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May 21

House To Astonish Episode 60

Posted on Saturday, May 21, 2011 by Al in Podcast

Judgement Day is (apparently) upon us, so we’re getting a last-minute look in at the comics news of the past few weeks, including the Tr!ckster project and the return of Kramer’s Ergot, as well as a round-up of solicitations for August. We also review Flashpoint, Alpha Flight and Nonplayer, and the Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe is all about the big issues. All this plus the amazing Man-Man, Jamie Oliver’s favourite comics writer and the sodding Skrulls.

The podcast is here, or here on Mixcloud. Let us know what you think, either in the comments below, on Twitter, via email or on our Facebook fan page.

Bring on the comments

  1. alex says:

    If the rapture does come, glad we got an extra long podcast before it happens.

  2. I actually know people who want to get the Phil Urich Green Goblin trade – people not happy he’s the new Hobgoblin. I’m not fussed, but I might give the trade a go.

    Regarding Eastman, he sold his half of the Turtles rights to Laird a couple of years ago (who then sold everything to Nickelodeon not long after), but he’d had nothing to do with the property in years because he’d lost interest. I think his last Turtles work was in the mid-90s. He probably needs the money to continue funding Heavy Metal. It might have something to do with the fact that Laird isn’t involved any more, as they fell out in early 90s apparently.

  3. alex says:

    As Paul can attest, Hunger could very well be employed by Vince McMahon to keep his lady wrestlers near anorexic.

  4. Thomas Zeitner says:

    I am rather confused (and at least a little annoyed) by the new Hobgoblin. Why replace Kingsley? Is Urich going up against the Loners now? What story made this neccessary?

  5. Berend says:

    Great podcast guys!
    And Paul, you weren’t the only one thinking Al was going for a Nick Clegg joke there 😛

  6. Ken B. says:

    Spider-Island is the best example recently of an event that doesn’t need to be one, simply a Spider-Man story with maybe ONE tie-in (don’t even bring Venom into it). Marvel just can’t help flooding the market, which goes hand in hand with what Brian Hibbs wrote the other day in his CBR column about how a lot of lower selling books is hell for comic shops compared to having a few big selling books.

  7. Joe Iglesias says:

    Still listening to the podcast, but Al’s comment about Avengers 16 reminds me of Jeff Lester’s recent comment that “Bendis has turned the Marvel Universe into his glory-hole”.

    Which is a hell of a first comment to be leaving on this site, but I really couldn’t resist.

  8. Jonny K says:

    Great podcast as always, and I’m yet another one certain Al was going for a Nick Clegg/Lib Dem joke there. Which says a lot about how the party has fallen.

  9. Paul O'Regan says:

    Item in the Marvel Solicitations that caught my eye: AVENGERS ACADEMY: ARCADE — DEATH GAME TPB

    Collecting the one-shot that came out two weeks ago, along with two classic reprints. For $7 more than the single issue.

  10. Valhallahan says:

    I hate that Urich’s the new Hobgoblin. I didn’t read much of the original series, but liked him in Runaways.

  11. kelvingreen says:

    I have ignored Age of Apocalypse simply because the general reputation of 90’s crossovers is not a good one, and the X-crossovers seemed to be the worst offenders at the time.

    Your comments in the podcast suggest that that AoA was actually quite good; is it worth picking up?

  12. clay says:

    I quite enjoyed the 90s Green Goblin series at the time. Defalco was writing the type of book he would later write with Spider-Girl, which is the basic, classic Spider-Man template: Newby hero juggles personal life with learning the super-hero ropes. But Defalco writes this kind of thing very well, and as mentioned, the art was great.

    (That being said, the Urich who is currently the Hobgoblin bears very little resemblance to the Urich Defalco established in that series. It makes me think that Slott is pulling a fake-out, but that seems less likely as time goes by.)

    Re: Invincible. Kirkman released the first 48 issues of The Walking Dead in a TBP omnibus, and it seems pretty solid (as in, it won’t fall apart easily). It’s black-and-white, if that makes a difference.

    Maybe I’m a backwards fanboy, but the tie-in to Spider-Island makes me MORE likely to pick up the Cloak & Dagger book. As a regular reader of ASM and Venom anyway, I figure that one more issue to get the ‘whole’ story isn’t any big deal.

    I can’t get behind the idea of being turned off by a book if it ties into a cross-over. Assuming you like the characters and creators, the storyline is simply a backdrop for the characters to bounce off of. Does it really matter if Cloak & Dagger fight the Spider-Island villains, or some other random villians?

