Feb. Previews Part 2: Letting My Fingers Do the Walking

Feb-10-09

Continuing our tour through this month’s Previews. Let’s see what else I thought was interesting!

Fallen Angel Volume 6: Cities of Light and Dark: I just finished raving about this series a few posts ago, so we know I like it. It’s a great read. I’d recommend it.

Resurrection: I know nothing about this trade paperback, written by Marc Guggenheim. Well, I do know one thing, and that’s the price of this compilation: $6.00. That’s a great price, and it makes it awfully tempting to try this.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill return for this new series. Jason mentioned it below, and I’m quite excited. I was actually a little disappointed in The Black Dossier, but I love the first two series and I still enjoyed The Black Dossier; it just quite wasn’t quite what I was hoping (I’m not a huge fan of the text pieces. I normally don’t enjoy text pieces in my comics. I loved Starman, but the text pieces were always the weakest part of that story for me as well. It’s odd, since I read a ton of novels and non-fiction books (more non-fiction as I get older), but I think it’s just my mind-set. When I sit down to read a comic, I want comic, not text pieces. I’m a simple man). Anyway, my anticipation for this is still high.

The Batcave Companion: Twomorrows Publications has produced a lot of works that examine the history of various comics and their creators. I’ve read five or six of them, and some of them are really fascinating, and some of them are rather disappointing. For example, their second Teen Titans Companion was simply an entire book of interviews. While some of the interviews were very interesting, I was disappointed that there were no essays containing some critical thinking on the various incarnations of that group. The Blue Beetle companion, which did have some essays, was unfortunately not very well organized or written. Yet some of these are excellent; the All-Star Companion volumes are fascinating looks at these comics, and their descendants in the modern age. This is all a long way of my saying that, while this book looks really interesting, I can’t recommend it without perusing it first.

Books section: Previews isn’t just comics. They also sell books, and while I normally buy my prose reading material on Amazon (I support my local shop, but I will buy some things other places and Diamond really isn’t the best distributor for this sort of thing), I thought it might be interesting to note three titles in this section that seem worthy of consideration. One is Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen, which looks at the X-Men in all their incarnations, from comics to cartoons to movies. My only concern is that the author has set himself a mighty challenge; that’s a heck of a lot of material to cover. I can’t imagine they can get it all into one book, and I fear it may not be very in-depth.

I also noticed Disney’s Neglected Prince, which focuses on the men in the Disney films. I’m a huge Disney fan, and the men in their movies are often ignored. I think this looks like it could be quite interesting. Sure, some of the Disney heroes are pretty dull (does Snow White’s Prince Charming even have a line in that film?), but some of them are much more active. Heck, Prince Philip, in Sleeping Beauty, even gets to fight a dragon!

Finally, I see they’re soliciting Star Trek: A Comic Book History. I’d be very interested in this book, assuming it delves into some of the decisions that was made with this franchise. For example, why did Paramount yank the license from Marvel in the 90s? Marvel was publishing a few good comics, including one focusing on a class at Starfleet Academy, and one focusing on the early adventures of Christopher Pike. I’d also like to hear from some of the creators, to find out what it was like trying to create these comics under the watchful eye of Paramount.

Finally, there are some interesting Marvel trades on the schedule. Incredible Hercules: Smash of the Titans gives those of us who haven’t read this series a chance to catch up on what’s been going on since Hercules took over the book. I keep saying that I’m going to give this series a try, and maybe this is the time to do it. She-Hulk Volume 8: Secret Invasion sees this series dealing with all the changes it’s main character went through during Civil War. I’ll admit to liking Dan Slott’s issues of the series better than these by Peter David, but I think that’s mostly because of the circumstances that David found himself in with the character, who got pretty smacked around during the crossovers. That’s got to be hard as a writer. It’s not that these issues are bad at all, but Slott’s were just so darn fun.

Finally, we have Deadpool Classics Volume 2. It amazed me at the time these were published how much I enjoyed them, and I do recommend this. Joe Kelly doesn’t always knock me out, but when he’s on fire, he is hotter than a five alarm blaze. His scripts on these stories were full of adventure and humor, and Ed McGuinness’ artwork just exploded with energy. Also, they’ve collected the first ten issues of Spider-Man 2099. You know, the whole concept of the 2099 Universe had some potential, and I enjoyed a few of the books, but unfortunately, it seemed like the universe got out of control early on and the editors were never really able to rein it back in. It’s a shame, since this Peter David-Rick Leonardi series was a great read, and David seemed to strike the perfect balance between bringing in concepts from the original series, and introducing new concepts all his own.

So that’s the Previews for this month. I’m not sure I’d do this every month, but hopefully I’ve spotlighted a few things to watch out for and order. Don’t forget to support your local comics shop!

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One-Shot: The Vamp

Dec-03-08

Wow, John made the major mistake of opening the whole “lame villains killed by Scourge” can of worms that I am more than willing to exploit. I LOVED the Scourge storyline if only for the fact that I also LOVE horrible D-grade villains. That being said, even I have absolutely no clue who this character is.

