Seeking Marvel Redemption Codes (will 'refund')!

Hey CV friends,

I am looking for people who buy any of the following books and are willing to lend me their redemption codes. You send me your code so I can read the book when it comes out, and when I receive my monthly shipment of physical comics I will immediately send you my code back.

These are the books (and issues) for which I am hoping to be lent codes:

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (#2, #3, #4, #5)

Daredevil (#17, #18)

Giant-Size Little Marvel (#3, #4)

Inferno (#3, #4, #5)

Inhumans: Attilan Rising (#4, #5)

Secret Wars (#5, #6, #7, #8)

Uncanny X-Men (#35, #600)

I recognize that not everyone buys print, and that many who do buy print don’t peel off the code sticker because they feel that depreciates the comic as a collector item, but I’m hoping there are at least a few people out there who do redeem these codes and are willing to delay doing so for a few weeks so that someone else doesn’t have to wait a month to read them (while hopelessly trying to avoid spoilers in the interim ^_^). I guess the only other thing holding people back would be trust… best I can say is I’ve been around for a long time and I’d like to say that there are those who would vouch for me here.

If you can help, I appreciate it a lot!


Novelly Graphic (It's Back!)

Hey Comic Vine folks (those of you who are still around and will actually look at this post)!

Here’s a friendly notification that I’m revitalizing my comic blog. You can follow for new posts (and occasional comic-related comments/reblogs) over on tumblr, but I would really appreciate if you followed me over on Wordpress and commented (especially if you’re reading the same things as I am!).

I just posted a three-part prelude series of essays to bridge the gap between my older NG writing and my newer stuff. They are as follows:

Part One: Parasocial. This post discusses a bit of what I’ve learned about why we grow so attached to fictional characters, and why I intend to keep doing so.

Part Two: Humanity. This post recognizes that a major component of my earlier writing was ranting, especially about Avengers Arena, and especially about Dennis Hopeless, and why I don’t intend to be much like that going forward.

Part Three: Taste. This post explains my general vision for Novelly Graphic, especially the absence of scored reviews and my hope for a commenting community and perhaps even guest writers.

If you have a Tumblr or Wordpress, I'd really appreciate it if you give NG a shot, and if you spread the word a bit as well (or reblogged a review or two down the line if you find that you are enjoying what I’m doing). Obviously right now there is no other new content (just the old stuff, which is wildly different), so unless the preludes seem share-worthy there’s not much to see.

Thanks, folks ^_^

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Batman: Arkham Origins (Review)

When I played Batman: Arkham Asylum, I knew nothing of consequence about the Dark Knight. As with most comic franchises, my awareness of the character and mythos was entirely derived from what I had seen in movies. I had enjoyed the first two Christopher Nolan films, and had seen part of at least one of the older ones, and somewhere between Michael Keaton and Adam West I had a vague sense of who Bruce Wayne was and what he did. I'd never been much for superhero stories and I didn't anticipate that that would change. When a friend bought me Asylum, I figured he meant well, but licensed games tended to be mediocre at best (the couple Spider-Man games on the PS1 notwithstanding) and besides, I didn't care much for Batman.

I adored Arkham Asylum. Raved about it, actually. But it didn't get me into comics. Nor did 2011's fantastic Arkham City, which was arguably a superior game in almost every way, except that its story and mood were a little less tightly-controlled and atmospheric. I bought one or two issues of a couple books when I heard about the New 52, but nothing hooked me, and I went back to not thinking about comics until the end of last year, when (as you know) something clicked and comics nearly replaced games as my entertainment medium of choice.

Arkham Origins, then, finds itself in a unique, and possibly unfair situation: it is the first Arkham game I have played since actually reading Gotham-based comics, and it is the third Arkham game I have played after having absolutely loved the first two. And while I can't guess which of those factors was more important in my evaluation of Origins, it stands to reason that both played a part. The result? A competent, enjoyable game that frustrated me almost as much as it pleased me.

It's Christmas Eve, and crime boss Roman "Black Mask" Sionis has apparently gotten tired of this relatively-new vigilante, so he issues a challenge to the best assassins in the world: whoever kills the Bat gets fifty million dollars. Needless to say, some brows are raised. Herein lies the excuse (which was ready-made for the last couple games) for a large rogues gallery to cross paths with Batman in a single night, and the crowd has a decent degree of diversity. Sadly, most of the game revolves around only a few tried-and-true villains (particularly Joker and Bane), and it's possible to miss three of the eight "main" assassins entirely if you're not thorough. This allows for a stronger story than in Arkham City (because your enemies have plots that cover the course of the campaign, rather than merely isolated chapters), but it comes at the cost of the excitement and diversity that the prior titles offered.

Supposing you don't get caught up in side questing (he may not be The Riddler yet, but E. Nigma's got plenty to keep you occupied throughout Gotham), the main story plays out like so many good ideas strung together but neither terribly lengthy nor overly connected. Various boss fights have unique mechanics which allow for a certain degree of freshness, and one sequence in particular which follows Bruce racing to the top of a hotel while facing dynamic new horrors is a standout moment in the franchise. Unfortunately, for every point like that there tends to be a counterpoint. For example, the confrontation with Deathstroke is textbook "good idea, bad execution," taking what should have been a challenging showdown with an arguably vastly more experienced enemy (this is two-year-old Batman, after all) into an exercise in frustration, asking players to repeat the same countering mechanic over and over again for a good ten or fifteen minutes (with only a couple quick time events between) or to die trying.