    Ditto for, say, Youth In Revolt. Fear Itself is just the backdrop that provides the impetus for these characters to get together. If you like the characters and creative team, then why should Fear Itself matter one way or the other?

  13. Jerry Ray says:

    Age of Apocalypse was probably better than the regular universe X-Books that any of the creators working on the books ever wrote, and it was better than the typical 90s crossover in that it wasn’t a typical crossover. It was an alternate reality that replaced all the books for a few months.

    The only downside is that some of the stupider/more annoying new characters that actually crossed back over into the “real” universe.

  14. The original Matt says:

    AoA is everything a line-wide x-over should be.

  15. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Well, the rapture didn’t happen. Obviously no-one was buying those disintegrating communion wafers…

    DC are just piling reality changes onto reality changes lately. Max Lord has wiped himself from everyone’s memory in his quest for revenge on Wonder Woman! Except wait, now a group of evil goddesses have wiped almost everyone’s memory of Wonder Woman! At least Flashpoint is self-contained, whereas the other two are the DCU status quo until the story’s over. If a post-Flashpoint reboot means Wonder Woman goes straight from “the alteration to history gets resolved” to “Whoops, here comes another one!” then I won’t be impressed…

    Actually, Flashpoint struck me as more It’s A Wonderful Flash than Age of Flashpocalypse, possibly because it’s Barry himself who remembers how things should be.

  16. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Yeah, the problem with Heroes for Hope style books is that they always end up saying “Help with this real social problem, because by doing so you are aiding us in our fight against a made-up villain”…

  17. Bog Oldman says:

    “Lethargic Lad” , by Greg Hyland, had a pi issue. I don’t know if any other series had one.

    I’m suprised you didn’t mention Marvel’s stealthy page count reduction. Every Marvel comic I bought last week only had 20 story pages.

  18. Kelvin,

    For its time, AoA was a pretty novel approach. Yeah, Elseworlds weren’t new, but taking the existing line and putting all the characters in different situations? A bit different. It wasn’t like Flashpoint, with random forgotten characters showing up. AoA largely took the existing cast of characters from all the X-books and shuffled them around, with a few inspired additions here and there (Wildchild, Exodus, Quicksilver). \

    Even if some of the stories were lackluster (X-Caliber), all of them had pretty great art (Joe Mad, both Kuberts, Skroce, Epting), and some of the stories were pretty damn cool (Generation Next), if sometimes vapid (Weapon X).

  19. maxwell's hammer says:

    a) I still have very fond memories of the Age of Apocalypse. As mentioned above, the “Generation Next” book was phenomenal. If there are any full collections out there, it is well worth reading. I’m kind of getting a knack to re-read it myself, and I NEVER read my old comics!

    b) I’m pretty sure the Rapture actually did happen, but Illyana was able to send Bishop back in time to kill Legion, so everything was back to normal before anybody noticed.

    c) I was actually looking quite forward to the “Cloak & Dagger” mini, but I’m not really into buying a Spider-Man event tie-in. I wish somebody would just write a book about Tyrone and Tandy doing their own thing.

  20. maxwell's hammer says:

    Oh, amidst that roll call of great artists, Michael forgot to mention Chris Bachalo was doing some of his best work ever on the “Generation Next” title.

  21. kelvingreen says:

    Okay. I note that AoA‘s sprawling enough to be collected in four volumes at £15 each. Still worth it?

  22. kelvingreen says:

    Sorry, that came off as more abrupt than I intended. Thanks for the discussion so far.

  23. James Moar says:

    You could probably skip vol. 1 of the collected edition — it consists largely of later-written prequels, and vol. 2 has a logical starting point.

  24. Paul O'Regan says:

    Yeah, I’d skip Volume One of AoA. It’s all just prequel stuff that came out later on, and isn’t necessary for the story.

    It does have some VERY early Brian K Vaughan work though.

  25. I know you will all laugh, but Canadian politics took a dark turn for real 3 weeks ago when the Conservative Party won the majority of seats after 6 years of minority gouvernment, even if 60% of voters voted against them. The PC hold the power before, but not with THAT BUNCH of Conservatives. These ones are much closer to American Republicans and are anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-oil and even Christian Creationists. They hate public broadcasting and funding culture. As a TV screenwriter whose business rely on public funding, I am really afraid and I don’t recognize my good old Canada.

    So we’re entering our very own “Dark Reign”.

  26. Thrills says:

    Generation Next is far and away the best Age of Apocalypse story, I reckon (Prime Bachalo art, general air of hopeless sadness), followed by X-Calibre (Warren Ellis doing his 90s X-thing, with free reign for his grimness), and Factor X (just good mullety alternate earth fun).

