Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Whatever happened to the Super Skrull ?

Hello, fellow readers of TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN. I know that my posts have been coming much more infrequently in the past few months. Having a job...even an underpaid, half - time job really put a dent in my posting schedule. Much more than I anticipated. Add to that the fact that I don´t have as much free access to the internet as I planned....well, we all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men.

When I started this little blog almost one year ago I had pretty lofty plans. After almost three years of posting in a few online comic forums and then writing almost exclusively in one discussion group I was ready to take the next step : start my own blog. And I guess I have to say that I blame DAVE´S LONGBOX for it. Whenever I was at the end of my wisdom and ready to annihilate the whole of humanity because of what comicrelated hysteria was on the internet at that time I turned to Dave´s wonderful blog. And I found peace and calm there because I was reminded what a beautiful world comics can be. So I set out to do the same...or an incredible imitation of it and spread around some comic book loving. Because there are already too much blogs where you only find....I don´t know....only spoilers and player hating. I wanted to write about the good things in comics, warn readers to avoid bad comics and just have a good time.

Now it´s almost one year later and instead of the over hundred of posts I wanted to write I only managed to write 56. Which still makes more than 52 which means my quota is above one post every week. But it still is not as much as I planned to write. I thought this blog would become sort of my online diary with my daily thoughts about life and comics - not necessarily in that order. But after one year of blogging I´m still not sure if I have found my own voice. You always try to make it individual and distinctive but that´s not as easy as it sounds.

Be that as it may, what´s past is past so let´s see what we can do about that quota for the next year. Which officially will begin at 11th of April so that this post will not be the big anniversary post. Maybe I can crack the 60 mark till that time. After all this time I still have never managed to write one post in one sitting and true to form I´m writing this post in two seperate sessions. I have a little more free time now since my job at the museum in Kornwestheim ended last month and on one side I´m glad about that. Because it means more free time ( at least I get something like regular sleep intervalls ) to do things like catalog the video cassettes, finally watching the last two or three seasons of CHARMED, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES or ONE PIECE.....or writing more posts for my blog like this one. And last but not least I have to make the preparations for the SALON DEL COMIC in Barcelona which I will attend this month.

Yes my friends, after endless years in which my vacation always took place right before or after the comic salon this year I have finally managed it. This year SUBZERO goes to the SALON DEL COMIC. I´m going to Spain for only a few days but I will be at the salon for the whole four days. I won´t have any money but I will be there. Maybe I will even get a sketch from Carlos Pacheco.

Which reminds me of the downside of not working at the museum : less money. Yes, that extra money ( which in fact was 150 percent of my normal HARTZ IV money ) did really come in handy for several things like buying the birthday present for my brother ( I hope he appreciates it ) and it will be sorely missed in the months to come when I have to reduce my pull list drastically. And I guess that somehow I will also miss my work and the people at the museum. It really makes a difference if there is something meaningfull to do every day or not. And one thing´s for sure : the work at the museum was always different and interesting. With all the insight into the political fights and backstabbing and all the problems involved in leading a museum or preparing an exhibition maybe I should make a comic about it. But before I start to forget the meaning of this blog let´s get to the comic I´m writing about in this post that ( as you can see above ) I call :

Whatever happened to the Super Skrull ?

Alan Davis is not a comic superstar. And I´m not writing that to dis the man. I´m one of his greatest fans and whatever he does or did you can probably find it in my comic collection. He has done every comic character or series there is, he´s one of the best writers ( just check out his EXCALIBUR issues ) and one of the best artists ( just check out.....well, almost anything he did ) in the business. He influenced other artists...in fact Brian Hitch probably owes him his career but Brian Hitch became a superstar and Alan Davis didn´t. But life is not fair. That´s a fact. There are some people who are superstars and for the life of me I can´t fathom why ( no, that´s not a pun. I think Michael Turner is a very talented guy ) that is. And there are other artists who have it all but who never achieve the status they deserve. Like David Finch before he started on Moon Knight. But that´s not what I want to write about. What I want to write about is FANTASTIC FOUR : THE END, a six issue miniseries written and drawn by Alan Davis and inked by longtime collaborateur Mark Farmer. Who for me has become synomimous with Alan Davis. They have worked on so many projects together and they compliment each other so well that it´s hard for me to imagine any other inker on Alan Davis stuff. Whenever people argue about digital inking that is my number one argument against it. Because you never can get this great mix of two real masters combining their crafts to achieve a work of art that is greater than the sum of their parts.

Now if you don´t know what THE END means, that is a line or series of miniseries or oneshots detailing the last days of a superhero / or superhero group. Since most comic readers don´t live forever but some comic series do it is probable that comic readers will die before the final issue of their favorite comic comes out. Or the comic might get cancelled before the writers and artists get to tell their great finale. Or the artistic team might change and the end that was planned get´s cancelled and they just write something else. And that is just sad. But then Marvel thought about that : Why not keep the cake and eat it too ? We get the best writers and artists to do their version of the end days of our favorite superheroes and tell them now. We can make them kind of WHAT IF or ELSEWORLD style so we can tell as many as we like and if they don´t fit into continuity we can always ignore them. Which sounds like a moneygrubbing and exploitative idea but which has produced some really excellent reading material like THE HULK : THE END or PUNISHER : THE END. So everybody wins. Like in FANTASTIC FOUR : THE END.

