Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly Marvel Comics Review – Part Two

Eternals Annual 1

by Fred van Lente and Pascal Alixe

I have not been following the “reboot” of the Eternals very closely, but I have managed to pick up the gist of things. Thankfully, van Lente has not forgotten about the Young Gods, twelve superhumans essentially created by the Celestials and taken with them. These characters have been left in limbo for a long time, so it is nice to see them back in action and given some attention. So little has been done with them, in fact, than even continuity-obsessed fanboys will have a hard time getting mad at any deviations from past portrayals of these characters.

The fight sequences are pleasant enough, and Varua’s tale of what the Young Gods did while trying to decipher the purpose of the Celestials is amusing. Their ultimate motive is to make all humans enter into a Uni-mind and become sheltered in the housing of a Celestial they are constructing.

Varua’s tale concerns what to do with the vast powers these people were granted. If you were suddenly given power beyond your dreams, what would you choose to do with it? These guys try everything, except for striking out on their own. After all the years of fighting (and doing the opposite of fighting, according to the steamy depiction in one part of the story) just to get the attention of the Celestials and buy a vowel, their conclusion was to lead the rest of humanity. Druig brings Varua up short with the idea that maybe they were supposed to do nothing. Amazing how people can spend so much time asking the same question, but be struck by someone new coming along and offering an idea you hadn’t thought of yourself. It’s a fairly good story overall.

The annual includes some old fact pages describing the Young Gods, and a reprint of Eternals #7 from the original series, which helps to convey a sense of how cosmic and powerful the Celestials truly are. The only problem is that Jack Kirby’s artwork from 30 years ago is better than Alixe’s art in this annual. Not that Alixe’s art is poor, it’s passable, and arguably good, at least in some places. It still drives home the fact that modern comic artists need to be studying their craft harder, especially if they’re going to insist we pay four bucks for the annual and a reprint. Why don’t I find the original issues of the Eternals for a buck or two apiece and enjoy those? Actually, from what I have seen of the current direction of the Eternals, that’s a great recommendation! Go do that!

Civil War: House of M 3

by Christos N. Gage and Andrea DiVito

Magneto takes over Genosha! There is a great speech that is worthy of a conqueror, and a diplomatic journey that takes us to the Inhumans, Atlantis and Wakanda. This is a great example of how to show a lot in a few pages, which is the exact opposite of the Wolverine series right now, where they have almost nothing happen while showing us a ton of pretty pictures. Magneto is frustrated by what he sees as not-sufficient support, while Charles consistently sees the glass as half full. DiVito’s art is complimentary to the story, and as talented as ever.

While Magneto has Sabretooth assassinate Graydon Creed, Geosha is invaded by Winter Soldier, Nuke, and Mimic. The ending is slightly shocking, and the whole series is a great blend of action and conquest. Longtime readers will enjoy the sense of familiarity as the creative team uses the backdrop of the original Marvel universe to explore the House of M variant. The result is a better utilization of the House of M setting than any prior, and makes me very glad that Bendis originally came up with the House of M concept. Since I found Secret Invasion to be lacking, I am very happy to have found enjoyment in a place I didn’t expect to be so good.

X-Men: Magneto Testament 3

by Greg Pak and Carmine di Giandomenico

With a cover reminiscent of Spielberg’s use of color in Schindler’s List, we pick up the story with the invasion of Poland in 1939, and follow the travails of Max and his family as they struggle to survive the persecution of the Jews. We see compassion and cruelty, and Max’s sharp vision which spots a piece of gold in the snow, helping to remind us of the role gold played in the simple survival of a people on the run and under the threat of genocide. Can any short-sighted person run around accusing Jewish people of being tight-fisted after researching tidbits like this and finding out they were true? The stereotype of Jewish people being miserly has always been unjustified, and this work adds to the bounty of stories that have attempted to portray the Jewish-gold link in the proper context to help people understand why they may sometimes act in a manner that seems penny-pinching. It bleeds over into how they divided up the meager food rations as well.

We end at Max’s arrival to Auschwitz, which is where most Marvel stories have picked up on Magneto’s origin. Greg Pak’s sense of pacing is great, and di Giandomenico’s art conveys much of the story without needing too much exposition. If anything, there might be a danger of desensitizing the reader with all of the hardship, and wanting to get on with it already, because we do understand that life was hard during those days. In my estimation, they needed to show each of these things, and even then, it is hard for the human mind to comprehend the situation. While World War II has often been used as the backdrop for comic stories, this one is one of the best utilized in recent memory, and one of the most purposeful.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Nice reviews, but couple things that stand out in the Magneto Testament review. The common thought among historians these days is "If you didn't live through it, you can't know how it was. We can know the facts, but we can't know the experience." Given some of the ignorant assumptions about the Holocaust I have read in recent years (on one message board one person said "Hitler didn't do anything different from what everyone else did..." another two days ago said, "What's more to say than "he was a jew in Germany in 1939", everybody knows what happened to them, everyone knows they were all killed. What data of importance was given since the series started other than the name? Who cares about his dead parents, sister or granpa if they're not going to return as villains or something like that? Ì find thsi story unnecesary") I think it is very necessary to show, as much as possible, what it was like because there are a lot of people out there that just don't get it.

The "Penny Pinching Jew" stereotype predated WWII. Shylock is an example of this, for instance. It has to do with the fact that in many countries in the Middle Ages, Jewish people were forbidden be artisans/craftsmen and join guilds. Many Jewish people were forced to fall back on money lending as their only legal means of income. The problem was that the church often told Christians that they didn't have to pay their debts to Jews. Especially if the Christian was royalty. So the "grasping Jew" was created out of resentment and ridicule by Christians who did not want to repay what they borrowed. It was one of the stereotypes Hitler embellished and propagated in the media to further turn the country against Jewish people. "Look at these evil people taking all your money!" The behavior of Jewish people during the Holocaust really nothing to do with it.

-- Posted by: kiplingkat at November 17, 2008 8:39 PM

Good historical note,kiplingkat. I know of the pre-existing stereotype, I just wanted to point out that the stereotype was extended and reinforced by some actions during the Holocaust, and explaining within the context of this mini-series that while there can sometimes be a basis of truth behind a general perception, in this case there should be some sympathy towards the forces that propelled that behavior, as opposed to mean-spirited scorn which I have heard at various times (mercifully few, in my circles) while growing up. But you're right, there is certainly a pile of previous persecution in their history that adds to this.


-- Posted by: tpull at November 18, 2008 8:13 PM