Friday, June 11, 2010

A Cosmic Marvel Reading Guide

Recently on Marvel Noise, my friends Steve, Rick, and Tom did a two-part deep dive into things that serves as a great Cosmic Marvel history lesson. The second installment in episode 118 focuses on the events of Annihilation through the current state of things. (When listening to this episode the kiddo was completely enthralled with what Steve, Rick, and Tom were talking about. When I told him I had all the books we were hearing about, he immediately asked if he could read them! And another Marvel Cosmic fan is born.)

I have been really enjoying the space-based Marvel renaissance over the last few years. Written in 2008, I had this to say about Cosmic Marvel in the “Bound for Greatness” chapter of Deus ex Comica:
Beyond Star Wars, I’ve never been a huge sci-fi fan. (And my friend John would probably argue that Star Wars is more space opera than sci-fi in the purest sense.) No Roddenberry. No Bradbury. I was always more into Fleming and Spielberg, and that translated to my comic book reading tastes as well. The Original Collection has a few Novas and Quasars, and the first issue of the Bill Mantlo/Mike Mignola Rocket Raccoon limited series from ’85. But by and large I stuck with pure super hero adventures: Avengers, Alpha Flight, Defenders, X-Men. These were the comics I loved.

Even though Cosmic Marvel was never my thing, that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to give it a go, and Marvel’s 2006 Annihilation event came highly recommended... The initial story is collected in three books compiling nearly 30 issues of Cosmic Marvel goodness! This is followed by the Annihilation: Conquest event spanning 2007 and 2008, and the Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series.

Beginning with Annihilation
, Book One, the story immediately sucked me in. I love the way Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest are laid out. The collections are organized in a way that provides a coherent storyline woven throughout the books. They start with the prologues and tie-in miniseries, then go into the main sagas. The Cosmic Marvel Universe is a bit of a different animal than the Earth-based Marvel Universe. Tent poles like Civil War and Secret Invasion are all about trying to be huge in scope and having a breadth that influences even the far corners of the Marvel Universe. But I wish Marvel would: a) cut down on the number of tie-ins for those tent pole events, instead scaling them down to Annihilation-size, and b) package all their event collections similar to Annihilation. It’s really a model of restraint which, ironically, results in maximum impact.
While I was at Summit City Comic Con last month, I was chatting with my buddy Mike, telling him that I’d just finished up Nova, volumes 3 and 4, and Guardians of the Galaxy, volume 1. He said he has wanted to dig into the revived cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe, but has been unsure of where to begin and what order to go through them. As a fellow stickler for continuity and reading chronology, I totally empathized and decided to share my take on things.

I’m reading it all exclusively in collected editions, and I’m pretty confident the reading arrangement I have cobbled together is correct. All books I reference here are the trade paperback editions, with the exception of War of Kings, which I couldn’t resist in that beautiful hardcover. (And, yes, I do sorta wish I’d picked up the Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest books in that oversized format as well.)

What Keith Griffen began with Annihilation has only been improved upon by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Far-reaching a
nd epic in scope, these are tales that stretch the imagination and mine the rich history of Marvel Cosmic adventures. So, to the best of my knowledge, for your reference...

Annihilation Classic
Bug (1997) #1
Tales to Astonish (1959) #13

Nova (1976) #1

Quasar (
1989) #1
Raccoon (1985) #1
Raccoon (1985) #2
Rocket Racc
oon (1985) #3
Rocket Raccoon (1985) #4

Marvel Spotlight (1979) #6

Logan's Run (1977) #6

Marvel Premiere (1972) #1

Annihilation, Book One

Drax the De
stroyer (2005) #1
Drax the
Destroyer (2005) #2
Drax the Destroyer (2005) #3

Drax the
Destroyer (2005) #4
ihilation Prologue (2006) #1
Nova (2006) #1
Annihilation: No
va (2006) #2
Nova (2006) #3
Annihilation: Nova (2006) #4

Annihilation, Book Two
nnihilation: Silver Surfer (2006) #1
Annihilation: Silver Surfer (20
06) #2
nnihilation: Silver Surfer (2006) #3
Annihilation: Silver Surfer (2006) #4

Annihilation: Super-Skrull (2006) #1

Annihilation: Super-Skrull (2006) #2

on: Super-Skrull (2006) #3
ion: Super-Skrull (2006) #4
hilation: Ronan (2006) #1
Annihilation: Ronan (2006) #2

Annihilation: Ronan (2006) #3

Annihilation: Ronan (2006) #

Annihilation, Book Three
on (2006) #1
Annihilation (2006
) #2
(2006) #3
Annihilation (2006) #4
Annihilation (2
006) #5
Annihilation (2006) #6

Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus (2
007) #1
Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus (2007) #2

The Nova Corps Files (2006) One-Shot

Annihilation Conquest, Book One

Annihilation: Conquest - Prologue (20
07) #1
Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord (
2007) #1
Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord (2007) #2

n: Conquest - Starlord (2007) #3
Annihilation: C
onquest - Starlord (2007) #4
Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar (2007) #1

Annihilation: Conq
uest - Quasar (2007) #2
Annihilation: Conquest
- Quasar (2007) #3
Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar (2007) #4

Annihilation: Saga (2007) One

Nova, Volume 1: Annihilation Conquest
Nova (2007) #1

Nova (2007) #2

Nova (2007) #3
Nova (2007) #4

Nova (200
7) #5
Nova (2
007) #6
Nova (2007) #7

Annihilation Conquest, Book Two
Nova (2007) #4

Nova (2007) #5
(2007) #6
Nova (2007) #7

Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith (2007) #1
Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith (2007) #2

Annihilation: Conquest - W
raith (2007) #3
Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith (2007) #4

Annihilation: Conquest (2008) #1
Annihilation: Conque
st (2008) #2
Annihilation: Conquest (2008) #3
Annihilation: Conquest (2008) #4

Annihilation: Conquest (2008) #5

Annihilation: Conquest (2008) #6

Nova, Volume 2: Knowhere
Nova (2007) #8

Nova (2007) #9

Nova (2007) #10

Nova (2007) Annual 01

Nova (2007) #11

Nova (2007) #12

Marvel Cosmic
Nova, Volume 3: Secret Invasion
Nova (200
7) #13
Nova (2007) #14

Nova (2007) #15
Nova (2007) #16

Nova (2007) #17

Nova (200
7) #18

Nova, Volume 4: Nova Corps
Nova (2007) #19

Nova (2007) #20

(2007) #21
Nova (2007) #22

Nova: The Origin of Richard Rider (2009)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1: Legacy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #1
Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #2

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #3
Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #4

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #5

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #6

War of Kings
Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2: War of Kings, Book 1
Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #7

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #8

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #9

of the Galaxy (2008) #10
Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #11

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #12

War of Kings (Hardcover)
Secret Invasion: War of Kings (2009) #1

War of Kings (2009) #1

War of Kings (2009) #2

War of Kings (2009) #3

War of Ki
ngs (2009) #4
War of Kings
(2009) #5
War of Kings (2009) #6

War of Kings: Darkhawk (2009) #1

War of Kings: Darkhawk (2009) #2

War of Kings: Ascension (2009) #1

War of Kings: Ascension (2009) #2

War of Kings: Ascension (2009) #3

War of Kings: Ascension (2009) #4

War of Kings: Savage World of Skaar (2009) #1

War of Kings: Warriors (2009) #1

War of Kings: Warriors (2009) #2

Marvel Spotlight: War of Kings (2009) #1

Nova, Volume 5: War of Kings

Nova (2007) #23

Nova (2007) #24

Nova (2007) #25

Nova (2007) #26

Nova (2007) #27
Nova (2007) #28

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3: War of Kings, Book 2

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #14
Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #15

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #16

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #17

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #18

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) #19

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So This Is What It Looks Like

I grew up in Ohio. And although I spent a quarter of my life living out of state, I have somehow remained a Cleveland sports fan. Because of this, I have never experienced a championship first hand. The closest thing I can claim is the 2002 Ohio State National Championship (and that does count, and it was glorious). But, on a professional level, “my” team has never won it all, rarely even sniffing the opportunity. So it was a very cool and completely foreign experience to be in a bar in Chicago with my local friends and packed to the seams with a rollicking bunch of hockey fans to watch the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in Game 6 overtime.

And walking out onto North Avenue in Wicker Park after the game was over and Lord Stanley’s Cup had been presented was like stepping onto another planet. A barrage of car horns honking, drunk and sober fans alike sharing high fives, every restaurant and bar overflowing with patrons out into the street. I'm not even a big hockey fan, but enjoyed every moment of the evening, soaking it all in. The celebration was unlike anything I’ve seen before, but something I hope I experience again… but in celebration of a Cleveland team.

The View from the Blue Line platform at Damen

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Zen and Art of Lawn Mower Maintenance

My parents bought me a gas-powered leaf blower back when we lived in the house on Merriman and had mature trees and autumn leaves to deal with. To this day, I can never get it to start consistently or run well, to the point where I simply refuse to take it out any more. But I’m nearly certain it’s more because I’m an idiot than because of any sort of mechanical problems. Along these same lines, when we moved to our current house in 2006, I purposely bought an electric snow thrower which I have had no issues with and works great with virtually no maintenance.

