Hard-Traveling Fanboys: The Rundown (June-July 2014)

Mild-mannered reporters by day, Greg Phillips and Nick Duke share an intense love of comic books that has made them the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. And with that intense love comes an appetite for the latest news from the comic book world. Each month, in The Rundown, the Fanboys will run down their top news and notes from the comic book world.

Nick: It’s been a while since we last graced you with our own news and notes column, but after a two-month hiatus, The Rundown is back with all the comic news that’s fit to print. Or to bitch about online. Your choice.

Greg: Shockingly, the comic book industry doesn’t cease to operate when we’re on hiatus. Thus we have the unenviable task of sorting through the past two months’ worth of industry-related goings on. But we will soldier on for you, our loyal readers.

Nick: Indeed we shall. Well, without further adieu, Greg, what caught your eye over the last two months?

Greg: For starters, the sad news that Marvel’s premier writer-archer tandem of Matt Fraction and Hawkeye are parting ways.

hawkeye

I must admit I haven’t been reading Hawkeye in single-issue form, but the first collected volume (which we reviewed in The Longbook Hunters) was probably my favorite Marvel book in a decade.

Matt Fraction, David Aja and company made a career B (or even C)-lister into a must-read character and title. It just felt different from the rest of the field, and it racked up a ton of awards along the way. Unfortunately, it looks like time is up for Clint Barton and Kate Bishop’s continuing adventures. This is certainly not good news, even for those who didn’t regularly read it.

Nick: Yeah, from what I understand, the book had been on a bit of a hiatus, so the news that it might be ending didn’t come as a huge shock to a lot of people. Still, it was the rare superhero comic that earned nearly universal praise, including Eisner consideration. I enjoyed the book as well, mainly because it felt so different than what we’ve come to expect from the Big 2. Sad to see it go, but there’s no question it stands as one of the great critical successes of the last decade.

Greg: The question now becomes: What pops up to take its place? There will be another quirky book to come along featuring an off-the-beaten-path hero, I just wonder if DC or Marvel will be the first to launch it.

But as we’ll discuss in a minute, Hawkeye’s end coincides with a lot of other critically acclaimed runs ending at around the same time.

Nick: Indeed, because as one creative team’s iconic run on an archer comes to an end, so too does another creative team’s iconic run on an archer.

Farewell, Andrea Sorrentino. You will be missed.
Farewell, Andrea Sorrentino. You will be missed.

Greg: This one is a real heartbreaker, because it’s one of the books I most look forward to reading every month. And it took home its share of Halfies as well!

Nick: There are several things to like about this move. Andrew Kreisberg and Ben Sokolowski are writers on the smash hit TV show Arrow, and have stated their intention to bring back a little bit of that pre-52 Oliver Queen charm while also trying to infuse the title with some of the energy that has made the show such a hit.

The new look of Oliver Queen.
The new look of Oliver Queen.

However, for all the positives there may be, I’m ultimately very, very disappointed. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s run on the character has been the best Ollie Queen story since Kevin Smith wrote the character, and has been one of my top 3 books in all of comics pretty much since the run started. They’ve redefined Shado and her relationship with Oliver, revealed more about Robert Queen than we’ve ever known in the past and given Green Arrow’s rogues gallery a huge boost with spot-on, menacing characters that each challenge GA in a different way. Lemire has finally distinguished New 52 Ollie as a creation all his own, helping the character to escape the dullness of his early New 52 life. And Sorrentino has for my money been the best artist in mainstream comics for the better part of a year now. His work with Green Arrow has been inventive, if nothing else.

None of this is to say the new team can’t craft a decent run with the Emerald Archer, but they’ve got Giant Gonzales-like shoes to fill.

Hearing that Lemire and Sorrentino were leaving was almost as painful as watching this. Almost.
Hearing that Lemire and Sorrentino were leaving was almost as painful as watching this. Almost.

Greg: Truly the news hit me like an ether-soaked rag to the face of the Undertaker. Since Lemire and Sorrentino took the reins with issue 17 last year, Green Arrow has been at or near the top of my pull list every month. It’s the rare book where the art and story both connect with me on an emotional level. Sorrentino is almost writing side stories with his art — drawing you into the world of Ollie, his friends and his enemies. I have high hopes for the new team, but it will certainly take some getting used to.

When you consider this announcement with the impending ends of Hawkeye, All-Star Western and Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, it really does feel like the end of an era. These critically acclaimed books got started around the same time and are wrapping up alongside one another.

Nick: It’s an interesting time, to be sure. It’s unquestionably one of the industry’s historical peaks in terms of quality books on the stands, but everything is cyclical. In time, we’ll see such heights again.