    Not really read many of the other series, but I know I found a lot of the ones I’ve read in the cheap section of various comic shops…

  27. moose n squirrel says:

    Age of Apocalypse is good, trashy fun, and I mean that in the best possible way – all of the wanton excesses of the 90s culminating in some of the most enjoyably over-the-top, yet remarkably well-executed exercises in large-scale superhero smash-em-ups. Even the bad stories have great art and a few good laughs to them.

    It’s amazing to look back at it, though, and realize how conservative that story was, structurally speaking, compared to the true monstrosities editorial boards would dream up in the zeroes. AOA was limited to the X-books, lasted only four months, and then went away (aside from a handful of walking hangovers like Nate Grey). The same project today would necessarily be a line-wide crossover lasting half a year, spinning into a dozen regular titles with a dozen more spin-off minis and an ending that sets up next summer’s big event.

  28. The original Matt says:

    I think that’s why most look back at AoA with a fondness. It was a huge, ambitious story that got to do all the excesses and character studies it wanted, but it was very structured.

    I really recommend any modern comic readers who have not read AoA to do so. Maybe you had to be there to really get the most out of it, but it was a big deal that (mostly) lived up to it’s hype without overstaying it’s welcome.

  29. Suzene says:

    I’m mostly impressed that Al knows to call Sasquatch by “Langkowski”. 😉

    And yes, he hit on the head there…when fans ask about an Alpha Flight book, what we’re asking for is the classic line-up, not a book of new characters no one knows or cares about that maybe possibly will be guest-starring the old team at some point. (That they were mostly not terribly well-written in terms of the new characters or the old didn’t help.)

    I disagree that Heather didn’t have a role — between her custody worries and her relationship with Kara, they seem to be nudging her toward the “team mom” role. Not sure I like it given that Heather’s actually lead the team longer than her often-dead husband, but FVL is a huge Alpha Flight fan, so I’m willing to trust he and Pak will do right by the team.

  30. The original Matt says:

    Have Alpha Flight been ressurected yet?

  31. Max says:

    Alpha Flight Vol 2 was underrated. It could have benefited from better art and it had to rush to wrap things up towards the end though.

  32. ZZZ says:

    That tagline for Spider Island is ludicrous. If everyone had spider powers, Peter Parker would still be the only one with experience using them, membership in the FF and Avengers, and web-shooters, so yeah, I’m guessing he’d still be Spider-Man. It’s like asking “If just anyone could shoot a gun, would Frank Castle still be the Punisher?”

    Of course, I think you did inadvertantly hit on something with your “with ordinary responsibility…” line, in that Parker’s whole raison d’etre is the idea that if you’re the only one who can solve a problem, you have a responsibility to do it, but how much responsibility would he still have when everyone else can do the things he can do? If they focus on the idea that the police and paramedics and firefighters now have his powers, it could be an interesting character study, but you know they’ll just focus on criminals having powers or civillians getting into fights with each other now that they have the power to back up their anger. Besides, I’d think Spider Island woudl have to be the status quo for a long time before Spidey decided he wasn’t needed anymore. Long enough for spider powers to become a fact of life, and not just the latest problem to solve.

    By the way, if they really want to do this right, I hope they remember to give Hawkeye and Captain America and Mockingbird and the Punisher and Black Panther etc. spider powers, and don’t come up with some lame excuse why superheroes aren’t affected (though I can buy ones who already have powers being immune to the new ones).

    Oh, and the latest Avengers sets up the Hawkeye/Spider-Woman pairing. They don’t appear to be killing off Mockingbird (she’s in the issue) just assuming that their on-again-off-again relationship is currently off.

  33. alex says:

    “So we’re entering our very own “Dark Reign”.”

    but at least you’ll have possibly a Canadian Stanley Cup winner.

  34. Jerry Ray says:


    Was Alpha Flight volume 2 the one by Seagle with Flex et al? I enjoyed that one quite a lot myself, actually. Pretty good book that I wish had lasted longer. (Better than most of the original run of Alpha Flight, actually, which without Byrne was pretty dire.)

  35. sam says:

    I agree that volume 2 of Alpha Flight was pretty good, but I’d go further on the art…it’s truly awful in the early issues. Horribly miscast 90s Image-style art, on a book that really needed someone who could protray claustrophoic tension and paranoia, which was what the book was all about. Instead everyone looked like they belonged in the music video for “Let’s Get Physical.” (The later issues’ had Duncan Rouleau artwork, which is controversial but certainly improvement on the early stuff.)