More frequent than the highlights or lowlights is the pervasive feeling that Warner Bros. Games Montreal (the studio which took over responsibilities after Rocksteady's deft handling of the last two games) was trying very hard to prove that it could make a game like Rocksteady had. This is so much the case that entire portions of the game feel like homage rather than true new creation, a sensation easier felt than articulated. And that goes for some of the voice work as well, particularly Troy Baker's Joker, which many have rightly said sounds more like an imitation of Mark Hamill than a unique take on the Clown Prince. Where I differ from many, however, is that I don't consider any of that familiarity to be detrimental to the experience. While it's unfortunate that Origins did not push Batman or the Arkham franchise into new territories the way its predecessor did, it's still an enjoyable game with a very good story, and plenty to keep you occupied if you share my kleptomaniac impulses.

As alluded to earlier, this game takes place very early in Batman's career, a fact which generates as many problems as it solves. Batman is still an urban legend among the criminal underworld, as evidenced by the fact that your appearance amongst a group of street thugs tends to elicit cries of "he's real!" and the like. This newness also helps justify the police's resilience against you (you're still considered a straight-up outlaw), and the generally higher difficulty of the game in comparison to prior entries to the series. Even playing on Normal, I died very frequently, which comes (mercifully) with little repercussion except the frustration of failure and non-insignificant load times. The difficulty is exacerbated by the introduction of combo-breaking enemy types whose body armor or riot shields inevitably break the swift rhythm and building intensity of fight motion, resulting not only in the loss of combo which must be sustained for your higher-power attacks, but also stopping Batman and often setting him up for some attack he is unprepared to properly counter (especially the knife and shield attacks, which must be dodged). As the game's method of scaling difficulty is merely to toss larger waves of enemies at you (and with more armor and riot shields), what should feel like a progressive empowerment and domination instead feels like you are getting worse as the game moves forward.

If Batman's inexperience provides a helpful in-game write-off for my poor performance, it's nevertheless problematic for other reasons. The very notion of an inexperienced Bruce (who, among proofs of his naivety, manages to get his identity discovered) surviving, let alone besting, the likes of Deathstroke, Bane, and Lady Shiva, nevermind all three within mere hours of one another, is admittedly preposterous. These are world-class enemies against a greenhorn who has spent the rest of his evening being beaten senseless by bank robbers with baseball bats. The narrative credulity is strained at best, and at times my deaths felt like the only realistic part of the story.

The game, to WBGM's credit, does make a point of keeping Bruce's humanity and humility in the spotlight, and that's where the Arkham Origins part comes in. We see the roots of Bruce's neurotic secrecy, contingency plans, and devotion to Gotham, just as we experience the reasons and hear the plans for the resurrection of the Asylum as supplementary to Blackgate. The Batman who makes it to the morning of December 25th is a decidedly different man than the one who woke up on December 24th.

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that this game has a lot of bugs, some of which are more glaring than others. The fast travel system comes to mind as the readiest example of something outright broken, not the system itself so much as the animations which accompany it. Ostensibly, Batman fires his grappling hook in the air, ziplines into the night storm, and then flies to the new area, diving out and into the part of the city you've chosen. But not a single time in all the hours I've sunk into the game did the animation and sound synch up, and the lag between loading and resuming control of Bruce frequently resulted in me being dropped into an unwanted fight with random enemies because I was unable to glide elsewhere while free-falling. Similar lag accompanies transitions between areas, some fights, and any action you take which is likely to earn points and unlock things; one particularly productive series of events caused my game to lag so badly that I lost sound, froze, and ultimately had to restart my PS3.

Meanwhile, some quests or challenges will occasionally bug out. On more than one occasion I needed to interrogate someone whom the game had allowed me to knock out or else would not allow me to interrogate. One late quest asks you to handle a "crime in progress" -- the randomly-generated fights which serve as an opportunity for extra XP and for Batman to beat the GCPD at their own jobs -- in each of the 9 districts, including the bridge between Old and New Gotham. After twenty minutes of fruitless bridge perusal, I looked it up only to discover that many other players have also found themselves incapable of getting a CIP to trigger on the bridge ever, thus rendering the task impossible to complete (along with the achievements/trophies associated with it).

None of the technical issues ultimately ruin the game, but they are numerous and noticeable, and are honestly well below the standard of polish that gamers should expect from any game this late in a console generation, but particularly one building off two well-executed prequels and with the money of WB and DC behind it.

As with previous entries, Arkham Origins boasts a robust Challenge Room mode. It also incorporates an online multiplayer component, complete with factions, levels, gear, and all the bells and whistles one typically expects from multiplayer. I can't really speak to either of these things (the challenge rooms or the multiplayer), because I have not bothered to try them out. They are features I've never had a desire for, and they certainly wouldn't play a role in my recommendation of the game.

And I do indeed recommend it. It's not up to the standards of the past two games, but I didn't expect it to be. WBGM has delivered a solid experience in the vein of its predecessors, and if you like Batman you will definitely like Arkham Origins. Occasionally maddening difficulty and frequent bugginess occasionally detract from, but are ultimately compensated for by, a strong Gotham-centric narrative, a well-cast (voice-wise and character-wise) ensemble, and plenty of collectibles and side quests over a play space twice the size of Arkham City.

If all else fails, this is a game which justifiably features Joker singing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells." If that doesn't make it the perfect Christmas game, I don't know what will.

4/5 [Liked It]

Originally published at Novelly Graphic.


Looking ahead...

