Jan 6, 2015

The Amalgam Retrospective: Day 2

Day 2

Happy New Year, everyone! For the entire week, we'll be doing a retrospective on The Amalgam Age of Comics. In 1996, DC and Marvel crossed over for a whole month in a four-issue miniseries entitled, appropriately enough, DC vs. Marvel. As an added treat, near the end of the crossover, Marvel and DC "merged" into one universe to create the Amalgam Universe, where every character was somehow a mixture of at least one character from each universe. There were 12 Amalgam titles, followed by another 12 in 1997.

We'll be doing quick shots here! Likes, dislikes, things we don't get, and random thoughts for each Cuber.

Need to catch up? Here's part 1. Otherwise, read on!

Magneto and the Magnetic Men
by Gerard Jones (with brainstorming assist by Mark Waid), Jeff Matsuda, Art Thibert (with Jaime Mendoza and Larry Stucker)

Magneto and his Magnetic (Metal) Men battle against Will Magnus’ Sentinels.

Ben Likes: Whatever Travis liked.
Ben Dislikes: Whatever Duy liked.
Ben Don’t Understand: Why Magneto is basically unchanged. Is Magneto that popular? Is this what society has become?
Comic I’d Rather Be Reading: The Adventures of Kokoro and Her Psychic Love Sword

Duy Likes: The Magnus/Girl Robot (Antimony) dynamic is reversed from the DC dynamic -- here it's Antimony who's not interested in Magneto. It's a small reversal, but it's a nice touch.
Duy Dislikes: That I have absolutely no idea, Magneto aside, who the rest of the characters are supposed to be sourced from.
Duy Don't Understand: How is Sinistron Mr. Sinister and Psimon? What part of him looks like Psimon?
Creepiest Subtext: Antimony kind of looks like the Scarlet Witch (is she supposed to?), and considering the Scarlet Witch is Magneto's daughter, Magneto's attraction (teeheehee) to Antimony is creepy.

Matt Likes: I like the idea of setting Magneto and Magnus against each other. And playing them against type (kind of) helps.
Matt Dislikes: AoA Sinister/Ultron(?) mashup. It’s just ugly.
Featuring Opinions: The AoA 90s look does not age well. I have reversed my previous opinion, the art is definitely leaning toward the dislike pile.
Matt Don't Understand: More than a cursory history of the Metal Men. I wish I knew more about them. So, in addition, why this book makes me want to learn more about them.

Travis Likes: Kokoro looks great. Nice amalgamation. This should’ve been a Kokoro title. (She has a sword, but I bet it’s powered by heart.)
Travis Dislikes: Magneto punches his computer hard enough to break it open. Dramatic, but seriously, people don’t do that. A controller after a bad game? Sure. Keyboard after wear and tear, yeah. Punch a computer because it’s Tuesday?
Travis Don’t Understand: Mags is into the Wanda riff, Antimony? That seemed a good idea?
Most Unlikely Word to Ever Be Super-Bolded in Dialogue: SUPERMAGNETISM

by Karl Kesel, Barbara Kesel, Roger Cruz, Jon Holdredge

Can a team of damaged rejects save the world from the vile Doctor Doomsday?

Travis Likes: I love the Wasp, Domino, and Elasti-Woman; Karl and Barbara Kesel combined all three in Elasti-Girl and it’s a dream. Niles Cable and Elasti-Girl are essentially wearing the same costume! The tonal balance between the bombast of traditional X-Force and the oddity and social-awkwardness of the best Doom Patrol comics is pitch perfect and funny.
Travis Dislikes: Roger Cruz draws thighs that get on my nerves.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why Roger Cruz draws thighs the way he does.
Unamalgamated Approach to the Same: Doom-Force!

Ben Likes: Now this is an approximation of X-Force type ‘90s art excess I can get behind. The amalgamations in this series are the most natural and compatible I’ve seen yet. The name Shatterstarfire.
Ben Dislikes: That half of the issue is spent of recounting origins. The origin story is most often the most boring story for a comic character, yet so much time is wasted on origins in many of these Amalgam titles, instead of just telling the best story possible. The ones I’ve enjoyed the most spend little to no time on origin stories. Also, the name Shatterstarfire.
Ben Don’t Understand: Why Dr. Doom or Doomsday would be the villain in this book. Why Doom was cursed with the taint of a lesser villain. Doom amalgamates with no man (or woman).
Best DJ Name: DJ Shatterstarfire

Duy Likes: That Spider-Boy makes an appearance in the flashbacks.
Duy Dislikes: That unlike Dark Claw, this has none of my favorite source characters, and I feel it.
Duy Don’t Understand: Why would Thanoseid's best bud be Dr. Doomsday?
Best Thing They Should Port Over: Beast being into Shatterstar. Watch the X-fans go insane.