The first thing I thought when I read the first two issues ( they went to the " save for later " part of my pile ) was : I really like the Fantastic Four. And I know why. Because this series has it all. If there is one thing you just love about the Fantastic Four may it be the outer space adventures, the high tech gadgets and super science, the interesting family dynamics of the Fantastic Four, the endless fights between the Thing and the Human Torch, the many guest stars, the Inhumans, the Negative Zone, Sue Storm ( yummy ), She Hulk ( double yummy ), the Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Super Skrull, etc. doomsday robots and the end of the world / universe this one has it all.

Without giving too much away just go to Dave´s Longbox for more about the story

Now the story starts after a tragedy has split the team and most of the members have gotten on with their lives. Ben has found a happy live with Alicia, Johnny Storm does what he always does and Susan has taken up archeology. Like in EXCALIBUR or his GEN 13 bootleg work Alan Davis effortlessly conjurs a world in which a whole generation has passed complete with the next generation of Fantastic Four offspring - this time by Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters. The world has changed very much thanks to Reed´s inventions. And Reed Richards who always was the archetype for the absent minded professor has become so involved in his experiments that he fails to realize that it has been years since he had any kind of contact with the other members. But like in all stories events occur which force the Fantastic Four to come together.

In this series Alan Davis shows his expertise in writing great stories, drawing breathtaking sequentials and....depicting female booty. I don´t know if it´s just me, the fact that it´s been so long that Alan Davis did a regular series or a combination of both. But there are some really hot women in the series like a female captain Marvel, Crystal, She Hulk and last not least Susan Storm. It doesn´t matter if it´s her skintight underwater suit or the regular unstable molecule costume Alan Davis remind us why Susan Storm is the premiere MILF of the Marvel Universe. And she looks even sexier with her new short " pixie haircut ".

His Susan Storm really knows how to fill out that skintight scuba diving suit. Massita !

And not to forget Alan Davis´faible for drawing superhero costumes. I don´t know how he pulls it off but every costume looks good if HE draws it. That´s a fact. You can take the most ugly costume with the most ridiculous design and absolutely garish colors and have Alan Davis draw it. And somehow he turns it all around and makes it shine. It´s a gift.

Now while this is one of Alan Davis´ best work there is a little problem I have with one scene, well actually two, which as you might have guessed has something to do with the Super Skrull. In all the comics I have read the Super Skrull was one of the most formidable enemies the Fantastic Four had. Posessing not only the combined powers of ALL FOUR members of the Fantastic Four but also the shapeshifting powers of all skrulls PLUS hypnotism it always took all four members of the Fantastic Four ( plus the hired help in some cases ) to defeat him. In this miniseries not only does Mr. Fantastic alone fight him to a standstill, no, later on he let´s himself be carried away to the mines by Annihilus underlings without so much of a fight. The greatest warrior of the skrull empire who can lay waste to entire cities goes like a sheep to the slaughter. That´s not right.

And to add insult to injury Annihilus gets dispatched in a few panels in a similar way. Now I only can assume that Alan Davis had not enough pages for a prolonged confrontation in both cases and didn´t want to focus the attention of the reader away from the overall story. Nevertheless it would have worked better if he had used some nameless skrull instead of the Super Skrull. Maybe he just wanted to include the Super Skrull in some way. But apart from that this comic is the granddaddy of them all. I´m not sure but looking in the superdetailed artwork it seems that everyone who ever appeared in a Fantastic Four comic can be seen in these pages. Like George Perez you get the impression that Alan Davis is paid by Marvel per superhero or person he draws and he wants to send his children to college. Because some artists who write for themselves would think twice about including too much stuff to draw. Not so our man. Why one alien armada ? Make that two. And let´s include the Imperial Guard. Can´t have the Shiiar without the Imperial Guard, man. And how about giving Johnny Storm a new costume ? And instead of Dr. Strange let´s do a female version. I really thought that Marvel had told Alan Davis that this was his last shot at drawing the Fantastic Four so he better include anybody he wanted to draw. No really.

One thing I noticed over the past months is that while most comics go for 2 bucks 99 some books have really thin paper and other books have a thicker, heavier and glossier paper. Now I don´t know why that is but FANTASTIC FOUR : THE END has the latter one. Which really brings out the bright colors and adds to the uniqueness of the series. I also want to mention that the first two issue include the pure version of the next issue´s cover without logo and other obstrusions. Sadly only the first two issues. Final verdict : go and get it. This is one of the best FF stories with a cast of hundreds, an intruiging story and apart from the excellent artwork it´s not as depressing as PUNISHER : THE END.

One last piece of advice for all fans of Alan Davis : if you have the chance go and buy the ROUGH CUT edition of issue one. It´s really worth the four bucks since it not only includes the script for the first issue but also the complete pencils.

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