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Monday, May 14, 2007

A darker Marvel Universe ...

(If you're waaay behind in comic reading, the below may have spoilers. You've been warned.)

The Marvel Universe has become a darker place.

I'm a reading a slew of comics, but we're coming out Marvel's "Civil War" cross-over arc, which split super-teams, family, and friends, and pitted them against each other.

It's culminated with Captain America being shot and killed. This is a big deal to me.

And the repercussions have made the Marvel Universe tougher, more cynical, more dangerous.

To be frank, I'm glad.

I've just worked through a ton of books, and three of them punctuate the new flavor of my favorite comic book universe:
  • Amazing Spider-Man
  • Punisher War Journal
  • World War Hulk
Amazing Spider-Man -- Spidey's got some charm. A big part of that is the everyman underdog who can't seem to catch a break, despite his gifts. Part of it has to do with his glib nature.

I was getting tired of the glib nature.

I mean, I like it, but it was becoming a schtick. Let's face it, Peter's life sucks. And people he loves keep dying. That's gotta get old.

Then, a big-time, old-time baddie arranges a hit on the Wallcrawler, and Aunt May takes the bullet. And doesn't look like she's going to make it.

Peter is done. He's back in the black costume. He's done with the kid gloves. He wants revenge, he's ready to kill, and he's OK with that.

Not since the Mike Zeck "Kraven's Last Hunt" arc have I cared about reading the Spider-Man titles this much. It feels more "real" (it's all relative).

Punisher War Journal -- I got into the Matt Fraction relaunch early on, and I'm glad I did. Turns out Frank Castle's got a thing for Captain America (not like that; perv), and he's not taking his assassination lightly. And when a new Hate Monger comes onto the scene in a costume that's a rip-off of Captain America, The Punisher takes him on, in a Punisher-meets-Cap costume version of his own.

OK, that mixed costume is hokey to me (The Punisher wouldn't do that). But everything else works.

Like Fraction doing a good job with dialog.

And the new Hate Monger? They're actually making him a racist hate monger, and showing that (and telling us a little too much, but I forgive it). Marvel's finally nutting up to showing swastikas (that's long been taboo). And it roots this bad guy as a really bad guy.

And there's also humor in the Hate Monger costume, since it's a version of the Rob Liefeld, "Heroes Reborn" Captain America revisionist travesty that was a part of the near death of Marvel in the 1990s. That's meta funny.

World War Hulk -- If you've been out of the loop, here's a quick summary. Turns out there's a group of the brightest in the Marvel U. acting secretly in concert, orchestrating events for years. They're called the Illuminati, and they include Iron Man, Reed Richards, Professor X, Black Bolt, Namor, and Dr. Strange. They, in their infinite wisdom, decided the Hulk was too dangerous, tricked him into a spaceship, and shot him into space.

The Green Goliath crashes into a distant, waring world, quickly ascends as a warrior king, integrates his intellect with his power, chooses a queen, and has a baby on the way.

Things are looking good for Green Gums until the ship that brought him to the planet explodes, killing this wife and unborn baby.

Now, he's coming back to earth. And he's pissed. He's coming back to kill the Illuminati. Not just smash them. Kill them.

Seems appropriate for a betrayed teammate who's now a childless widower.

All this to say there's an organic nature to the whole darkish universe, and it seems to fit. Writers and editors need to be careful not to make it angsty and whiny boring, but things are looking good so far.

And I've long said I suspect the rift caused by the Civil War may well be healed as people come together to stop the Hulk.

But if it's done right, it'll actually further fracture relationships, as I suspect a number of folks will side with the Hulk.

"It's gonna be dark, dark, dark, violent day ..."

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