It seems the December solicitations are upon us (the chilly thought of which feels great, since I'm sweating right now in this late summer heat). Driven partly by curiosity to see what the latest Tumblr fuss was about and partly by my need to ascertain when the new books I've been looking forward to hit (so I know when I can safely drop some of my less engaging titles to make room for them without accidentally dropping below the ten-book rule at my LCS), I looked over the coming months' solicitations. I noticed a few things (most of which you probably already noticed too):

  • X-23 making out with a dude on the cover of ANXM 20 -- which neither makes sense for Laura as a character nor for Laura as a recently-traumatized person. Covers and solicits lie but it's still a pretty awful way to depict her on the heels of Avengers Arena.
  • Oh yeah, no more Avengers Arena. Hallelujah.
  • The cover for the Inhumanity tie-in with Uncanny X-Men has all the character names next to the characters, but erroneously calls Eva "Tempest" instead of "Tempus" (seriously, this got through editorial?).
  • Speaking of Inhumanity, the number of tie-ins looks horrifying. I am nearly nonplussed at Marvel's insistence on having so many massive crossovers. A few was one thing but this is actually stupid.
  • Not to be outdone, DC is following up their stunt-tastic Villain's Month with a pretty far-reaching Zero Year tie-in (impacting titles well beyond the confines of the Bat Family). This in addition to their ongoing Forever Evil (with its own many tie-ins and miniseries) has quite simply ruined the ongoing stories in a great many of their titles, which are set sometime in November or December to resume and wrap up stories which began in June or July.
  • Readers of Uncanny Avengers probably expect Remender to be vicious, but seeing the solicit for 15, which says "after the numerous deaths last issue..." is par for the course in terms of my numerous prior assertions that Marvel is bloodlusted.
  • Amazing Spider-Man #700.1-5 seem to say that "Peter Parker is back!" Though whether this is truly Marvel letting that cat out of the bag early or whether it's just a miniseries (a la DC's Damian: Son of Batman mini) remains to be seen. Seems legit, however. I won't lie: I was pretty surprised by that. The numbering does suggest ASM resuming, even though SSM is still going on.
  • I may just have to pick up the Lois Lane: A Celebration collection which comes out on November 27th, just as a sign of protest for how awful she (and her relationship with Clark) have been handled in the New 52. Meanwhile I'll continue not buying anything Superman-related whatsoever. What with Superman/Wonder Woman launching soon, I don't imagine that's going to change anytime soon.
  • With Scarlet Spider being cancelled, the grimness of the recent turn of events may actually turn out to be truly grim. Which, knowing me, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I despise and am all to happy to be dropping the book immediately in favor of something else.

Now if you're sitting there wondering what the point of all this was, I guess it was just me having an opportunity/excuse to say hello, and to remind you I'm still lurking (and occasionally tossing an opinion out on the board) in case anyone cares. As ever, my PM box is open should you seek to drop a line.

Within the next couple months, my prospective pull list is as follows:

  1. X-Men
  2. All-New X-Men
  3. Uncanny X-Men
  4. Amazing X-Men?
  5. Morning Glories
  6. Fatale
  7. Velvet
  8. Pretty Deadly
  9. The Wake
  10. Astro City
  11. Dead Boy Detectives?
  12. Coffin Hill?

As well as the handful of extraneous tie-ins to Battle of the Atom, the six-issue miniseries Sandman Overture, the one-shot The Witching Hour, and yeah, I'm trying out the Harley Quinn solo, if just to let DC know that there's an interest in a book about her, even if it ends up (as I suspect is likely) being that the book they release isn't something I want.

Feel free to comment on whatever. Or...don't?



Somebody That I Used to Know

So as many of you know, I'm moving to Columbus, Ohio this weekend, where I'll begin studies which will hopefully culminate in a doctorate in Communication and a focus in video games (which have always been my big thing, in case you're among those who got confused and thought maybe I was kidding about really knowing nothing at all about comics). This move entails packing up everything I've ever owned and moving 600 miles with most of it -- so naturally I've procrastinated as much as possible, and that means I've popped in on CV more in the last couple days than I told myself I would.

I've also been listening to random music, and a song that struck me was the ridiculously popular "Somebody That I Used to Know." In particular, I couldn't quite get past the lines, "so when we found that we could not make sense / well you said that we would still be friends... / but you didn't have to cut me off, make out like it never happened and that we were nothing."

I thought about my break with CV, with my comic blog, and with many folks on Tumblr with whom I was one day talking frequently and the next had unfollowed and/or completely stopped interacting with. Some of them didn't even realize I'd cut them off. The ones who did, or will, may get upset. In fact I imagine they would relate quite a bit to the lyrics of that song; a vitriolic "well screw you, man. Not cool." And I'd have earned it, I think. Because none of this has been "nothing" for me, but the seeming ease with which I walked away and went dark communication-wise might alienate people in a way which would suggest otherwise.

And that's why I'm writing this. It's not a recant, per se. It's just me making sure folks know that I still really like a lot of you and that I hope I can get to a point (or that mainstream comics can get to a point) where I can freely follow comic news and talk shop with people without worrying about having an earthshattering message or scan pass in front of me that shows a character I deeply care about dismembered. It may well be that it's just Avengers Arena -- that when that book ends, or when the threat of death has passed from it, I'll feel comfortable "coming back." The industry has done a lot to put me off, but I'm not sure if anything affects me the way that series does, so maybe without that to worry about I can get over the rest, because I do miss the chatting. I joined CV because I wanted to feel connected to others. That's still an existing desire -- just one I've cautiously decided to forego for the most part.

Money of course was the catalyst and it remains a major point of contention. I'll be exploring part-time job opportunities in Columbus supposing I can balance work with my research and classes, and if I can pull that off I fully intend to buy comics even if I continue to abstain from regular participation in the community. I find that I thrive off individual conversations anyway, and in the interim since I posted s.u.s.p.e.n.s.i.o.n. I have talked about some comics that I actually AM reading with some people, and will keep doing so. I am willing to talk with more people in PM, if that's something that you'd like to do.

So as a heads up, I am still reading Morning Glories and Fatale. If I can afford to I plan to stick with X-Men, UXM, and ANXM. Mara's ending but The Wake is just getting started, and each issue of Astro City I've read has made me smile. For money purposes (and as a digital reader), if I read anything from DC in the foreseeable future it will be a month later when prices drop, so if you were hoping to talk that (for example, Trinity War, which I *was* trying to keep up with) just know I won't be current.

