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Death Sells, Rebirths Not So Much

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News of Steve Rogers’ return didn’t capture the fancy of the casual reader like his death did, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited that he’s coming back.

The big secret Marvel moved Captain America #600 to capitalize on a few weeks ago is out, and, surprising no one, Steve Rogers is set to return as Cap.
The reason why Marvel moved this issue to Monday instead of the typical Wednesday is that they expected a feeding frenzy when news of Steve Rogers return hit the mainstream media on that day. Well, they didn’t really get the frenzy they were expecting.

Marvel haters certainly could engage in a bit of schadenfreude. A canvassing of retailers by Robot 6 revealed that Cap #600 at best sold steadily, but didn’t match the numbers of patrons Cap’s death brought in. One major retailer, San Francisco’s Isotope Comics, didn’t even bother to open up on that Monday (the store is usually closed on that day of the week).

Even while announcing a second printing, Marvel admits that there might be copies of the first printings at the retailer level (which makes you wonder why they are offering a second printing. Well, the complete print run for the first printing was bought up by retailers, so the second printing was put into action before the first was even mailed to stores). That press release is a classic case of Marvel trying to put a positive spin on a disappointing situation. It also features quotes from retailers. Although none say that they have sold out of the first printing or that they did as much business as they did during the Death of Cap.

Perhaps Marvel overestimated how the general public would respond to a character’s return. The death of an icon captures the mainstream public’s attention—from speculators hoping to grab the last appearance of a legendary character to long lost fans wishing to do the same. When a character returns, it really isn’t as special for them. So, they pretty much ignore character returns no matter how much hype it gets.
As a comic buyer, I am pretty much chagrinned about the whole process. Killing characters and returning them is a stupid publisher trick that works way more often than it should. However, as a comic reader, I am truly excited about the return of Steve Rogers as Captain America.

The Steve Rogers Cap is one of my most favorite Marvel characters. I own just about every comic he has appeared in since he got his own series in 1968. And the stage is now set for him to return stronger than before.

Marvel has done well with weaving the believed to be deceased Captain throughout all the books in the line. Iron Man is wracked with guilt over his passing. The Skrull-kidnapped heroes who returned at the end of Secret Invasion ask where he is. And in the pages of the title that bears his name, his legacy has been built up so that it has an effect on every single character in the book.

And the current status of the Marvel Universe provides an opportunity for some great stories. Steve Rogers was always portrayed as the moral center of the superhero community. How will he react when he returns and finds America under the sway of arch-villain Norman Osborn? The regular Captain America title has been fairly isolated from whatever crossover Marvel has been running, but that doesn’t mean Cap won’t play a part in Dark Reign.

So, Steve Rogers’ return might not be the sales bonanza Marvel was hoping. But fans of the character and of good stories have reason to be excited. And it all starts tomorrow.

Also out this week:


Justice League: Cry for Justice #1:


This project was announced over a year ago but is now finally coming out. If it hit stands in a timelier fashion, it might have been the focus of the column. But instead, it’s taking a backseat to the return of Steve Rogers. This pretty much sums up the sad sack DC Comics in a nutshell.

It’s not that the series doesn’t have beautiful art by Mauro Cascioli (which might be the reason why the book took so long to get to us) and is written by one of the best writers in comics today—James Robinson. Since Robinson is going to take over the main Justice League book, you can be sure the events in this miniseries will carry over into that title. So, this series is still worthy of a look.

James Robinson (W), Mauro Cascioli (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Imaginary Friends: The Rise of Shift Valentine:

We are supporters of full disclosure here at Guiding Lines. That being said, I have to tell you that the writer of this book, Jason M. Burns, also writes for us here at Broken Frontier. He writes the column, “Ouch, That Burns,” which details his experiences and opinions as an independent comic creator.

His latest graphic novel hits stores this week, and, as you can see by the title, it deals with the realm of imaginary friends. If you have read his column or his previous work-A Dummy’s Guide to Danger—then you’ll know that he will be applying his unique point of view to the concept. It might not be 100% safe for kids, but there’s a good chance that it will be funny.

Jason M. Burns (W), Dustin Evans (A), Outlaw Entertainment, $14.95. Graphic Novel.

Savage Dragon #150:

It might be unfair to compare Savage Dragon to any Marvel and DC book. After all, you hardly see any book from the big two make it to 150 issues, let alone done by the same writer and artist all the way through. But Erik Larsen’s green-finned cop is often compared to other superhero fare, even though the similarities are minor.

One of the things in this title that is similar to other superhero books is that the Dragon has an arch-nemesis. That archenemy would be the Overlord, simply put, sort of a cross between Dr. Doom and the Kingpin. Since Dragon not too long ago rejoined the Chicago P.D., a run-in with the armored crime boss would be imminent. Well, here it is.
 
Erik Larsen (W/A), Image Comics, $5.99. Ongoing Series.

Far Arden:

Far Arden is a mystical island paradise that has been the dream of many a sailor of the high seas. Army Shanks is one such sailor, and he’s taken it upon himself to find the legendary utopia, and he sets out on an epic quest for discovery.

