Delayed Reaction: Deadpool Classic Volume 1

Earlier this week I picked up the first volume of Deadpool Classic. It collects Deadpool’s first appearance in New Mutants #98, his first two miniseries – The Circle Chase and Sins of the Past – and the first issue of his 1997 ongoing series by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness. The current ongoing series has grown on me (even if the recent story arc with Spider-Man and – ugh – Hit Monkey left me rather cold), so I figured it’d be nice to see where the character came from.

Sadly, there are definitely some serious flaws with this collection, not least of which is the fact that it’s so very, very ’90s. For some, that may not be a problem, but the sketchy, over-muscled, everyone grimaces all the time stuff just doesn’t do a whole lot for me. If it weren’t for the fact that this set includes the first of the Kelly/McGuinness run, I’d probably have just passed on this book.

Let’s start at the beginning. New Mutants #98 is a Rob Liefeld comic. That should really tell you everything you need to know: ridiculous musculature, loads of unnecessary pouches, poorly-drawn feet and hands, etc. We all know the flaws in the man’s art. Deadpool is in the comic for all of maybe three or four pages before he’s subdued by Cable and shipped back to his employer in a box (seriously). The character seems pretty bland here, without any of the zaniness or wacky color commentary the character’s become known for. He shows up, he’s beaten, then end. There’s a little banter, but nothing that really makes the character stand out.

What happens next is my main problem with this collection. Rather than giving us Deadpool’s subsequent appearances in X-Force (where a lot of his backstory was fleshed out and we got some hint of what he does and to whom he has connections), we’re thrown right into his first miniseries, The Circle Chase. It’s written by Deadpool’s co-creator, Fabian Nicieza, and drawn by ’90s superstar (hey, I’d heard of him back then, and I didn’t know squat about comics until just a few years ago) Joe Madureira. We get some so-so characterization and a whole lot more banter, but we’re thrown into a story that has very little context. And it’s a story that doesn’t really seem to achieve much: there are a bunch of people looking for someone’s will, there’s a bunch of folks trying to kill Deadpool for his supposed connection to it, Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy run around and occasionally smash through walls, and the thing comes to an end with Deadpool fighting his (apparent) arch-nemesis, a guy named (I’m not kidding here) Slayback (thank you, 1990s).

Deadpool’s second mini, Sins of the Past, seems to pick up right where The Circle Chase left off. Deadpool teams up with Siryn and her father, Banshee, for this one, there’s a subplot about an Interpol operative who got screwed over by Deadpool several years back, and there’s a doctor trying to fix whatever had happened to Black Tom during The Circle Chase. Again, there’s not much happening here, but Deadpool is slowly evolving into the morally-gray, wise-cracking character he is now. Ian Churchill’s art is sketchy and very much of its time, and Mark Waid’s script is decent if forgettable.

The one redeeming factor of this collection is the first issue of Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness ongoing series from 1997. It’s closer in tone to the current Deadpool series, with fast-paced dialogue, lots of violence and bad decisions on the part of the main character, and some fourth-wall-breaking metahumor thrown in for fun. That particular issue actually makes me want to pick up the next couple of collections, since they feature the Kelly/McGuinness Deadpool series.

All in all, Deadpool Classic Volume 1 is a fairly mediocre affair, though maybe it’s just too much of its time and I don’t have quite the appreciation for ’90s comics that I thought I did.

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Doctor Who, Old and New

Finally sat down earlier this week and watched the first episode of the new Doctor Who. I’m still not quite sure what I think of Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. He’s definitely strange looking, and it’s pretty clear that both the writers and the actor are still trying to find the right voice and characterization for the new Doctor, but it’s got some promise. The wife isn’t quite so convinced, but she was kinda in love with David Tennant, so I think I have to take her opinion with a rather large grain of salt. I do quite like the new Companion. Amy Pond seems like a strong character, one who is in many ways the Doctor’s equal. They seem to have a bit of an adversarial relationship (something I really enjoyed during Donna Noble’s time as Companion), and I think the show is always at its best when the Doctor’s Companion is someone who can go toe to toe with him rather than a simpering whiner.

I also watched an old Tom Baker Doctor Who serial this week, The Ark in Space. It’s striking just how different Baker’s Doctor is from any of the revived series’ Doctors. For one, he’s meaner and talks a whole hell of a lot less. There’s also much less running involved (the revived series seems to be all about running, I’ve noticed). Ark was an interesting story, and it’s interesting to see a time when the Doctor didn’t just use the sonic screwdriver to solve every single problem (I think the tool became a bit of a crutch during the revived series; I mean, it basically does whatever the writers wanted it to, which can lead to lazy writing).