There are a lot of awesome things in the comic industry which I just can't afford to be a part of and the more connected I am, the more likely those things will be spoiled for me before I do have the money and time to engage them (for example, I couldn't very well hope to read Trinity War a month behind if I were regularly reading CV, could I?).

I guess the point is that since I made my decision, I have felt less stressed. I have felt genuinely happy and am looking forward to reading the few comics I *do* get not because I feel obligated to hurry up and read them so I can discuss them or review them or not have them spoiled, but because they are a luxury and I have (for now) the chance to indulge therein. Folks told me all along that comics reading should be fun, and I was missing out on that because of such a sense of urgency. I'm happier with comics on my own schedule, no doubt. I just wish it didn't seem at odds with my desire to also keep in touch with the people I've gotten to know over the past half a year.

So this is me saying hey to anyone who felt like my departure was cold and sudden: I'd like to keep being Adam, and not just "somebody that you used to know." We had something here that I valued, that I still value, and that I hope one day to be able to bring back as strong as it used to be, but without the baggage that has made me abandon it as of late. I'll let you know when I think that's doable; meanwhile, the offer to engage in private discussion is there.

Just, you know...don't say anything to me about Avengers Arena ^_^


Novelly Graphic, or why I've been quieter as of late.

Hey friends and random people who clicked this thread.

I'm attaching this blog to the forums, despite the fact that it's likely only interesting to people who have endeavored to follow me on CV, because, well, that's pretty much the only way to get anything seen anymore.

Ever since the redesign, the social aspects of Comic Vine have been irrevocably destroyed impeded and despite many folks' asking, it doesn't seem like bringing those beloved features back is anywhere near the top of the site managers' list of priorities. You can't see who's online. You don't see most activity. There's no list of recent blogs from your friends. User reviews are stupidly buried. Whenever I search for something or someone, the results I get are often months old despite having used verbatim search terms. All told, it's become quite difficult to keep tabs on people unless you go out of your way to individually stalk their profiles.

And that means that when I update my lists (which I do somewhat frequently) or post a new blog but don't attach it to forums or write a review of a back-issue, it's incredibly likely that no one at all will notice, even those weird folks who actually would have wanted to.

So I gave up on trying to use CV for that sort of thing, and created my own blog, for the purposes of reviews and random thoughts, and that's pretty much where I've been posting for the last few weeks. And it occurred to me, hey, I guess I'll post about it. Just in case someone cares. So here it is: Novelly Graphic. I don't have anything in the form of "regular features" aside from each week making a point of giving a general overview of all the new issues I've picked up. I also have a "currently reading" pull list which I will try to make sure matches the list on CV (but with far more detail on the site). Otherwise I have a stack of new trades and hundreds of older issues recently inherited from a friend so what does or does not show up on there is anyone's guess.

If I do end up getting the sense that there are a reasonable number of Viners checking my site out to warrant it, I may start doing something like Bat Watch or some of the other accounts that post their articles on CV in their own threads as well as on their site, but I don't anticipate it being worth the time? *shrug*

Anyway, that exists. Now you know. Carry on ^_^


So, uh... Thanks.

I just wanted to say, after almost five months of ranting about Avengers Arena: Thank You.

While there have been plenty of people who have expressed an appreciation for the book and its quality, and some people who have just told me to shut up or stop making a big deal about it, there has been precious little sadism from my fellow Viners, and that stands out as exceptional.

As many of you know, my ethical problems with the book have kept me from actually buying it (and my ethical problems with piracy have kept me from reading it directly at all). Which means all of my knowledge has come from other avenues: previews, reviews, tweets, tumblogs, blogs, and message boards all over the Internet. Suffice to say I've seen a variety of communities grapple with this book, I've seen a lot of opinions expressed and a lot of words spilled over this title.

And you are, really, the nicest of the bunch. There are some trolls, for sure (heck, I run the risk of enticing them just by posting this), but by and large no one has truly been cruel here, and I just wanted to say I appreciate that. Because when I read people gleefully praising Hopeless for "finally offing so-and-so" and sharpening their proverbial knives and drooling at the prospect of which other kids I and so many others deeply care about will meet a horrific end, it saddens and sickens me. When I hear people not just say "that was impressive" or "that was well written" but "whenever I'm upset, I just remember that ____ got his neck snapped, and I get happy again," it infuriates me beyond a point I ever really have seen myself go.

I get that elsewhere. I haven't gotten it here. And I'm sure if I had gotten it here, there would have been people who joined me in telling those people to go screw themselves. That kind of solidarity is neat, and it's something I never expected to find when I joined CV back in January.

So, yeah… I know we don't all see eye-to-eye on this series, and some of you do enjoy the book more than I'll ever understand, but thanks for being civil about it. It's pretty awesome.


[Game On.]

Note: I've written several things since it, but consider this blog a direct follow-up to Game Over.


I hate hypocrisy. I suppose that's nothing original to me, but it bears mentioning, because it's one of the most consistent and important parts of my life. And since what I'm about to say may be construed by some as hypocritical, I've taken a lot of time to figure out how to say it, and while I might not have nailed it, hopefully I'll have done at least my best to convey why I don't see myself as a hypocrite -- that the possibility of me being called one weighed into my decision to say it anyway.

If I ever pursue a course of action which is inconsistent with something I've said (particularly something I've published), I strive to make sure that it's a matter of progress rather than regress, that where I'm going is a step forward from where I've been rather than a setback to a prior position.