With trips like these, they say the true joy is in the journey, not the destination. Army might disagree with that. First off, he’s not sure where the island is, except in the frigid waters of the Arctic North. If being constantly lost isn’t frustrating enough, he runs up against everything from his ex-girlfriends to the entire Royal Canadian Arctic Navy on his travels.  Journey, schmourney, it may be an adventure, but is it better than the end result? Army surely hopes it’s not!

Kevin Cannon (W/A), Top Shelf Productions, $19.95. Original Graphic Novel.

Star Wars: Invasion #1:

I wonder if Marvel is kicking themselves. As you may know, Marvel once held the Star Wars license, but kept their stories to a timeline that followed whatever film came out. Dark Horse took over and set stories centuries before or decades after the movies, and built a successful tent pole around the license. If Marvel was a bit more adventurous with the expanded universe, Dark Horse might not be as big as they are today.

The latest series takes place 25 years after the Battle of Yavin (the original Star Wars film, for those of you who are uninitiated). The galaxy is being invaded by a race that rivals the Sith as a threat. Luke Skywalker must shore up the fledgling New Republic and New Jedi Order to face down the Yuuzhan Vong.

Tom Taylor (W), Colin Wilson (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1:

If there was one Pixar film’s cast I wished I could spend more time with, it would be Finding Nemo’s  From Dory’s forgetfulness, Marlin’s dedication to his son, Nemo’s adventurous nature and the interesting gang from the dentist’s aquarium, there are many more stories that could be written about all of them. Luckily, more stories about these characters are heading our way.

Thankfully, BOOM! Studios agreement with Disney allows the characters to live on in more tales from the sea. This time, the cast must deal with a threat to their home. Their reef is dying. Is there anything they can do to stop it? And if there is, are they able to do what it takes?

Marie Croall (W), Erica Leigh Currey (A), BOOM! Studios, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Greek Street #1:

A literary mechanism in adapting classic works is to update them to modern day. For example, you make Romeo & Juliet a musical and set it in the gang-ridden west side of New York or give it a hip soundtrack and set it amongst the crime families of a Miami-like “Verona Beach”. Or you take The Odyssey and set it in the depression-era American South.

That is what Peter Millgan is doing here. He is taking tales and fables from Ancient Greece and setting them in the present. Now, the morality plays and tragedies become gritty tales of urban crime and noir, with more than a hint of the supernatural.

Milligan is one of the most original minds working in comics today. This new series should really be something special.

Peter Milligan (W), Davide Gianfelice (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $1.00. Ongoing Series.

Strange Eggs Jumps the Shark:

Diamond had a bad stretch of publicity in the recent year. From the financial troubles of its ownership to controversy concerning its raising its ordering minimums, there has been a whole lot of bad news surrounding the company. But with this graphic novel, it could have gotten much worse.

Diamond listed this book as kid friendly in its May catalog. There was only one problem with that. It was anything but kid friendly. Slave Labor had to send out a press release to retailers saying that while the story revolved around a kid’s show, it was not exactly meant for kids.

Since we know how parents get outraged when they buy inappropriate comics for their kids and run to their local newspaper about it, Diamond hopefully has avoided another black eye this time.

Various (W/A), Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics, $4.95. Original Graphic Novel.

Existence 2.0 #1:

Body switching is a common trope in many forms of entertainment. Exchanging your consciousness with somebody else’s has been the plot of many movies, TV shows, and comics, most of the time used for comedic effect. Now, Image is bringing us a unique twist on the concept, marrying it to the realm of a hard-boiled murder mystery.

Sylvester Baladine was a physicist who finds himself killed. But before he dies, he transfers himself into the body of the man who killed him. Now, he is working from the “inside” to try and find out who ordered the hit. But the time is running out as the assassin whose body Sly took over is the next name on the mastermind’s hit list.

Nick Spencer (W), Ronald Salas (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Marvel Divas #1:

For the life of me, I can’t figure out who Marvel intends to be this book’s target audience. Is it women, especially the ones that made Sex in the City such a big hit? Well, you won’t find that particular demographic making up a majority of female comic fans. And if you did, they’d probably be put off by the Good Girl cover art.

Or are they aiming at the male comic fan? Well, let’s take into consideration two major qualities attributed to this group, namely they don’t like books with female characters and they are slavishly devoted to continuity. What you have here are four characters with no ties to one another brought together with the flimsiest of reasons that are portrayed out of character and with glaring errors in their personal continuity (at least in the 6 page preview I saw). Yeah, like I said. I have no idea who the intended audience for this is.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (W), Tonci Zonjic (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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Comments

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Jul 1, 2009 at 3:10am

    Marvel shouldn't be surprised by the lackluster response to Cap's return. Honestly, did anyone not see it coming? We've all become jaded by characters dying and coming back too often. And when it's a character as iconic and central to a publisher as Captain America, very few expect such a death to last (*cough cough* Batman books, I'm looking your way.)

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Jul 1, 2009 at 6:08am

    You know what could also be the cause for this laconic response? Brubaker has crafted such an amazing and energetic tale without CA Steve Rogers that ... well ... it doesn't really seem to matter that Steve has been gone, the icon of CA has persevered with absolutely stunning action adventure stories that engross the reader on every level. Usually, the death of an icon leads to lots of mumbling and soul searching untill the icon is back with mediocre fill in stories but in Brubaker's CA, the exctiment never seemed to stop. Eveybody is just expecting more good stories in a kind of way ...

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