Jan 7, 2015

The Amalgam Retrospective: Day 3

Day 3

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 are part 1 and part 2. Otherwise, read on!
by John Byrne, Terry Austin

Ororo Munroe is the weather-wielding mutant Wonder Woman, and she must battle her past and her present in the form of the Greek God Poseidon.

Ben Likes: The letters page for imaginary back issues of the Wonder Woman series was clever and fun. The blend of Storm and Wonder Woman’s costumes is one of the few that doesn’t look patently ridiculous.
Ben Dislikes: As much as I’m a Byrne disciple for life, the man uses way too many words considering he’s primarily an artist. Enough with the misshapen panels already too, it’s distracting.
Ben Don’t Understand: With an artist I love and characters I don’t hate, why I was so bored.
Suggested Soundtrack for Amazon: White Noise for Babies

Duy Likes: John Byrne drew it.
Duy Dislikes: John Byrne wrote it.
Duy Don't Understand: How I can love artist Byrne and dislike writer Byrne so much.
Most Fanboy Nitpicky If I Had To Nitpick Moment: Someone needs to no-prize how Diana is in this title looking for Ororo's help and in her own title with Trevor Castle at the same time.

Travis Likes: Patricia Mulvihill has some wonderful color choices. John Byrne draws brilliant angry tweens. Capsized ship on fire!
Travis Dislikes: I just don’t care. Angelica is too caricatured in the face, and she dresses ugly. “You’re a black orphan, so we picked a random word from a language from a giant continent with lots of black people!”
Travis Don’t Understand: “Is this how a god behaves?” Amazon asks a god. Well, gee, not-Storm, he is a god. So, yeah. Let’s not “true Scotsman” this. And he’s right there in front of you while some other culture’s Christian god is not right in front of you, so, why come at him with “you got supplanted?” Supplanted from what? Your people worship him and he’s right there in front of you in charge of oceans and blowing up boats.
Most Unbelievable Bit: The fake letter that claims the writer is happy that their favorite long-term title is being canceled to launch two new series, breaking the cast in half.

Matt Likes: Storm being raised as an Amazon actually is not that far-fetched. We’re grading on a scale here, people.
Matt Dislikes: The costume, the Storm cape with basic Wonder Woman armor just doesn’t work aesthetically.
Matt Don’t Understand: Poseidon is petty, I get that, so much exposition to sell me on something you’ve already sold twice. Poseidon is also incredibly dumb.
Unbelievable! John Byrne agreed to this?!
Bullets and Bracelets
by John Ostrander, Gary Frank, Cam Smith

Diana Prince and Trevor Castle, the Punisher, go to Apokolips and face Thanoseid to find their missing baby.

Duy Likes: A whole lot, actually. I like Gary Frank's art. I like that Diana's bracelets are from Wakanda, and are made of adamantium. I like that Jim Rhodes, Monarch, is implied to have had a romantic history with Diana, just because it's so random.
Duy Dislikes: That Diana Prince isn't Amalgamated with anyone. That's just her costume in the mid-90s, prior to this whole event.
Duy Don't Understand: Who thought that whole time loop thing, complete with Kanto finding his mom attractive, was a good idea?
Most Forced Moment in an Amalgam: Trevor Castle coming in on Orion's astroharness (and thus causing more contradictions once Thorion shows up later on in the next wave), is supposed to look badass, but he looks like he's riding a trolley in a Walmart.

Ben Likes: Gary Frank’s art. This was a very pretty book, and I apparently really like early Gary Frank. His art here is not as chipmunk teeth’d as it will eventually become.
Ben Dislikes: The boring story to pretty art ratio isn’t as drastic as Amazon, but its close. It’s strange that the two Wonder Woman related books had really strong art, but subpar stories. I don’t approve of Darkseid being the prominent character in the Thanoseid design. I don’t approve!
Ben Don’t Understand: Why some people like math.
Network Most Likely to Use Bullets and Bracelets as the Title of a New Show: CBS

Matt Likes: Use of the word ‘mooks’ by page 2
Matt Dislikes: Unnecessary descriptions. I don’t care that it’s a collapsable recursive (also, incorrect word, unless it repeats itself) bow, it’s not necessary for the story and really, you covered it with the art.
Matt Don’t Understand: What Diana is wearing, seriously, what the hell is she wearing?
Bullet or Bracelet? Bracelet, the words and art are just better with Diana (not a high compliment), even if she is wearing an insane outfit and Trevor needs a good throttling. I stopped reading after page 7. It was enough, no more torture.