Over the last few days I have had some very choice words to say about Marvel. Actually, I've had such words for them for a long time, but those words in particular were a bit more concrete. Their implications, resounding. And they weren't, as I recently pointed out, the first of even their kind; I'd approached swearing off Marvel before on abuse terms and then promptly regretted it.

This time, I'd like to say the difference was my fervor, but it wasn't. No, the real difference was audience, and in particular solidarity: my post accomplished more than establishing my ire with the company; it established the commonality of the brutal Marvel experience. In the mouth of a guy who has barely been reading comics for four months, folks who've spent their whole lives reading comics found their own feelings put into words.

I suppose one might argue that in a way, me choosing to read Marvel comics after all -- and especially any time soon -- would undermine all that. But I think the opposite may be true. I think by uncovering how widespread this issue is, and getting so many people to say "good point, you're right," I discovered something which legitimately needs to be addressed and resolved, something which could only ever be changed from within, with a strong voice that is informed enough to know what it's talking about, with firsthand knowledge to lend specificity to its claims.

What I realized, in a roundabout way, is that Marvel fans needed a voice like mine speaking out on their behalf more than they need me to boycott the books -- books which, ironically, many who agreed with and supported my own declaration still plan to buy and read themselves. If they can agree with what I said and still justify buying Marvel comics, why can't I?

I knew going back to Marvel was a possibility for me. And that is why I left a very clear backdoor within the words of my declaration: the countdown/continue analogy was more than mere metaphor; it was the acknowledgement that I hadn't committed permanently to the end of this "game."

Who among us has not said, in various ways, "I hate this game," "screw this, I'm done," "this game sucks," when confronting a difficult or unfair opponent, only to a moment later overcome the challenge after trying again in spite of ourselves, and perhaps even recommend the game to a friend? It happens in games. It happens throughout life. As one commenter noted, doing things which piss us off is hardly unique to the process of selecting comics. Why should coping with that be okay everywhere else, but not here?

I have allowed myself to be an emotional victim in my relationship with Marvel pretty much since the beginning. And the thing I finally realized is, if I'm going to be miserable pining after the books I'm not reading, then my boycott hasn't changed anything for me, because Marvel still has the power to make me feel unhappy, even when I'm ostensibly asserting myself. And that is just stupid.

So today, I'm putting in my final two quarters. I've read the strategy guides, and I have a better idea of the trials and tricks this particular game involves. I think I may be able to beat this game, but as with anything in comics, that's a long-haul proposition, because it's going to take a lot of time, and it's going to take a lot of support. But I think if there really are people out there who are tired of being abused by Marvel, and still love Marvel characters, they can be rallied together. Their voice can be heard. They can make companies like this (I haven't forgotten my DC friends) listen, but it won't happen through individual boycotts or laughably-unsupported petitions.

I'm not saying I'm a leader. I'm still quite wet behind the ears. But clearly I'm onto something which people can get behind. And none of us want Marvel to die. We just want Marvel to be better, to lead better. They depend on their fans for survival. I say it's about time those fans began discussing a way to exploit that and make something happen. And I want to be part of that. Which means I want to be able to be, and stay, a fan, throwing full weight behind the good Marvel does and turning my rants up to eleven when discussing the bad Marvel does.

So many people claim to have been inspired by comics, to be better people because of them and their community. If today's comics are failing to provide that kind of inspiration or hope, we shouldn't quietly cancel our pull lists or curse about it to ourselves on message boards and irrelevant blogs. We should find more effective channels to amplify our opinions and DEMAND something better.

As Dan Slott, the man who continues to find new ways to kill Peter Parker, boldly declares all over his social media, "haters gonna hate." If that's all we can do -- be predictably angry, but little else -- then maybe his smugness is justified. But even if a guy like Dennis Hopeless mocks it, we do have power. Fan outrage DID get Gail Simone her job back. But only because that outrage gained traction, and made itself indisputably known.

I'll be honest. I don't know what sort of channels I expect to find, or how much support I can actually rally. I don't know if I can convince people to drop books they might enjoy for a greater good -- though that hasn't stopped me from trying before. I don't know what "winning" looks like because, like I said, I'm new to this -- but the fact that I'm new and said something right away and had old-timers respond "finally, someone gets this" suggests that my newness isn't going to preclude doing something useful.

If nothing else, I have never felt so strongly about something and then just let it go away. I will find a way to win this "game" if such a way exists. And if one doesn't, and I find myself beaten back down to the Game Over screen?

Well, like I said, I'm using my last quarters. There's no back door this time.

Thanks to everyone who has responded to me in the last week, regardless of what side of the aisle you were on. I hope those who supported me are able to still do so; if not, I understand. Meantime?

Game on.


Marvel NO: Redux...Two?

(I posted this a few hours ago on my personal blog...seemed like the sort of thing I should post here as well, especially considering the conversation I've been in with folks -- both publicly in comments and privately in PM's -- who might not otherwise see it)

I have to admit, I've been extremely encouraged over the last couple weeks by the responses I've received from people on a variety of the things I've written. I never really know for sure where the line between "sobering observation" and "eye-rolling emo pity party" is, and I know I've danced on and over it before. So whenever I post something negative, and receive feedback from people which says, in effect "thank you for putting into words the things I've been feeling for a while," it serves as a sort of justification that I'm not just moping for the sake of it in my own subjectively awful haze. Sometimes things actually do suck, and sometimes I identify them accurately. That's pretty nifty.

On the other hand, it does make attempting a change of heart or finding a middle ground rather difficult, because people who stand by you and cheer you on for taking a difficult stance may feel betrayed if you ever take a less extreme stance down the road. Words like backpedaling and compromise become loaded with a stigma, which is unfortunate because it should be praiseworthy for a person to admit they went a little too far. The alternative is being goaded into a corner and making indefensible statements that you don't even personally believe in, maybe never did.