Anyway, I’ll be watching the new Doctor Who with interest. Don’t care for the new opening, though.

The Pull List – April 21st

I actually managed to pick up my comics on Wednesday for once, so let’s get to it…

Joe the Barbarian #4: I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on in this comic, but apparently it’s more than just a kid whose blood sugar has dropped too low hallucinating. Which probably shouldn’t surprise us much, as this is a Grant Morrison comic, so there’s always more going on than you’d think. Sean Murphy’s art continues to look absolutely fantastic, we’ve got the introduction of a new ally to the group, and the bad guys are hot in pursuit. Simply put, this comic rocks.

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #2: This is a much better issue than the first. We’ve got a throwdown between Amadeus Cho and the champion of Apollo, important decisions are made, and there’s some decent jokes. This issue mostly just sets up the comic miniseries Prince of Power, but there’s a nice twist at the end and the comic was pretty fun despite its piece-moving nature. The art still bugs me and doesn’t really do a whole lot for me, but it was serviceable.

Captain America: Who Won’t Wield The Shield? #1 (One-Shot): This one was dropped into my box by my LCS guy, and I decided to go ahead with it just for giggles. It’s an anthology of sorts, I guess, with two short stories and a fun framing story. Matt Fraction and Brendan McCarthy give us a psychedelic take on Captain America called “Doctor America” that features my new favorite word: “Ditkirbanko.” Seriously. Roll that around in your mouth for awhile. Tastes right, doesn’t it? The second story, Golden Age Deadpool, falls a little flatter. While part of it is a pisstake of the over-saturation of Deadpool, it doesn’t really have a whole lot going on and feels too slight. The best part of the book is definitely the framing story, which features Forbush Man getting angry at the writers of Marvel comics (he actually kills Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, and Brian M. Bendis, along with editor Stephen Wacker) and basically having a good laugh at Marvel’s own expense. I’m a fan of metahumor, so this works for me.

For trades, I grabbed the latest volumes of X-Factor and Sandman Mystery Theatre (Matt Wagner does this 1930s noirish stuff so well, I wish he’d just write comics like this forever…granted, at least we’ve got these trades still coming out and his work on Green Hornet: Year One) and Mike Mignola’s Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels. All of which look like they’ll be a lot of fun to read.

The Pull List – April 14th

Comics! Really, that says it all.

Booster Gold #31: I didn’t actually intend to pick this up (I wanted to start getting the series next month, when Giffen and DeMatteis take over with all the “bwahaha” that entails). It’s the last issue written and drawn by Dan Jurgens, and it’s really just a send-off for him. There’s not a whole lot of substance to the story: Booster fights against some nameless mooks, there’s some collateral damage, Booster feels frustrated about it, and then everything ends up getting fixed up nice by the end. It’s a straight-forward end to Jurgens’s run, but it’s a nice end.

Secret Six #20: Catman gets mad and starts tracking the folks who threatened to kill his son. It ain’t pretty, the Six split over what to do about Catman running off, and you generally get the sense that there’s going to be some hell to pay in the issues to come. Another fantastic issue from Simone, though this one does lack a lot of the trademark humor we’ve come to expect from the title.

Green Hornet: Year One #2: A little more back story on the original Green Hornet and his companion, Kato, and a couple steps closer to their inevitable first meet-up. Plus some mobsters get beaten up. Wagner’s script doesn’t do much of anything new (especially if you’ve read any of his Sandman Mystery Theatre), but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. The art’s fantastic and fits perfectly, too.

Atomic Robo: Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #2: Atomic Robo continues to be one of the best reasons to read comics. Great dialogue, giant monsters, a mecha with a rail gun…what’s not to love? I’m not sure how this connects to the first issue in this particular series, but I’m sure all will be made clear by the end.

This week, I also picked up the fourth volume of Fables and the second omnibus of Starman. Both are fantastic, and the Starman collection includes a crossover with Sandman Mystery Theatre (see how I brought it all back around full circle?).

Birthday Stuff!

So my birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but the stuff my wife ordered for me didn’t arrive until today. On the positive side, the stuff she got me is tremendously awesome.

First, there’s season 2 of My Name is Earl, which is a show I’m rather fond of (my youngest brother got me seasons 3 and 4). Even better, she got me the graphic novel of Coraline, the fantastic Neil Gaiman story illustrated by P. Craig Russell, and Mr. Punch, one of Gaiman’s first comic efforts illustrated by the amazing Dave McKean. I’m really looking forward to reading them.

All of which is a nice way of saying my wife is better than yours.

The Pull List – April 7th

It’s a beautiful day out today, but I didn’t let that stop me from sitting down and reading this week’s comics!

