom the film at the American box office, though I do remember it doing better here in the UK. In fact it was one of the first X certificate films I saw at the cinema which is one reason why I love the film so much as if this is your first X film, it’s a cracker to start off with.

Why is this so good? Well, it’s smart. Locating the film in a remote part of the Antarctic means there’s no escape, and also, making the characters a mix of scientists  and civilians who seem to have some sort of military experience  means it’s not a bunch of naive teenagers we’re watching but experienced educated men making as informed a series of decisions as possible. It’s all logical as the survivors try to outsmart the alien creature which isn’t to say there’s no people walking into dark rooms, but it’s because they have to. Now there’s better critiques out there of the film and this isn’t really a critique rather than it’s me telling you, the reader, to go watch this film.

It’s got everything; good characters, great acting, fantastic direction, astonishing effects which look better than most film made today and a great score by Carpenter and Ennio Morricone. I should also say that I don’t think Carpenter has topped this film and he’s made some great films before and after The Thing, but this was a perfect storm. It’s just a pity there was such a negative reaction to it at the time of it’s release in 1982, though history has shown those of us who thought it was brilliant at the time to be right.

Go watch this film again. In the dark. Alone.

So here I am at the end, or am I? After all there’s no Hammer? No Cronenberg? No Alien, and where exactly was The Shining?

The answer to one of those questions is for next time with My Worst Five Horror Films Ever.