I wrote "Uncanny Marvel NO." in a fit of passion, incensed at the notion that...well, I think it's fairly blatant what had angered me to anyone who read it. It served a purpose. It spoke my mind and it said a lot of things I consider very true. And because it was a response to someone else, it was timely, and I can't know for sure what waiting a few days would have done to my clarity or my arguments.

Still, I do wish I'd gone back and read the previous "Marvel No" entry first.

Because I would have discovered a shocking parallel between the events that led to yesterday's blog and the events that led to the Redux one. In both I noted the cyclical, abusive nature of my relationship with Marvel. But whereas Uncanny Marvel NO encapsulated my resolve not to let myself remain a victim no matter how much I want to keep reading Marvel books, Marvel NO: Redux encapsulated the weakness that follows the declaration, and the very crawling back I called inevitable in Uncanny. It encapsulates precisely how I feel today, seeing people talk about how fantastic today's new issue of All-New X-Men is, being reminded that that awesome all-female X-Men book comes out in a few weeks, and wanting almost desperately to just say "screw it" and go ahead and end my little "boycott" before I've even begun.

I'm actually a bit terrified at my own self-awareness. I wrote this the first week of January, but I may as well have written it this morning:

Here I am, having teetered on the edge of actual — that is, clinical (and I know the signs, because I’ve been there before) — depression because of what Marvel is doing. I’ve had, comparatively, the highest-profile split I could have. And yet rather than saying “good riddance” and moving along, I find myself actually wishing I’d said nothing, glancing through the proverbial store window at the latest Spider-Man or Deadpool stories, and knowing deep down that I’ve already given up. Everything I said last week was true, and that’s not enough to keep me caring.

So what, right? This is no great moral victory or loss. I think we can all roll our eyes a bit and say, “well, that just happened,” and then a month from now I’ll be talking about this great thing Chris Yost is doing in Scarlet Spider, and none of us will think twice about it.

Yes. This is precisely how I feel. "Everything I said...was true, and that's not enough to keep me caring."

No one was watching when I wrote those words in January. A lot more people were watching yesterday. Many of them voiced their support and solidarity.

And as I sat there today, wanting to renege, I started to ask myself some questions. "No great moral victory or loss," I said in January. As I mull it over, I ask myself: so if, after all this ranting and discussion, I were to just give up right now and continue reading Marvel comics as if nothing had happened, what exactly would that mean? Would it make me a hypocrite? Or is there a line between hypocrisy and a changed mind? Or has my mind not changed at all, just my resolve -- and if that's the case, is weakness the same as hypocrisy if it entails not being able to follow through with what you planned to?

Furthermore, whom would I be letting down? Myself? The people who stood up for me and agreed with me? Both? Neither? And if I'm hurting myself, why is it that I don't care nearly as much about that as I do about looking like a liar? If people supported me because they wanted to see me do what made me happy, then wouldn't they support me regardless of my decision? Or was my abuse parallel so shockingly accurate that I only think reneging will make me happy, but in fact I really am setting myself up to be abused for years to come?

This seems so ridiculously unimportant because it is, at the end of the day, a matter of whether some random guy living in a suburb decides to buy a couple comic books or not. This isn't the same as domestic abuse. But from a psychological perspective I can't help but wonder how different it actually is. Confronted with the reality of my situation and the duplicity of my desires, it's still taken everything in me today not to give in. I've even spent some time trying to reinforce my decision by making it clear in various contexts that Marvel is no longer in the picture for me. But tonight, sitting here, I wonder if that was all just a hideous case of denial, and before I knew it I was looking through Facebook pictures of my ex through rose-tinted glasses. Maybe it's because of that tint that I can't see the bruises that are still on my arms from yesterday's fight.

I'm at the point where I legitimately don't know if I want resolve to go through with my boycott or an okay to surrender and run backwards on my own word. The only thing scarier than that reality is the fact that my acute awareness of it doesn't make it any less of a reality. And suddenly I realize that an abuse victim isn't a victim because they don't know they're being abused, but because they don't have the strength to get out of the situation. Recognizing that kind of weakness is hard, and it's a vulnerability -- particularly because it involves the tractability of my word -- which is honestly very difficult to own up to.

The excuses I made for myself a few months ago still sound incredibly attractive, maybe even flat-out true. Acknowledging the ultimate futility of one person boycotting a company as large as Marvel, I suggested pursuing creators whom I respected regardless of the books they were writing or the companies they were working for. One easily produces a ridiculous hypothetical situation for making that sound easy: if my best friend were to start writing X-Men, would I really refuse to read it because it was a Marvel property?

That's not going to happen, but the principle remains intact: supporting the person who's producing the work and trying to remain blind to the entity which ultimately has the power to make them stop or change what they're working on with impunity.

So I return to the spirit of the protest. With Arena it was to try to pressure Marvel into changing its course. But this is more like an addict trying to wean himself off of a life-controlling substance. The thing itself may not be innately harmful, but overexposure or dependence definitely is. So if my boycott isn't a moral one so much as an endeavor to protect myself from harm I could have avoided by not growing too attached, then it would not be unreasonable to permit myself "safe" stories -- contained arcs, for example, or maybe even stories with characters who are already dead and thus I don't have to worry about them being ruined just after I've come to love them.

Or if I could simply cauterize my emotional connection a bit -- get myself to the point where I, like the many who have either ridiculed or simply been disappointed by me, could appreciate a story without caring so much when things went badly. In the abusive relationship analogy, it's a matter of either walking out, or (if I am capable) refusing to let myself be a victim -- asserting myself, becoming stronger, and not letting Marvel have all the power over how I feel at any given time. If I can stay happy in spite of the bad, or stay angry (when it's useful) in spite of the good, then a life-long cold turkey diet is hardly necessary. I don't know. I really don't.