Greg: One thing that isn’t cyclical is our love of the Green Lantern universe. And we’ve been in a “major event” cycle for the better part of five years now.

godhead2

Nick: I’m torn on this one. Lord knows I’m sick of constant Green Lantern crossovers. Sure, Geoff Johns had his fair share, but there was always time for a good old Hal Jordan story every now and then. But since Johns began his final story, Wrath of the First Lantern, the line has been in a constant state of major event after major event. I’m ready for a break. I’m ready for an adversary that isn’t a threat to the Corps, the concept of ringwielders and the universe in general.

BUT, damn if this doesn’t have my interest.

The New Gods vs. the Green Lantern Corps? Hell of a concept, especially given Kyle Rayner’s recent trip behind the Source Wall, a concept very tied to the New Gods. I’m not buying the entire event, as I refuse to pay money for New Guardians given its current direction, but I’ll follow the other four Lantern books out there and maybe even check out NG through, ahem, alternate means.

Greg: Like you, I’m torn. I am adamantly opposed to YET ANOTHER universe-threatening Lantern event that will “shake the Corps to its foundation.” I’ve long argued that we needed a good six or seven-month break to focus on Hal Jordan’s personal life and the lives of John, Guy, Kyle and the rest. I also recently made the decision (through financial necessity) to eliminate the excellent Red Lanterns and the good Sinestro from my pull list.

However, this is one of the coolest concepts (on paper) to hit the franchise in a while. Green Lantern Corps vs. New Gods is such a cool concept that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done as a major DC event before. The cover image teases that got released are nothing short of staggering. These are DC’s two most prominent cosmic “lines,” so this feels like a natural fit.

Yet another event, but damn these covers are awesome.
Yet another event, but damn these covers are awesome.

I may end up trade waiting, though, due to the financial restraints of buying all the related tie-in books, but make no mistake — I am intrigued. I will say, once again, that this should be the last major Lantern event for a year or so.

Nick: Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case, as the end of the most recent GL event was already setting up ANOTHER event. One that isn’t Godhead. So, we’ve got at least one more coming, and I’m betting it won’t be far behind Godhead.

But, while we’re begging DC to slow down on crossovers in the Green Lantern comic line, we’re kind of bummed there won’t be more crossover in the film world.

Stephen Amell need not apply.
Stephen Amell need not apply.

Greg: BOOOOOOOO!

Sorry, that was my fanboy moment of the day. This just feels like a huge missed opportunity, as our pal Russell Sellers would agree.

Nick: It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the Arrow TV show. We’ve talked about its greatness at great lengths on podcasts and spent countless hours discussing the show in our private conversations. We loved the first two seasons, can’t wait for season 3 and are perhaps even more excited for the expansion of the TV universe with this fall’s debut of The Flash.

Greg: Indeed, and we’re also big fans of last year’s divisive “Man of Steel” from director Zack Snyder. Perhaps that’s why we’re taking this news so hard, as it seemed like an easy fit, especially with “Arrow” opening its doors to superhuman elements in its second season.

Nick: I think it’s important to note that as dominant as Marvel has been on the big screen, DC has been equally dominant on the small screen. Whether it’s animation or live action, Marvel’s efforts just can’t match DC’s. And that, we felt, was DC’s grand opportunity to make some ground up on the big screen. The Avengers had been built to and released a year before DC got its first movie in the DC cinematic universe, Man of Steel, in front of audiences. How could DC possibly catch up, people wondered. Well, Stephen Amell and the folks working on Arrow have crafted a pretty damn compelling version of Oliver Queen. Why not bring him in to the DCCU? Why not introduce characters and concepts on the small screen before spinning into big screen adventures? It just would have made so much sense on so many levels, especially considering the tonal similarities of Arrow and Man of Steel. It would be one thing if Arrow was a modern day Adam West Batman, but it isn’t. Both Arrow and Man of Steel have provided a darker, grimmer look at the superhero than Marvel has, albeit not without its own share of drier, less obvious humor.

But, it isn’t happening. And, by proxy, I would think this now limits the ability of the television universe to use certain characters (Batman and Superman) as may have initially been hoped.

And the television universe continues to expand — characters like Firestorm and The Atom will appear this fall, and both could have been groomed for future big screen Justice League membership. Alas, it’s not to be.

Greg: And one thing Arrow has done is make me a believer in Stephen Amell — as an actor and a dude. I know there were some people who expressed that a TV actor couldn’t/shouldn’t make such a jump to a major motion picture (I mean, it’s not like Bruce Willis amounted to anything, right?), but trust us — Amell can deliver.

We believe in Stephen Amell. You should, too. We all should. Hell, he's all we think about at night....
We believe in Stephen Amell. You should, too. We all should. Hell, he’s all we think about at night….