Matt Likes: It was the last one-shot I read. Seriously, this thing is terrible.
Matt Dislikes: The lack of an interesting story and a Raven/Domino mash up.
Matt Don't Understand: The name, this isn’t really Doom Patrol mixed with an X team. It’s Teen Titans and X-Force. They should’ve gone with Teen Force or X-Titans (my favorite).
Scaled back from XXX-Patrol: These costumes are particularly 90s bad. Elasti-girl and Shatterstarfire must be (1.) freezing and (2.) constantly picking their costumes out of their butts.
by Mark Waid, Dave Gibbons

What is the deadly secret of K-radiation? And, can Green Skull use it to murder Super-Soldier?

Travis Likes: Dave Gibbons’ layouts and arrangements are gorgeous and seemingly flawlessly classic and right. Great fight comic. There’s a cranky but optimistic letter from Otto Sternbyrne.
Travis Dislikes: I know Waid and Gibbons can do better work that this. A lot better.
Travis Don’t Understand: Other than being part of the pastiche, particularly of Stern stories, why does this open with an extended summary for pages and pages?
Unexpected Detail: The flag behind our hero in the final panel is the 48-star flag that would’ve flown when he was young.

Ben Likes: Super-Soldier is one of the more successful blends of the two characters being used. It helps that Steve Rogers and Clark Kent both have no personality. Mark Waid is a favorite, and you can’t question Gibbons' artistic mastery.
Ben Dislikes: Superman.
Ben Don’t Understand: Why a book by Waid and Gibbons bored me so much. Oh wait, Superman is involved.
Best Trade Since Pippen for Olden Polynice: Sharon Carter for Lois Lane
Best Amalgam Character: Captain America combined with Superman, minus the Superman. Captain America needs no extra genetics to be great. Superman ruins everything.

Duy Likes: Mark Waid and Dave Gibbons, Superman and Captain America. Why wouldn't I like this book?
Duy Dislikes: "Washington at 4" means Super Soldier has to go to whatever building the Washington Monument's shadow is pointing to at the time. Come on, that's reaching even for Batman '66 standards. Okay, well, maybe not Batman '66 standards, but close!
Duy Don’t Understand: Why does Super Soldier need a shield?
The Most Annoying Thing: Mark Waid on Super Soldier just reminds me that he never had a chance to write a regular Superman title, and every time he did a Captain America title it was just ruined by a lot of interference. Mark Waid getting a full, uninterrupted run on either or both titles is the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight of comics.

Matt Likes: The combo origin, mysterious rocket and super soldier program, work fairly well. Plus, we get some Superman(ish) Nazi fights.
Matt Dislikes: The body proportions on Super Soldier basically meant I focused on his legs in every frame.
Super Shield: Always check the briefcase, always. It’s also pathetically small.
Soldiering On: I am shocked, shocked, to say that flying with a cape looks so much better than without. It must be the utter lack of real motion in the image.

by Karl Kesel, Mike Wieringo, Gary Martin

Spider-Boy (Spider-Man plus Superboy) splits time between S.T.A.R. Labs and the Daily Bugle, while also battling villains like Bizarnage and King Lizard.

Ben Likes: Mike Wieringo’s art does the best it can despite a pretty awful Spider-Boy design (the character on the last page reveal has a much better look). It’s well-drawn, and he isn’t trying to be ‘90s like some of the other artists were at the time. Spider-Boy’s alternate identity as Pete Ross seemed out of place at first, but when I considered Pete (Peter Parker) and Ross (General “Thunderbolt” Ross, Spider-Boy’s uncle) it turned out to be pretty clever.
Ben Dislikes: Spider-Boy is more Superboy than Spider-Man. They added in the dead uncle, the motto, and a job at the Daily Bugle, but the character and his world seems more comfortable in Superboy territory. I don’t like Superboy. The writing is heavy on the exposition for the first half of the comic, trying to introduce everything it can. (When there are lots of words my mind begins to drift off and I miss important information.)
Ben Don’t Understand: I had to look up online to see who King Lizard was supposed to be. Instead of Curt Connors turned lizard, it’s his severed arm turned lizard, because that’s a twist on the real thing, y’see. Bizarnage is a terrible name. Somebody should be ashamed.
Character Duy is Most Likely to Cosplay as: Spider-Boy

Duy Likes: In general, I like the whole comic. I like Spider-Boy's design, and I love Mike Wieringo's art (And that he probably used this to audition for the Spider-Man job). I like Karl Kesel's humor. I like Spider-Man. I like Superboy. I like Spider-Boy.
Duy Dislikes: That my damn Spider-Boy costume won't fit. And, also, that Jack Ryder is supposed to be Nightcreeper, but this title and JLX (aside from calling him "Jack") will not mention that. Also, if this Hank Pym is the same one in JLX, then that too.
Duy Don't Understand: At what point in company meetings and throwing proposals around does one say the words, "Hey, you know who we should pair up Spider-Man with? Superboy. That makes sense."?
Most Forced Amalgam Name, First Wave: "Bizarnage."