I know most people don't care but out in deference to those who did speak up on my behalf I feel compelled to let people in on my (long-winded and scattered) thought processes and at least acknowledge that I feel more conflicted about it than my original words might have let on. And I guess to some extent it's also a cry for help, a petition for advice. I have no way of knowing just how much stock anyone out there put in what I said. Maybe no one really cares. But I'd hate to look like a turncoat to someone who just got really excited to finally have someone fighting on their side. And I'd hate to make a decision which ultimately allows me to get more hurt down the road, and look back, and know that I could have prevented it.

I said yesterday that this was probably my last chance, and that if I got over it "Marvel would own me for life." So I guess the question is, was I right? Is it possible for me to assert myself here and maintain some form of relationship? Or will I doom myself to submission by lessening the hardline nature of my originally-proposed stance?

I'm serious. I honestly do not know.


Uncanny Marvel NO.

I originally posted this on my personal site a few days ago. I hadn't intended to post it here because the discussion over my previous blog was still on-going and I'd even gone so far as to say that I was finished blogging about Avengers Arena, and while this blog isn't actually about Arena, it does have a lot to do with it, so it seemed silly to post this right after saying "no more Arena posts." That said, I feel so strongly about what I wrote, and I've been linking people over anyway, so I decided it was best to just post it here, too. Maybe get some eyes on it that wouldn't see it otherwise. Today's little Superior Spider-Man explosion may be seen as the catalyst for that decision.


The House of Ideas is overflowing, not with creativity, but with blood.

That's the image I had in my mind as I stepped timorously through its doors four months ago, and the image I haven't been able to shake during my visit. It's an outsider's view, the sort that frankly I think is hard to convey to anyone who has spent too long living inside that house. Some will argue that inexperience precludes passing judgment. I'd argue ingrained bias precludes rejecting the judgment I pass. Put simply, I had nothing to lose coming into this, and I've still managed to lose it.

I continue to meditate on the concept of superheroes. On justice. On hope. On the great responsibility that people who have great power are supposed to exercise.

That was the advice I was given through Peter Parker's eyes.

But Peter Parker is dead. And Axel Alonso's looking a lot more like the Kingpin than Uncle Ben.

A well-meaning friend heard about my decision to, for all intents and purposes, sever all ties with Marvel comics, and wrote this blog in an attempt to counter my position. It is the proverbial "don't let a few bad eggs ruin Easter" argument combined with the notion that the company must offer something worth sticking around for, or they wouldn't be the top dog after all these years.

I'm going to begin by addressing Avengers Arena directly, more specifically my friend's comments, because I don't think he properly understands the extent and the reasoning behind my vitriol. His language makes light of the situation, including Arena as one of several "titles that quite a few fans don't favor or approve of." Later, he points out an impending death and notes "I can see why this would make some fans angry" before likening that death of my favorite character to a major change made to one of his favorite characters.

I've pointed out a great many unlikable things about Avengers Arena but the one which has infuriated me like no other, and the one which nullifies every pacifying remark anyone has ever attempted to sling at me, is the solicit for the book within the pages of Avengers #1, which explicitly pitched the book to people who believed Marvel had too many teen characters and who hated characters like the Runaways and the Academy kids. This solicit promised that group -- of people who do not want to see those kids around -- that they would be pleased by Arena.

This is not, my friend, merely a matter of me being annoyed by the book. It is not a matter of my approval or favor. It is not even a matter of fearing for this character or that's well-being.

It is about a company which, right in front of me and my proverbial "I love X-23" t-shirt and collection of Runaways books, says to the guy who hates my guts "pst, wait'll you get a load of this." It is a company which actively promoted its book to non-fans in such a way as to implicitly (but no less clearly) state "if you have invested time, money, and emotion into these characters, you're about to be really upset."

It is about a company which has no respect for its readers or their dedication, telling me that they would rather take the favorite characters of a guy who has spent literally hundreds of dollars across many years and many series investing in them and feature them in a slaughterhouse designed to royally piss me off on the off-chance that there are enough haters or ambivalent casual readers to sell a single ongoing title.

This isn't just a book where Marvel said "well, some of the fans may not like the direction we take this, but it's interesting and for the best." This is a book where Marvel said "screw the fans, those characters are disposable." And I'm sorry, but I don't actually think anyone else really has a fair comparison. An unpopular narrative decision with your favorite character's motivations hardly compares to this. At least he was still alive. At least his change had a chance to be redeemed. But what redemption is there for death?

The longevity of comic fan commitment is, if I'm honest, only as intimidating as it is baffling. For in the face of my worries that characters I love would die, the resounding response I got (beyond "who cares") was "don't worry, they won't stay dead forever. Give it five, ten years, and they'll be back."

Never before have I encountered such nonchalance towards waiting for a decade or two for something to happen. And yet there it is. Five years ago I was a freshman in college. Five years before that and I was still on the bottom of the high school food chain. A tremendous amount of life happens in five years. It's a long freaking time. And perhaps if you've spent your entire life being indoctrinated into the cult of comic groupthink, then that's a reasonable period of time to wait to see if the things you loathed are retconned or redeemed.

But I'm an outsider. I'm trying to find excuses to stay in an industry I didn't grow up in -- to decide if this is something I want to make a permanent fixture in my life. And if waiting five or ten years is what it takes for Marvel to finally apologize for something that really hurts me today, then that's about five or ten years too long. And when I see that something like "One More Day," perhaps the most mind-numbingly awful event in comic history of which I've yet been made aware, which outright ruined decades of character development for one of the most iconic couples in American comic history, has gone six years without being retconned, what hope do I have that the deaths of a few obscure teenagers are going to get the makeover treatment any sooner?