It’s a missed opportunity, and I think it’s leaving money on the table, to quote an old IWC parable.

Nick: Completely agreed. Here’s hoping Geoff Johns is just plotting a Vince Russo-like swoive.

Shouldn't it be "swoives"?
Shouldn’t it be “swoives”?

Greg: One film studio that WON’T leave money on the table, however, is Marvel, which is unloading pictures at a machine gun-like pace.

marvellogo

Starting next May, Marvel Studios will produce 11 films over a four-year span, with three films in 2017 and three in 2018. This is truly exciting news for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes basically everyone at this point.

Nick: Now, this news is largely a bit anticlimactic, as we don’t know what most of these films are going to be quite yet. The bigger news will come later. However, what it shows is aggressiveness on Marvel’s part. While some may claim superhero fatigue, box office returns don’t reflect that in any way. So, it completely makes sense for Marvel to continue to churn out movies, especially since they haven’t made a truly bad one yet. Plus, this planned film slate plants a firm Marvel flag in early May for the next five years. Sure, DC is planning on making Marvel fight for that 2016 early May date, but they won’t dare to drop a movie on one of those dates Marvel has already claimed. The first weekend in May has become something of a geek Christmas, as the summer movie season is officially kicked off with a superhero movie and the celebration that is Free Comic Book Day.

So, Greg, let’s wildly speculate. We know Cap 3 is coming in May 2016, but none of the eight other movies have been confirmed. What do you see coming down the pipeline?

Greg: Doctor Strange seems like a no-brainer at this point, and Black Panther and Black Widow make sense from there. After that, it’s a crap shoot, and that’s where it gets really exciting.

Perhaps a big-screen return for the Punisher? Maybe something really out-there like Moon Knight or something with more spinoff possibilities like Inhumans? Or we might get standalone movies for strong side characters from existing films, like War Machine and Hawkeye.

Nick: I think Doctor Strange is a lock for the July 2016 spot, as it already has a director in place. May 2017 is the first real wildcard, but I’m going to guess Black Panther, followed by a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, perhaps with a certain Jade Giant involved, in July 2017. Thor: The Dark World was a November release, so it would make sense for a third Thor movie to hit in July 2017. That would put us in prime position for Avengers 3 in May 2018, and past that, I have no real clue. There have been some rumblings of a Runaways or Inhumans movie, and Robert Downey Jr. has recently left the door open a bit on a potential return to Iron Man solo movies.

Whatever the end result is, it’s sure to be exciting, and I’m sure we’ll hear more next week at Comic-Con.

Greg: A Captain/Ms. Marvel movie would also make a lot of sense down the line. It’s an exciting time, for sure.

Nick: Indeed. And while there’s some uncertainty as to which characters will grace future Avengers films, we now know which ones will grace future Avengers comics.

Marvel's got big plans for these 11 characters, apparently.
Marvel’s got big plans for these 11 characters, apparently.

Greg: These announcements collectively broke the Internet for a few days last week.

Nick: If you have even the slightest interest in comics, I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the massive shakeups Marvel is giving to its universal status quo. This includes a new focus on a handful of characters being termed Avengers Now!, following in similar VERY soft reboots Marvel Now! and All-New Marvel Now!

But while no one is discussing the big plans apparently in place for characters like Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Medusa or Angela, everyone is discussing the new takes on Thor and Captain America, as well as Iron Man and Hulk to a far, far lesser extent.

I’ll start with Cap because I have so little to say about it. I don’t care. I’m cool with it. Do your thing, Rick Remender. The Falcon has probably never had a higher profile after the success of the Cap film sequel, so might as well strike while the iron is hot.

CapFalcon

Greg: I am completely on board with Captain Falcon (har) as a concept. My only issue is that it doesn’t feel that long ago that we had Bucky running around as Cap (in a wonderful role that should’ve lasted longer, but I digress). It does feel kind of “soon,” even by comics standards. I mean, Bruce Wayne went a good dozen or so years without being replaced after “Prodigal.” But in the end, it’s a good thing. Remender’s take on Cap isn’t for me, but maybe his Falcon will prove more compelling. And the character certainly deserves the limelight.

Nick: Hulk? Equally little to say about it. Don’t like it. I’ve never liked “Smart Hulk” as a concept, and I probably won’t like this. Hope someone does, though. Just because books aren’t for you doesn’t mean they can’t be for someone.

Eh.
Eh.

Greg: Peter David can write Smart Hulk. Otherwise, I really don’t have much time for it. Other people seem to prefer Smart Hulk, though, so hopefully the quality is high.