Matt Likes: The Spider-Man/Superman crest is actually well done.
Matt Dislikes: I was dreading this book (I don’t really care for Super Boy and fear the 90s drawing style). Bizzarnage at the start really doesn’t help.
Super Spider Man Boy: There is basically an FF and Horizon Lab’s worth of crazy science going on. So, a bit heavy on the Spider, light on the Boy. I’m cool with that.
Matt Don't Understand: How DNA becomes evil. This must be investigated! More than the horrible storyline in this book.

Travis Likes: “You am going nowhere, Spider-Boy… Except am going to die!” The Challengers of the Fantastic are cool. Naked, wet, newborn Spider-Boy hugging his knees halfway up a wall is cute/sad/engaging. Spider-Boy’s prominent crotch, especially in an era where artists tended to smooth that out more than a Ken doll’s, is up there with big feet as a great Ringo touch.
Travis Dislikes: Rex, Tana, Doc Ock... too many people are just ported over and given slightly different jobs than normal. Bizarnage only works for me if I realize it’s bizarre, in which case, it should be more bizarre. King Lizard (who’s an amalgamated King Shark and the Lizard) being just dumped on another world to be their problem seems… terrible superheroing.
Travis Don’t Understand: Pym and Palmer are just... Pym and Palmer? Their superhero identities were amalgamated with folks, but they weren’t?
Most Unexpected Cameo: MJ Watson, the Insect Queen should’ve been obvious to me, but it wasn’t and its my favorite riff on Mary Jane’s original introduction scene.

by Mark Waid, Gerard Jones, Howard Porter, John Dell

A faction of the Judgment League Avengers, all mutants, have split off and formed the JLX to look for the ancestral undersea home of mutantkind.

Duy Likes: That this was basically an audition for Howard Porter to draw JLA. And also, that Captain Marvel is just an Amalgam of Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell. And that a team exists with Dark Claw, Super Soldier, and Captain Marvel. To recap, that's Wolverine, Batman, Superman, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Captain Mar-Vell coming at you. I also like the Mr.X reveal. And I also like the fact that knowing what will happen to Firebird in between this and JLX Unleashed makes me sad for it, which I guess is a testament to how I feel about the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Duy Dislikes: That this is the best Howard Porter's art ever looked in that five-year span from this to the end of JLA. There's a shot of Firebird in there that looks awesome.
Duy Don't Understand: Everything I said about Jack Ryder and Hank Pym from up in the Spider-Boy recap? Forget it. Apparently Goliath is Ollie Pym (Giant-Man + Green Arrow), and Hawkeye is Clint Archer (Conner Hawke Green Arrow + Clint Barton). So either his name is Hank Oliver Pym, Oliver Hank Pym, or something close, or there are two Pyms in the Amalgam Universe who are all about getting big.
Come On, You Weren't Even Trying: This title tries to tie into Magneto and the Magnetic Men by having Mr. X show up in the other title to tell Magneto what's going on. Except the two titles portray him in completely different ways. Where's the coordination?

Ben Likes: I’ve never been the biggest Howard Porter fan, but at least he doesn’t make my eyes bleed. The amalgamated designs for both teams in the issue are some of the best I’ve seen yet. Much like Bruce Wayne, this issue does a good job of making it seem like it exists as part of an ongoing series.
Ben Dislikes: Unlike Bruce Wayne, this isn’t as entertaining. It does do a good job of simulating a ‘90s X-Men comic, so there’s that. It doesn’t help that the JLA definitely seemed to be the more interesting team, and they disappear after the beginning fight.
Ben Don’t Understand: How Cyclops can remain a dick in every single incarnation.
Character Most Likely to Be Duy’s Background Wallpaper: Captain Marvel

Travis Likes: Howard Porter’s pencils are wonderfully big and crisp and electric. Angel-Hawk’s “Oh no. You broke my back,” before he falls in the ocean. The cold-blooded killing of Jocasta and Will Magnus’ response.
Travis Dislikes: Howard Porter willfully chooses to never show a projectile or energy beam following a logical trajectory.
Travis Don’t Understand: Is it Super-Soldier, Super Soldier, or Supersoldier?
Character I Wish I Liked More: Mercury, the combination of Quicksilver and Impulse, both of whom I usually greatly enjoy.

Matt Likes: Martian Manhunter, with Bishop’s M, is a Skrull. That is the highlight...
Matt Dislikes: The fights are so poorly directed on the page, I have no idea who’s saying/thinking what.
Matt Don't Understand: Apparently mashing up Hawkeye with Green Arrow gives you...Hawkeye. Obviously.
Ah, so this is where the X-Men fit in: Hey, it’s AvX before that was a thing! Kind of!

Go to part 3 and part 4 and part 5!

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