World Comic Book Review

A Deep Six’d Publication

20th January 2022

Squadron Supreme #1

“Squadron Supreme #1”
Marvel Comics, December 2015
Writer: James Robinson
Review by Neil Raymundo, 28 December 2015

It is safe to assume that US publisher Marvel Comics, flush with cash as a consequence of its purchase by entertainment giant Disney and buoyed by the success of the motion pictures based upon its characters, has the strategic goal, with the sheer number of title relaunches, reboots, and new series debuts in 2015, of attracting a new generation of fans.

Convoluted comic book continuity is a barrier to new readers. Targeting those who are not burdened by decades of comic book continuity and familiarity is a particularly good thing in the case of Squadron Supreme #1. (An indicia that Marvel Comics has placed some faith in this title is the painted cover by Alex Ross, a popular artist who is not afraid to ask for substantial sums for cover art.)

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“Thor 1”
Marvel Comics, December 2015
Writer: Jason Aaron
(Review by DG Stewart, 22 December 2015)

In this democratic age we covet privilege but we do not necessarily respect it. Marvel Comics’ character Thor is a prince, born into power and glory, his inheritance granting him title “God of Thunder” and everything that goes with that.

One of the very few treatments of the god Thor by rival publisher DC Comics was in 1991, in the pages of the epic comic Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. Mr Gaiman paints Thor as an over-sexed buffoon, effortlessly manipulated by his trickster brother Loki. Thor is ill-mannered and at one point utterly drunk. Thor’s hammer is more than merely a phallic symbol in this story: it is not just figuratively a hammerhead penis, sometimes big and sometimes small. To underscore the point Thor’s wife Sif is described as having a birthmark in the shape of an anvil on the inside of her thigh.

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The Ectopathologist

Doctor Strange #1 [review]
(Marvel Comics, December 2015)
Writer: Jason Aaron
(Review by DG Stewart, 10 December 2015)

Many years ago, The Comics Journal published a critique of Marv Wolfman’s work on Adventures of Superman. The critique noted that Wolfman’s characterisation of Superman was off-kilter: Superman was prone to bursts of anger and was an easily manipulated pawn of the evil Vandal Savage. It would be as odd, noted the reviewer, as Doctor Strange being portrayed as street-wise and jive-talking.

In this iteration of the title, Doctor Strange still has his original 1950s moustache but otherwise has been “transmogrified” (Doctor Strange’s term) from a stodgy, slightly inaccessible character into the vehicle for a fun read. One night argue that this character transition has been happening for some time (notably as a foil to Deadpool’s zaniness), but this version has gone beyond “droll” to “quirky”. The initial battle with the “monastic tribe of ultra-dimensional soul-eaters” leads to the title character:

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Karkak #1 (review) – “Break a leg”

Karnak #1
Marvel Comics, December 2015
Writer: Warren Ellis

Review by DG Stewart, 3 December 2015

Acclaimed British comic book writer (and occasional novelist) Warren Ellis has a knack for writing droll curmudgeons. These characters are usually male (but not always), socially ill-adjusted, confrontational to the point of being violent, and clever. When Mr Ellis writes comic books featuring teams of characters, often multiple members of the cast exhibit these traits.

Mr Ellis is most commercially successful when he writes superhero comics. There is some irony to this as Mr Ellis has for many, many years expressed his dislike of the genre. A contemporary of Mr Ellis, comics writer Grant Morrison, has lamented the distaste Mr Ellis exhibits for the subject matter with the annotation that Mr Ellis is the paramount writer in that field. That is high praise from Mr Morrison, who is no slouch when it comes to raw creativity. But perhaps it is more accurate to say that Mr Ellis simply has a winning formula.

Mr Ellis is presently writing a new series called “Karnak” for Marvel Comics. This is an obscure character from a super-powered group called The Inhumans. This package of characters was created in 1965, and is slated to appear in a film in 2019. Marvel Comics have publicly stated that Mr Ellis was engaged to write the series given his track record in revitalising other Marvel Comics assets. It is a natural assumption that the work Mr Ellis does here is likely to shape the character in preparation for the motion picture. In that regard, Mr Ellis does two jobs: write the comic, and engage in pre-production character treatment specifically relating to the motion picture.

Mr Ellis has turned to his usual bag of tricks. First, he has removed the costume from the character (a good thing: the costume would not have been misplaced on a Seaworld-themed striptease performer). Mr Ellis has rarely called upon the archetypical costume conventions of the superhero genre: capes and masks are reserved for his parodies only.

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