Travis Likes: Trevor Castle dressing up as Thanoseid’s dead son, complete with flying sled apparatus. The origin of Kanto.
Travis Dislikes: There’s just not enough of a story here, or clear characterization.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why are only two thirds of the characters here amalgamated and one third just regular DC or Marvel characters?
Thing It Inadvertently Reminds Me Of: The Legend of Zelda cartoon and “Well, excuuuuse me, Princess.”
All Access
by Ron Marz, Jackson Guice, Josef Rubinstein

Can Access adjust to being the guardian and living gateway to two massive superhero universes? Can he do so without stepping out on his girlfriend? How cool is Superman vs Venom? Robin and Jubilee are in love! The crossovers are way more fun than Access.

Travis Likes: Jubilee/Robin is the cutest thing. Jackson Guice draws on hell of a Daredevil. The melodrama is openly melodramatic, with lighting strikes heroically highlighting someone’s realization, and plenty of classic hero shots.
Travis Dislikes: Too much weakening of one character to let another keep up, especially when Spider-Man’s as fast as Superman and Venom can stand toe to toe with him, too. Batman takes out Scorpion with two blows. Access is a jerk and a sap, but the story doesn’t seem to acknowledge the levels he’s a jerk and a sap; somehow it’s the world to blame. Dr. Strange is a yelly, ignorant, reactionary throwing energy bolts around?
Travis Don’t Understand: This seems like a very polished comic, but simultaneously, no causality seems to make sense, from simple direct actions like Cyclops’ eyebeams burning Batman’s costume to no one thinking and responding in a remotely sensible (even in-character sensible) fashion. They’re all over. Aquaman and Iceman merge and the amalgam has a yellow beard and flowing hair despite him being made of ice?
Character Travis is Most Annoyed At Being Mischaracterized: Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange is a spiritual, learned man with an enormous duty and he spends all four issues yelling, raging, and being pugnacious.

Ben Likes: Venom beating the hell out of Superman.
Ben Dislikes: Anything and everything to do with Access. The creators of this character should be ashamed. The parents of the creators should be ashamed.
Ben Don't Understand: Why people like Superman.
Worst Possible Team Ever: Access, Superman, Speed Demon, Cable, and Gangbuster.

Duy Likes: I guess the art is good, but seriously, I think I like this mini even less than DC vs. Marvel.
Duy Dislikes: Just about everything in the series. Venom slaps around Superman. Jubilee and Robin have never been favorites. Access is a jackass — he's not just unlikable, he's plain hateable.
Duy Don't Understand: The cover to the first issue of this series has Batman leading the pack for the DC heroes, and his counterpart is Daredevil. Not only does Daredevil show up for all of one panel in the series, but how come DC is dictating who goes front and center? The first issue of DC vs. Marvel had Superman and the Hulk up top as well.
Surest Signs DC Is/Was Top-Heavy: DC's representative in the first issue is Superman. In the third issue, it's Batman. In the fourth issue, it's the Justice League, with Superman and Batman. The second issue has Robin.

Matt Likes: The awkward moment when Spidey calls Supes a quack. Bat’s entrance to the Sanctum Sanctorum is kind of badass, I will give him that.
Matt Dislikes: Apparently walking is hard to draw? I didn’t know that.
Matt Don't Understand: Why is Venom the first one who sees a woman and says she looks like an intelligent professional? How is Venom the most modern being in both universes? Well, except for all the kidnapping and calling her sweetie.
Sheer Annoyance: “I want to go back to DC-verse to say ‘bye to Robin”?! Why? There is no conflict. You could’ve brought a note, Access, and saved me some trouble and a distaste for seeing JLA vs. X-Men.
The eXciting X-Patrol
by Barbara Kesel, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary

In the first from the second wave we're looking at, the X-Patrol has to save their leader, Niles Cable, from Brother Brood.

Travis Likes: The amalgamations are hilarious, insane, and beautiful. The story and its pacing are pastiche, but loving and energetic pastiche. Bryan Hitch’s panel arrangements are very George Perez, in the best way.
Travis Dislikes: This is it? Just one issue?
Travis Don’t Understand: Does Terra-X make Terra and Terrax cool now?
This Issue Should Have Spawned: A thousand spin-offs. Or, maybe six or seven. Jan should have a solo! Amanda Deathbird! Prez: Master of Kung Fu miniseries! The Sea Devil Dinosaurs! Deaddevil: The Man Without Life forever!

Matt Likes: The giant X tower as their base of operations
Matt Dislikes: The Shatterstarfire poses just show nothing really changes. The rest was just bad and not fun bad.
How this might make sense: Beastling actually makes a lot of sense, like actual sense. Don’t trust the rock monster!
Why teens make terrible heroes: Some of these are just nonsense combinations. Janet is supposed to be elastic and look like Domino? Ferro-Man is weak sauce too.

Ben Likes: You can see glimpses of the Hitch to come in the artwork, still pretty decent for the time period. (Discussing ‘90s comic art is like including ‘50s NBA basketball players in all-time rankings. Sure they were great for their time, but they still dribbled with their heads down, couldn’t dunk, and shot 32%, which was the style at the time. Onion belt! What was I saying, oh yeah, Ultimates didn’t age well.)
Ben Dislikes: Everything. I wish I could adopt a child and raise it just to…
Ben Don't Understand: Why Janet Van Dyne is involved.
Character Most Likely to Have Excelled in 1950’s NBA: I would say Beastling, but he’d most likely be lynched for not being white. Matter of fact, all of them would be. See, the metaphor works.