That sounded a lot better in my head.

Batman and Robin #11: This comic continues to be awesome. I’ve read a lot of speculation about who Oberon Sexton really is (and there are some out there who are convinced he very well might be Bruce Wayne, despite that being way too easy an answer for a Grant Morrison comic), but one thing’s for certain: this comic kicks ass. Batman runs around in a secret underground railroad, Alfred flies the Batmobile, and Sexton and Robin beat the crap outta some guys from a group called the 99 Fiends. Plus, we get some nice callbacks to Morrison’s original Batman run (with a nice reference to the Domino Killer and that bit at the beginning of the issue with The Penitent). Add to that Andy Clarke’s fantastic and expressive art, and you’ve got a damn good comic here. It’s not doing anything all that different from the previous 10 issues, but why mess with awesome?

Doom Patrol #9: For awhile, I was considering dropping this (especially when I heard they were getting rid of the Metal Men backup), but I’m glad I’ve stuck with it. While the book may’ve had some troubles stumbling out of the gate, it’s finally starting to pick up a bit. There’s some solid character interactions, a new power from the Negative Man, and lots of sarcasm from the robot (and the brick). Giffen keeps throwing weird idea after weird idea at us (Danny the Bungalow?), the dialogue was sharp, and the ending was pretty damn funny. Add to that the new character who’s implied to be joining our merry little band on the last page (surely not, though. Right? I mean, really?), and you’ve got a solid issue here.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1: I’d heard so many good things about this one this past week that I decided to pick it up and give it a shot. The art’s beautiful, the concept is pretty cool, but it feels kind of disjointed to me. The issue didn’t seem to flow too well, but that could just be because it’s a first issue setting up what’s to come. Da Vinci as (essentially) a superhero is a pretty awesome idea, though.

In terms of trades, there was some fun stuff this week. First, there was volume four of Booster Gold, which I find I’m enjoying quite well (enough so that I’m adding the monthly to my pull list when Giffen and DeMatteis take over in May). This particular collection featured the issue written by Giffen from last year, which I actually quite enjoyed (and hey, who doesn’t love a good Happy Day’s reference?) as well as a solid story from series regular writer/artist Dan Jurgens. All in all, enjoyable classic superheroics.

I also picked up the second collection of the Secret Six ongoing, Depths, which happens to include one of my single favorite issues of anything ever (the “Double Date” story from issue 8) and features art by the always-awesome Nikola Scott. Simone’s writing is top-notch as usual, and Ragdoll is possibly one of my favorite characters ever.

Jakob Dylan – Women and Country

I realize that, at this point, there probably aren’t a whole lot of people clamoring for a new Wallflowers or Jakob Dylan album. I am, mind you, but I have a thing for sturdy roots-rock with layers of guitars, organ, and thoughtful singer-songwriter lyrics.

Jakob Dylan’s first solo outing, the sparse and spare Seeing Things, wasn’t a bad record. The sepia-toned music didn’t really aspire to do much, and some of the songs seemed to be more sketches than fully-realized tracks. That said, I still enjoyed it, slight though it may have been.

Dylan’s second solo record, Women and Country, avoids many of the traps and pitfalls of its predecessor. For one, the tracks are more fleshed-out, with a greater diversity of instrumentation (Seeing Things mostly featured Dylan’s voice, acoustic guitar, and the occasional upright bass or sparse percussion), a wider stylistic net, and songs that just feel more complete. Probably the best sonic comparison for this album would be Allison Krauss and Robert Plant’s duet album from a few years back, Raising Sand (an album likewise produced by T-Bone Burnett): there’s lots of pedal steel guitar, reverb-heavy guitars, subtle percussion, and the occasional hint of strings or banjo to add texture.

Dylan throws out a variety of song styles on this record. “Lend a Hand” sounds like it could be a Tom Waits song, while “Standing Eight Count” “and “Truth for a Truth” sound like they could have been Wallflowers tunes. “Smile When You Call Me That” is a straight-up old-school country song the likes of which you’d expect from George Straight or Merle Haggard. “Holy Rollers for Love” is a beautiful song made even better thanks to the fantastic backing vocals from Neko Case and Kelly Hogan.

This is the sort of solo album you like to hear: different enough from the artist’s main gig to be worth the effort to go solo, but with enough familiarity to not alienate. Women and Country is easily my favorite album of the year so far.

Time and Again – Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

There are some things that I just keep coming back to again and again: particular albums, specific books or comics, movies that I’ve seen a dozen times or more. There’s just something about them that keeps drawing me back in, and every few months I find myself cracking open the book/CD case/DVD case and running through it all over again.