Nick: As far as Tony Stark goes, I’m interested, but unsure. The idea of Stark’s own ego taking over and pushing him to take drastic measures to implement what he thought were the right measures has already been explored in the excellent Civil War, and it’s hard for me to imagine that characterization being topped. Plus, the information that’s been revealed about Superior Iron Man makes it sound as if Stark won’t be relatable or understandable at all, something he certainly was in Civil War. I’m willing to see where it goes, though, even if the new suit is atrocious.

That suit. WELP.
That suit. WELP.

Greg: Every time I try an Iron Man comic, I’m let down. I don’t like the new suit in the teaser image, and the premise does sound eerily reminiscent of Civil War, but at least it’s something that could be compelling. I won’t be jumping on board, but we’ll see where it all leads. Tom Taylor is a talented writer.

Nick: Which brings us to the God of Thunder himself, Thor. In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll catch you up to speed. Thor will soon be deemed unworthy of Mjolnir and his title of God of Thunder, and both will be picked up a new, female Thor. I’ll readily admit I was full of anger and disappointment when the news first broke, but that was largely due to Marvel’s handling of the story.

She-Thor
She-Thor

Within the first 48 hours, Axel Alonso was giving interviews to Time Magazine saying there was no exit plan for the story and it was here indefinitely. It wasn’t until Jason Aaron, whose Thor: God of Thunder has been the best 25 issues of Thor in the character’s history, came out and said that it was just a part of a larger Thor story that Alonso had to admit that there was indeed an exit plan. Initially, we were also led to believe that a new female character would be taking up the mantle, rather than one of the numerous females with an actual tie to Thor and a sensible motivation to take up his name and mantle.

And, as silly as it may sound, that’s one of the things that still irks me a bit. Thor is a person, not a persona. Wally West can be The Flash and Dick Grayson can be Batman, but another character is no more capable of being Thor than I am of being Greg Phillips.

But, on a positive note, Thor Odinson will still be around as a character and we’ll still get the trademark flashbacks and flash forwards that made T:GOT so great and different. We’ll still have Jason Aaron steering the winged wooden ship that is the Thor mythos. All is not lost, and I will trust in Aaron until he gives me a reason not to.

But, with the ending of T:GOT, we’re also losing one of the great Thor artists of all time — Esad Ribic. Ribic has defined the look and feel of all the nine (10?) realms for 25 issues, and his work has been criminally overlooked by the critics. While we may still have Aaron, we won’t have Ribic and without him, it just won’t be Thor: God of Thunder. And that’s a crying shame.

We're really, really going to miss art like this.
We’re really, really going to miss art like this.

Oh, and I don’t care the new character is a woman. Doesn’t bother me in the least. It IS possible to have some reservations that aren’t on the basis of the character’s gender.

Greg: That’s crazy talk. The Internet told me different.

I, for one, am only lamenting the departure of Ribic, one of the great Thor artists of all time. In fact (and I know this is committing blasphemy to the great Jack Kirby), Ribic is probably my favorite or second-favorite artist in Thor history alongside Walt Simonson.

Please, Mr. Ribic, don't go.
Please, Mr. Ribic, don’t go.

But on the whole, what’s not to love? Jason Aaron is continuing his run, it’s going to be a female character with strong ties to Thor (the identity of whom you and I both have strong feelings about), and everything points to this being part of Aaron’s grand vision for Thor and his corner of the Marvel Universe.

And if these changes help comic books reach a wider audience, all the better. The Captain America news has already paid off in that department, at least judging from photos that are circulating on the Web. Representation is important, and while only the most naive of readers would think these changes are very long-term, my hope is these platforms can be used to put these identities on the pop culture map alongside their predecessors. It’s an uphill battle for replacement characters, but it’s one John Stewart, Wally West, Carol Danvers and Miles Morales have climbed.

Nick: There are certainly benefits to these changes, and Marvel is more than aware of that, given the way the announcements were so heavily publicized. It was a WWE-like case of patting oneself on the back. But hey, can’t fault them for it.

Greg: Absolutely, and the more mainstream exposure for comics, as opposed to comic book films, the better.

Nick: In any event, that about does it for this month’s edition of The Rundown. We’ll be back next week with Off The Page, in which we’ll take a very special look at a not-so-special piece of television, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. In the meantime, Greg, tell the people how to shoot us some feedback.

Greg: Y’all can hit us up on Twitter (@gphillips8652 and @nickduke87), email (GregP@placetobenation.com and NickD@placetobenation.com) or on the PTB Facebook page. Let us hear your praise, your criticism or your name calling!

Author: Greg Phillips and Nick Duke

Greg and Nick share two passions above all others, both of which involve people in spandex punching each other. Reporters by day, they also insist on being called "Two Dudes with Attitude" but can't decide who is Kevin Nash and who is Shawn Michaels.