When we moved to the Merriman house in 2000, it was our first foray into homeownership and lawn maintenance, and my dad gave me his old push mower. He doesn’t remember how long he had the mower before then, but it served him well and got the job done for me at both our old house and our new one, up until last summer.

As evidenced with the leaf blower, I’m horrible when it comes to understanding and maintaining outdoor/lawn appliances. Outside of gassing it up regularly, I pretty much ignored that mower. I never changed the oil. Never changed or even sharpened the blade. Seriously. I’m terrible with this stuff!

In the fall of 2008, the mower started acting a little buggy, nothing major, but just enough that I noticed, so I took it to a local shop for a complete tune-up, oil change, the works. While it was in the shop, I borrowed my neighbor’s self-propelled mower and was amazed at how easy the mowing was on our side hill when I didn’t have to do all the work myself. My eye started to wander while my mower was being tended to. Suddenly I was seriously considering buying a new one. I began researching brands and features, even narrowing it down to a couple of specific models I liked… then never pulled the trigger. I figured I didn’t need to spend the money when I had a perfectly good one and mowing is a good work out (at least, that's what I told myself).

As contrition for my roving eye, I bought and installed a new blade for the old mower at the beginning of last summer. And then last fall the universe meted out its justice, lawn care style, for flirting with infidelity by killing my mower.

The poor thing started spewing nasty, thick gray-black smoke and emitting a rattling death knell of protest whenever pressed into service. It would seem that my old mower had found its own delicate life-balance, learning to survive – even thrive! – in my neglect. I can only assume that my too little, too late attempt at taking care of it threw off its equilibrium. Like giving a starving man a fancy meal, the fresh oil and new filter and all was just too much of a shock to its system.

So I now have a new mower. It’s pretty fancy, what with its “Guaranteed to Start” system and “Personal Pace” self-propulsion and mulch/side-discharge/bagging options and all. I took it out and used it for the first time this week (after a month of borrowing my neighbor’s mower again), and it was all pretty slick. But it was with a certain sadness that the old girl went to the curb, leaving in its place not just the burden of lawn care maintenance, but also that of maintenance on the tools used in lawn care maintenance.

The dam is broke. I may need to have my dad over to teach me how to properly use the leaf blower now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bullitt Time

Tracy and I watched Bullitt for the first time this past weekend. This is one of those situations where I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before. I loved most everything about it…
The Location. As much as I love the feel of ’70s era New York City, I almost equally love ’60s era San Francisco.
The Cast. Steve McQueen. Jacqueline Bisset. Robert Vaughan. Norman Fell (Three’s Company’s Mr. Roper!), Robert Duvall, Vic Tayback. And uncredited bit parts by Walter Matthau, Barbara Bosson, Joanna Cassidy, and Suzanne Somers (Three’s Company, again!).
The Cop. From Dirty Harry to Die Hard, McQueen’s Frank Bullitt (rumored to be based on Zodiac killer homicide investigator David Toschi) is the blueprint for every young, hip, near-insubordinate cop who plays by his own rules.
The Chase. A brilliant, nearly 10 minute long car chase elegantly unfolds around the movie’s mid-point. Completely devoid of dialog and filled with driver point of view shots, it’s a standard-bearer for how to effectively present an action sequence.
The Dialog. Conversations are quiet and economical in their portrayal, and sometimes take place out of the camera’s/viewer’s earshot.
The Mood. Director Peter Yates (surprisingly also responsible for 1976’s Bill Cosby/Raquel Welch/Harvey Keitel vehicle Mother, Jugs & Speed, and the woeful 1983 sci-fi dud Krull) sets up small, character-defining scenes that add depth, like Bullitt getting some food at the hospital, or his time in bed with his girlfriend. And the shot composition is well thought out and full of impact.
The Score. Rarely used, it didn’t hit you over the head, allowing the story to dictate emotion.

Certainly a movie of its era, Bullitt is the kind of film that doesn’t spoon feed every last detail to the viewer. It requires you to actively participate in the experience, pay attention to what’s going on, invest in the characters, and enjoy the ride!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Fuzzy Blue Elf

Since the kiddo couldn’t make it to Summit City Comic Con with me, I made sure to pick him up a few things. Top of the stack were these two great sketches of the Nightcrawler!

The first is a sketch card by my friend Andy Jewett. The kiddo was so pleased with it he had to email Andy to thank him for it.

And you can almost smell the faint scent of brimstone looking at the second sketch by Art Baltazar.