From the brief and utterly confusing info I gleaned off the internet, this chicky-poo can turn into a giant, squishy pink blob man with crazy brain powers called the Animus. Conversely, she also wore a belt supplied by SHIELD that enabled her to duplicate the powers of another nearby person…like a low-rent version of DC’s Vixen. I have no idea why anyone at Marvel thought that those two power sets made sense together. She was a double agent for SHIELD and The Corporation (who had genetically given her the Animus-swapping ability…but controlled it remotely without her input). That’s probably kind of awkward at office parties.

In addition to my previous ignorance, I also have no idea what her name or her costume had to do with anything.

Now here’s where it gets weird (he says with tongue planted firmly in cheek). There’s something about a fight with Captain America and Hulk and a crystal club (wha???) being smashed which held Animus’s psionic abilities. Vamp goes in a coma for some reason. Off-panel, she recovers, spends time in jail, and then shows up at a bar with a bunch of other low-rent baddies who get mowed down in a hail of glorious double-Uzi fire by Scourge. But that’s not the end of the story! See, Arnim Zola (good ol’ “camera for a head and face for a torso” guy) collects her remains and clones her to use as a pawn in committing crimes and collecting money for more science experiments involving attaching appliances to body parts or something. Then Deadpool, of all people, shows up and destroys the clones and the remains and any semblance of comprehension.

The slate is now clean. It’s all up to you, John. How do you revamp the Vamp?

The initial concept of the Vamp (which Jason sort of missed) was actually rather smart.  On the one hand, you have the Vamp, a pretty enough woman with a belt that gave her special powers.  She worked for SHIELD and was a hero.  On the other hand, you have the Animus, a huge, hulking man, with psionic powers and a psionic club, who worked for the Corporation and smashed heroes.  What no one suspected was that these two beings were the same person, because they looked nothing alike (even being different genders) and had powers that were completely different.  She/he was the perfect double agent!  Honestly, my only problem with this concept was that Marvel didn’t take her far enough; I would have decided that neither SHIELD or the Corporation knew about the other identity, and had her play both sides against each other, rather than being a loyal agent of the Corporation.

Of course, that’s all ancient history.  I imagine that many heroes now know that Vamp and the Animus are one and the same, if only because the character is so completely different and off the wall that she/he must be regular conversation at superhero get togethers (“Hey, did I tell you about this chick, the Vamp, that I fought?  She could turn into a man, man!”).  Sure, we could stick her in some new hero’s book (perhaps she could confound the Sentry or something) and do the double agent plot, but that seems like it would be treading old ground, and who wants that?  No, I think we need to go in a new direction with the Vamp.  That might be best accomplished by focusing on the Animus.

Arnim Zola, as we stated, had been cloning villains, and he cloned the Vamp.  Said clone was destroyed.  But perhaps that wasn’t the only clone that Zola created?  I mean, the Vamp’s powers were pretty unique (I can’t think of another hero or villain who can switch genders and powers so completely like that) and Zola would have no doubt enjoyed examining that further.  So, while Vamp’s body was being destroyed by Deadpool, there was another clone, at another location, that was being subjected to various tests by Zola.  When Deadpool destroyed the other bodies, it caused a neural feedback loop in the surviving Vamp body as well, knocking it unconscious while also locking the body into it’s current state.  Unfortunately, at the instant of the Vamp’s death, the second clone had been in its Animus state, and it is this form in which the Vamp is now stuck!

Let’s be clear here; the Animus is considered a man, but he’s really a walking monstrosity, uglier than the Hulk and about 7′ tall.  The formerly buxom and somewhat pretty Vamp is now stuck in this form, and she’s not happy about it.  For a short while, she goes on a rampage (and we see this in the book of the hero who must stop that rampage), basically lashing out at everyone and everything around her.  A hero is called, there’s a fight, and the hero manages to drive away the Animus, but not capture him.  Afterward (and off panel) the Animus begins to think.  He’s calmed down a lot, but he’s still faced with a dilemma; he’s a woman stuck in a man’s body, and a really ugly man at that.  What to do?

From here we feature the Animus as a recurring villain in the same hero’s book, but this is a smarter Animus, one that’s planning.  At first, he’s behind the scenes, and we don’t know who he is.  The reveal that our master plotter from the past several issues is the Animus should be a big one, since the last time the readers saw him, he was raging at all around him, and seemed a mindless brute.  Only now do the readers realize that there is more to him than a sub-rate Hulk clone.  Animus first commits a few simple robberies for money, careful to not be caught (perhaps we saw these robberies as epilogues in previous issues, with the culprit off panel the entire time).  Once he had some money, he assembled a gang, and had them execute his wishes.  The Animus’ plan is to find someone who can reverse the effects, and allows him to change back into his female form again.  He just wants to make sure he has the money to provide this scientific genius with a fully equipped lab once he captures them.

Who is the genius?  Someone the hero is familiar with would be ideal, or perhaps even the hero themselves, if they’re scientifically inclined.  Is the scientist able to find a way to return the Animus to his Vamp form?  Perhaps, although if they do it the first time, it kills the ability to bring the Animus back.  I believe the Animus could be a useful villain in the Marvel Universe, and one with a very clear goal.  Heck, he could even eventually join the Thunderbolts, if he was promised a cure by the government.  There’s potential here, and I’d love to work this character back into the Marvel Universe.