Warren Ellis (writer) and Stuart Immonen’s (artist) Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. is one of those things. I feel the overwhelming urge to reread this comic every couple of months, just to remind myself that, yes, something this awesome does in fact exist. It’s probably my favorite Ellis comic, and I’m quite the fan of most anything he writes. It’s probably that he seems like he’s just having so much fun writing the comic. I happen to usually like my comics with a bit of “bwahaha” in them (hence, JLI is a perennial favorite), and there are plenty of those moments here. Ellis throws so many completely random things at the reader (Fin Fang Foom in purple underpants, for instance, or “drop bears,” deadly koala commandos dropped from the aeromarine, which is itself basically four submarines thrown together with great big jet engines strapped onto the back), and it’s the sort of comic that never takes itself too seriously. I like that. I like comics creators that see this as a fun medium (which isn’t to say you can’t have Serious Comics; I also happen to like some of those, but I tend to come back to the fun ones more often) and take advantage of the goofy and downright bizarre nature of the artform to craft engaging, entertaining stories.

Ellis’s writing is, of course, top-notch, wry, and funny as hell, but what really sells this particular book is the art by Stuart Immonen. Immonen’s art for Nextwave is a loose, cartoony style that perfectly captures the crazy, kinetic nature of the action. “Cartoony” doesn’t mean “less detailed” in this case, though; Immonen crams so many details into each page that it’s amazing the book doesn’t just explode awesome all over the place. The series of splash pages in the middle of issue #11 – in which our heroes face increasingly bizarre enemies such as Elvis M.O.D.O.K.s that spew hamburgers, monkeys with Wolverine’s claws, a dinosaur with Cyclops’s eye beam, and crazy ninjas – as they march towards their enemy’s inner sanctum is just brilliant and reason enough to read the book.

Nextwave is a great cheek to the somewhat-stale superhero genre. It’s out-over-the-topping (yeah, I just made that up) the sometimes-extreme nature of superhero comics, with the splash pages and the hyper-violence and the old anti-hero trend (seriously, can we get away from that one now?). While Ellis and Immonen clearly have some affection for the genre they’re so mercilessly lampooning, they don’t pull any punches. Nextwave is easily one of the best comic books that’s been released in the past decade, and the only problem with it is that it doesn’t last longer.

The Search

I’ve been a teacher for five years. I really enjoy the act of teaching; I like imparting information and knowledge to young people, I like watching them learn how to ask questions and think critically (and since I’m a history teacher, critical thinking is basically the gig), and I like getting to do something different every day. I’m not fond of the procedural side of things; I hate paperwork, I hate grading, I’m not fond of writing lesson plans, and I wish I didn’t have to be involved in so many meetings. It’s a tricky balance to strike; while the procedural stuff is necessary and has to happen (especially in special education, where you have to have meetings and documentation of everything), you don’t want it to interfere with your ability to get into the classroom and teach the kids (which should always be the focus). And, of course, there’s the damn standardized tests that have become the bane of every teacher’s existence since No Child Left Behind came into effect (“teaching to the test” is a concern administrators have, but everyone basically teaches the students what they need to pass the standardized tests because that’s just what you have to do). But, despite all that bull, I still like teaching.

I’ve spent my teaching career working with students in special education. For four years, I worked at a school for students with learning disabilities. I loved my time there, enjoyed that student population immensely, and really only left because it wasn’t possible to continue surviving on the pittance the school paid. The sad fact of the matter was, I needed to make more money. I switched this past school year to a different private school, one that works with students who have emotional disabilities. It’s a different environment, one that is more restrictive than what I was used to. That in and of itself wasn’t a problem. Sure, I had more rules I had to know and enforce, but that’s a minor thing. I had to learn how to do restraints (or “therapeutic physical interventions,” as they’re called), and I’m only teaching one history class (which is my area of expertise; I’m not real good at math, yet that’s what I spend most of my day teaching), but I still rather enjoy my time in the classroom (even the math classes). Actually, teaching things outside of my area of specialty has been a benefit; I’ve gotten better at planning and thinking about how I actually teach, which is great.

What I don’t like is the attitude of the administration at my school. There’s a negativity there about the students and about the job we do that wasn’t present at my first school. It drags me down, makes me feel negative myself, and generally casts a pall over my time there.

So I’m looking for a new job. I’m sticking to small private schools, primarily in the special education area because that’s what I’ve got experience with and it’s what I’m comfortable with. I used part of my spring break this week to craft cover letters and send them and my resume off to a few schools, and I’ll send a few more before the week is up, I’ll wager. We’ll just have to wait and see what the effort yields.