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Saturday, November 14, 2015 

Tribune News Service sugarcoats Marvel reboot

Here's a head-shaking column on Arcamax from Tribune News Service with nothing critical or objective to say about the "rebooted" MCU:
Over the summer, Marvel canceled its entire line after a huge, climactic crossover destroyed its superhero multiverse. Yes, that happened. Marvel then immediately re-launched its characters as inhabitants of "Battleworld," a quilt-like collection of bizarre baronies overseen by Dr. Doom, who had everyone convinced he was a god.

OK, that's just bizarre -- too bizarre to last, and it didn't. After lots of drama, Battleworld is now expanding back into the familiar Marvel Universe (we don't know the hows and whys yet), with a few tweaks here and there. Beginning in October, and stretching over the next few months, the largest comics publisher in North America is re-launching all its titles in context of the new status quo.
I thought we already did know what this was done for: "diversity". But not talented storytelling, that's for sure. Just lethargic, politically correct balderdash.

The article goes on to give briefs about the new title launches, and some of these descriptions of past creations are pretty lazy:
DOCTOR STRANGE #1: I confess to having a soft spot for Marvel's top magician, because -- if for no other reason -- his complete lack of combat skills made my younger self feel like becoming Dr. Strange was a possibility. It was too late to get myself rocketed to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton and gain super-powers; I was too short and thin to ever become Batman;, I never got bitten by a radioactive spider. But the Li'l Capn was a precocious student, so studying a bunch of ancient mystic tomes to become the Master of the Mystic Arts seemed do-able!
No combat skills? Does that mean he wasn't even written knowing how to box? In response to this pretty uninformed comment, I present the following panels from the 10th issue of the 2nd volume of Dr. Strange, originally launched in 1988:
In this issue, he had a scuffle with Morbius, the Living Vampire. It was a case of misunderstanding, but that's not the point here. What is the point is that, as seen here, Stephen was disadvantaged by Morbius' speed, which he used to sabotage Strange's ability to use spells as a weapon. But did Stephen back down? No way. He used martial arts skills taught to him by his butler Wong - who was to Strange what Alfred Pennyworth was to Batman - as his alternative. And this was how he prevailed. When magic fails, physical combat skills may succeed. It may not have been officially established all at once, but it most certain was added incrementally, and should by all means be given mention...which it wasn't in the sugary newspaper nonsense I stumbled upon.
Dr. Strange never sold well enough to headline a title for very long, so in recent years Marvel writers have made upgrading the Sorcerer Supreme something of a project. And it appears to have worked, if for no other reason than "Dr. Strange" the movie, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, will premiere in 2016.
This is even more misleading. The 2 series he had during 1974-87 and 1988-96 were successful enough as far as these things go, even if one only ran bi-monthly.
Also, there's this new comic book, which is very, very good. It's got the same creative team that made the late "Wolverine and the X-Men" book, one of Marvel's best: writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo. Strange, formerly something of a loner, is more integrated into the Marvel Universe, having as his best friends (and drinking buddies) other magical characters like Scarlet Witch (of the Avengers), Dr. Voodoo (formerly Brother Voodoo) and Shaman (of Alpha Flight).

Aaron has wisely addressed two other aspects of Dr. Strange previously ignored, such as his ability to stay alive in a fight and his sex life. His combat skills have been upgraded (he carries around a battle-ax now, which is odd but strangely cool-looking), and he's something of a ladies' man. The latter gets him into all kinds of self-created trouble, as it ought.
What, Aaron, the same writer who was involved in the making of Original Sin, which saw Thor lose access to his hammer after Nick Fury uttered but a whisper in his ear? (Which must've been "you're not worthy!") Forget it, I'm not fooled for years already. And now he carries a battle axe and shield? I'm sorry, but that is just plain laughable. In the older, better stories, he was depicted as a very courageous guy who knew how to fight without even the use of hand-held weapons. And since when wasn't he a ladies' man? He fell in love with an alternate world girl named Clea, and there were a few other chicks he'd been involved with as time went by too. His romantic life, if anything, was addressed in years past, so I don't see what they're getting at here.

They go on to bring up a new title called Howling Commandos of SHIELD:
But this book stars Dum Dum Dugan, familiar from the "Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos" comic book and the Captain America movies. He has recently discovered that the real Dugan has been dead since 1965 and the current version is really just a sophisticated robot called an LMD (Life Model Decoy) that thought he was Dum Dum Dugan. So now this "ghost robot Frankenstein," as he refers to himself, has accepted that he's not technically Dum Dum, but acts and thinks like Dugan -- who is/was a funny and decent guy. So he/it is leading a team for S.H.I.E.L.D. made up of various monsters to make the world a better place -- because that's the kid of thing Dum Dum would do.

"Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D." is really Dum Dum Dugan's book, even though he's dead. Which makes it both poignant and wryly amusing.
So they're still sticking with the premise introduced a year ago, that Dugan is just a robot, and not a guy who could've been kept in cryogenic suspension, which would've made a better premise (but with people like Jason Aaron writing, not well written). It's clear this isn't really a rebooted universe at this point, but a carry over of weak elements from recently.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1: Peter Parker is now a wealthy CEO, but he employs a lot of his old friends and adversaries, so it's sort-of familiar. The best part, though, is the return of Dr. Octopus, as the mind of a killer robot!
And if Mary Jane Watson's not allowed to be his wife any more, that's why the premise of being a rich mogul fails, but not the only reason why. I'm not impressed with the premise of Doc Ock as a robot either. This practically takes all the fun out of robotics.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON #1: The new Captain America, who was the old Falcon, breaks from superhero precedent by announcing his political persuasions. Interesting from a real-world perspective and a lot of trouble for Sam.
Oh, nothing to say about the ultra-politicized direction they've taken? The one-sided approach to conservatives hardly makes it "real-world", and certainly doesn't make it welcoming to new readers. Not even liberals.

In the end, it's clear this wasn't really a reboot per se, but certainly is a meshing of contrived elements that don't come with talented writing.

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With stuff like Squirrel Girl and Spider-Gwen being listed, count me out.

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