  36. Max says:

    Jerry, yeah that’s the one. With Flex, Radius and Murmer. I enjoyed it, and I had never read an issue of Alpha Flight in my life at the time.

  37. Jack says:

    AOA worked because every book had a point; every book had a clear beginning, middle, and end, and read as though they were actually planned out in advance (unusual for ’90s X-Books, or Marvel, more generally). Each could be read in isolation (except for the Jean Grey bit), but also contributed to the overarching storyline. The art was fantastic, and the writers really did some of their best work.

    Generation Next was the best by far, but they are all worth reading.

    Ignore anything that was published after X-Men: Omega, however. All of the sequels and prequels were bad.

  38. Paul says:

    I’m not sure EVERY book had a point. A couple of titles, like Excalibur and X-Force, seemed to have just been shoved in for the sake of completeness. But it’s certainly true that Age of Apocalypse started out as a story idea which was developed into an event, and not vice versa.

  39. Valhallahan says:

    Just another bit of praise for Generation Next. I reread it recently and it still stand up. I bought Vol. 1 of the trades and like someone said earlier it’s largely later written prequells which were a mostly rubbish and totally irrelevant. the only particularly decent one being the Dodson/Janson prequel which came out at the time.

    The only thing I found jarring on a reread was the super hero costumes, why would they bother with the spandex? I know it’s aArtistic licence and it would look too grim withouot though.

    Also I’ll put myself down for the “Participation in a crossover puts me off a new series camp”, there are so many series I would’ve tried otherwise.

  40. Jacob says:

    To balance out the awesome Gen neXt did give us the Sugarman who looks like a McFarlane toy design, has one of those annoying powersets and…yeah…Sugarman grrrrr.

    Always wished Abyss got more use after AoA, even though his design could fill the same points that pisses me off about Sugarman, I always liked his visual.

  41. sam says:

    Yeah, I think even the X-office was shocked by how well the Age of Apocalypse turned out. At least, when it was over, it seems like they had no idea what to do next. X-Factor imploded after that, X-Force as well (although the Adam Pollina art was nice). Generation X hadn’t been a plot-heavy book, but completely lost direction after that. The two main X-titles got (ugh) Gene Nation.

    And the characters that “survived” the Age of Apocalypse…never really did anything. OK, the Dark Beast took the real Beast’s place, but nothing came of it. Sugarman faded into the background (deservedly so, though I guess he’s back now). And Nate Grey…well, I’m sure he has his defenders, and the Grant/Ellis/Olivetti stuff was interesting, but he always seemed like a cipher to me.

    I’m trying to remember any good stories that came in next two years or so after the age of apocalpyse, and drawing a blank. This period corresponded with Fabian Nicieza’s departure from the X-books. Maybe that’s not a coincidence. Not all of his stories were great, but he understood the characters and kept you emotionally invested. Not so much Jeph Loeb and Howard Mackie.

  42. Max says:

    I’m didn’t think the Grant/Ellis/Olivetti X-Man stuff was interesting, but a lot of people kept insisting it was at the time.

  43. The original Matt says:

    Post AoA jumped right into the build for Onslaught, didn’t it?

  44. sam says:

    Yep, that was a big part of the problem.

  45. The original Matt says:

    The build only sucks because the end result sucked. The build, while it was happening, did give the feeling something huge was around the corner. So in that instance, the post AoA world only turned to shit when Onslaught itself didn’t work.

    I seem to remember people not caring too much about the actual stories at that point, cause we were all looking for clues about Onslaught. What a naive bunch we were, back then. We really didn’t realise it was all being made up on the fly.

  46. re: Alpha Flight. As a Canadian, I’ll grant that, unlike Paul has commented about Dark Reign, the writers seem to have matched the comic book to real world political mood (although as they acknowledged in an interview with our national magazine Macleans, it was a fluke more than any actual planning on their part). My worry is that it will turn out like the typical Marvel depiction of Eastern Europe–ie. demonstrate that the writers have never bothered to find out what it is actually like. But Pak and Van Lente have built up a little bit of credit with me, so we’ll see how the first issue goes.

  47. Thomas Zeitner says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate for the various incarnations of Doom Patrol/Alpha Flight, I believe that creators are forever trying to recreate the lightning in a bottle that is Giant Size X-Men #1. The end result, unfortunately, usually looks like the end of Flashpoint #2.

  48. Thomas Zeitner says:

    HAHA! Right after I type that, Paul offers the same example.

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