Duy Likes: Bryan Hitch's art here resembles Alan Davis enough for me, and doesn't quite look like his work on the Ultimates a few years later, which would eventually drive me out of reading comics for a while.
Duy Dislikes: That I generally found this whole thing boring.
Duy Don't Understand: If you're going to merge Terrax with Terra, at least put more effort into making her Terra than making her a girl Terrax with Terra's necklace.
Duy Would Rather Read: Just about anything they placed in this image.

Dark Claw Adventures
by Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett

In the Amalgam Animated Universe, which exists separately from the Amalgam Universe the same way the DC Animated Universe exists separately from the DC Universe, Lady Talia tries to get revenge on Dark Claw for the death of her father, Ra's Apocalypse.

Matt Likes: The Bruce Timm style, cyber ninja assassins, Ra’s a-Pocalypse, Canadian nickel
Matt Dislikes: The Lady Deathstrike/Talia mashup is so poorly done, even I noticed it. The horrible Dark Claw costume too
Matt Don't Understand: Why isn’t Patch Malone, Patches Malone. Serious missed opportunity there.
How Dark Is the Claw, How Sad Are the Adventures: It’s not Sparrow, its Julbilobin! Robi-lee?

Duy Likes: As I said during the first wave, Dark Claw is my favorite Amalgam, for whatever reason. I love this one, and it's nice that Dan Slott helped Ty Templeton out, especially because they've become one of my favorite teams since.
Duy Dislikes: Ra's Apocalypse. RA'S APOCALYPSE.
Duy Don't Understand: Harvey Osborn, the Two-Faced Goblin, is in Dark Claw's rogues gallery, but Harvey Osborn, the Green Goblin, is a Speed Demon villain. I like to think of it as one of those things where the animated series made some adjustments.
Most Clever Amalgam: "Patch Malone," an Amalgam of Logan's and Batman's best aliases.

Travis Likes: The red and gray wash that happened when Dark Claw cuts loose. The yellow and orange tints for flashbacks. Lady Talia is as sexy and emotive as her father is silly with his big R belt buckle and awesome shoulder pads.
Travis Dislikes: Sparrow should untie herself, even if it’s funny that she’s been forgotten.
Travis Don’t Understand: Was R’as A’Pocalypse really the best idea?
Travis Is Most Surprised: There was still good mileage in this mashup past the first comic.

Super-Soldier, Man of War
by Mark Waid, Dave Gibbons, Jimmy Palmiotti

In the Golden Age of Amalgam, Super-Soldier, with a little help from Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, are up against the menace of Major Zemo and his War Wheel.

Ben Likes: Peggy Carter.
Ben Dislikes: This does a good job of simulating a modern comic’s simulation of a Golden Age story (we’ll call that a Roy Thomas), which ultimately means it bored me. I generally can’t stand reading dialogue written with an “accent” (we’ll call that a Claremont) but Peggy’s “ze’s” are on the less annoying end of the scale.
Ben Don’t Understand: How many Luthor analogues are running around in the Amalgam universe?
Creator Most Likely Offended by This Comic: John Byrne. (Note: this answer works for any comic ever.)

Duy Likes: The All-Star Winners Squadron! American Belle! Whiz! Brooklyn Barnes! The Human Lantern! The Aquamariner!
Duy Dislikes: That Lois is married to Luthor in this reality. Why is the Luthor/Lois pairing so prominent in alternate realities?
Duy Don't Understand: Who in the world are Zemo and Peggy merged with?
Most Telling Sign That Duy Was a Weird Fan of Comics in the 90s: I have no idea who most of the cowboys in Generation Hex were merged with from the X-world, but I can tell you all the mergings of the All-Star Winners Squadron.

Matt Likes: Human Lantern did make me laugh, just the name, followed by the image. I can’t stop.
Matt Dislikes: Failure to co-opt looking up in the sky. Is it a shell? A bomber? No, well, yes, it’s actually a bit of a bomb.
War not Love: We do need more artists on the frontline. Was that ever a thing? Seriously, no idea.
You know it’s the 40’s when...: A woman’s role is to worry and chastise scamps. Though, oddly not to bake a cake.

Travis Likes: There are some beautiful individual panels, absolutely classic looking. The letters page has some great mashup names, like Miller Infantino and Harvey Eisner.
Travis Dislikes: The comic never comes together for me, never gets me invested past single panels.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why I don’t like this more, considering the talent.
Most Embarrassing Thing to Die From in WW2: Baron Zemo's War Wheel.

Go to part 4 and part 5!

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