And you see, that's the irony of it all. In trying to tell me "this isn't so bad," what my friend actually said was "heck, we've all had our favorite characters butchered and destroyed; everyone who invests time and money and emotion into Marvel ends up getting screwed over and angry."

To quote my friend, "But did they survive? Yes."

Sadomasochism, it seems, is an acquired taste. Despite the inevitability of suffering, people choose to persevere.

And so to the numbers game. My friend points out that 31,000 people are enjoying Avengers Arena.

I'd point out that at its last issue, 22,000 people were enjoying Avengers Academy, the book which directly preceded Arena, and had one of the main characters of that book quite literally blown to shreds in the very first issue of the book he had been used to promote to them. I'd also point out that in less than four months, Arena has lost over 50% of its readership, so a lot less people are enjoying it than thought they would…and I imagine most of those Academy readers -- you know, people who bought the book because it had characters they knew and liked in it --are part of the 33,000 people who have stopped reading it.

So yes, people are enjoying it. But more people have decided they don't enjoy it than have decided they do.

I accuse Marvel of being a bloodbath. Let's look at some of the other books which are enjoying success right now (as my friend pointed out).

Age of Ultron -- a series in which everything is terrible, a lot of people are dead, and all signs point to at least some significant deaths being permanent (or at least "wait five or ten years" permanent).

Superior Spider-Man -- a series whose whole premise depends on the headline-grabbing death of Peter Parker, and whose readership largely agrees that its chief purposes are to make life hard for the inevitable return of Parker and to once more make sure that he never gets back together with the woman who was -- six years ago -- his wife.

Wolverine's first issue -- as with many first issues -- sold well, but released to mediocre reviews. Not that it matters, because plans have already been revealed from Marvel that next year they are killing Wolverine.

Guardians of the Galaxy has sold well but has infuriated almost all pre-existing fans of the series and the cosmic universe in general; even the most accepting among them are having difficulty truly embracing the book. So here again is a series that Marvel banked on attracting new fans with even if it meant completely disregarding all the ones they already had. Besides, there's a movie coming out soon, and that's clearly all that actually matters.

And what's on the horizon, aside from the "shocking" conclusion of Age of Ultron, the death of Wolverine, the continuation of Avengers Arena (along with Hopeless', as of today, promise that most kids will be dead by the end of the arc)? Thumbing through the solicits, one finds Thanos Rising, "the book so blood-soaked you'll be glad it's a mini-series." No, really.

Marvel NOW is new, and as a new thing it is going to have inflated sales. Just ask the people at DC, who have already had to cancel a variety of underperforming New 52 books and who don't seem to even be agreed on whether or not they're actually making substantially more money than before (nevermind the fans who are livid over how many of their favorite characters were either retconned out of existence or distorted so terribly as to defy recognition).

There's no reason to believe that this moment of prosperity is anything beyond artificial; Marvel knew how to make a lot of money right now, but when the dust settles and all the new fans with no established devotion to the company peter off in pursuit of something new, will Marvel have been wise to have alienated hundreds of thousands of fans across the various corners of its readership? I sincerely doubt it.

This isn't a matter of whether Marvel has talented people working for them. It's not a matter of whether they have a rich history filled with incredible, lovable characters. X-23 is still my favorite, even if I refuse to buy the book she's in.

This is a matter of a toxic, abusive relationship.

Yes, my friend. Marvel's a talented guy. He makes you feel good. He buys great gifts. He knows how to cheer you up. You're right, friend, he does "know how to make you smile."

But he also knows how to beat the crap out of you because it fits his mood. He knows how to take you for granted and ignore you for months or years at a time.

He knows how to never actually apologize, because he knows that you'll come crawling back to him no matter how badly he treats you. He promises to do better, that it won't be like the other times.

But of course it will, and you both know it. You both know that it's impossible to be a fan of Marvel without having your heart ripped out and dribbled up and down the proverbial court like a useless piece of rubber rather than your real emotional core. Yes, you're right, there are books that I can read right now and love, and that will put a smile on my face.

But you know what? I bought every issue of The Runaways because that book put a smile on my face and made me happy. I loved that series and those characters. And do you know what some of my favorite characters, whose adventures made me happy, are up to right now? Fighting for their lives in a death arena because someone thought that'd be neat.

You know what else put a smile on my face and came from Marvel? Seeing Laura Kinney, the girl who never had a life of her own and was always being used by other people for their violent ends, finally getting to explore her humanity, to make friends, to pursue romance, to stop being a cold killing machine and start having real heart. And do you know where she is now? Fighting for her life in a death arena where someone is trying to use her to kill her friends and has a chemical which can make her do that… because someone thought that'd be neat.

So here's the lesson I've learned: every time I invest myself into getting to know a character or group of characters because they make me happy, I run the extremely real risk that Marvel will kill them off, forget about them, or ruin their character so badly that the name is the only thing that character still has in common with what I had enjoyed.

I get why people need to defend their cognitive dissonance, to delude themselves into avoiding the reality of the situation. But I'm new to the game, and I haven't put on the blinders yet. My decision here is probably the last chance I'll have -- because if I can get through this series this early into my relationship with Marvel, then they'll own me for life. I won't be able to say "no" because I'll look back and I'll say "hey, it sucks, but it's not as bad as the time they took my favorite character and a whole bunch of other kids I really loved and murdered them because The Hunger Games was doing well at the time," and no matter who dies or what terrible excuse there is for superheroes to fight each other instead of fighting evil, injustice, and (eyes up front, class) greed, I'll just say "I want more."

So I'm sorry, my friend, but this isn't "just one silly book."

This is Peter Parker being dead, and those with power being completely irresponsible.

This is the House of Ideas, overflowing.

And whether you see it or not, it is overflowing with blood.

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