I Decide!

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Guest Writer: Uatu, the Watcher of Earth

I am The Watcher. I see all that occurs on Earth. I have recorded its history, and observed its inhabitants for millennia. As per my duties, I have also watched, heard, and read every form of entertainment, for society can be changed by its culture, and negative cultural influence can spread like a virus among people.

Though I am pledged not to interfere, your nation has reached a turning point in its history. I may share my observations, the choice is ultimately yours.

Earlier this year, the Marvel Comics Company announced a competition between three new comic books: A re-launched 'Captain Marvel', 'Ultimate Adventures', and 'Marville'. The best-selling of these books after six months would remain in publication. The least-selling would be cancelled, and its creator humiliated at a comic convention. But there is more at stake that the sales of a funny-book, for this contest has provided the means for you and your people to utterly destroy yourselves!

But first, let me show you what I've seen. And may the creator guide you.

Captain Marvel #1
Written by Peter David, Art by Chriscross

The son of the first Captain Marvel gets a new beginning, but loses his mind. The premise of the book, how Earthling Rick Jones shares a body with the cosmically-aware Genis, is easily explained in the first three pages. Jones narrates the story of how Genis' awareness of everything in the universe is driving him insane. He performs seemingly unimportant tasks, like helping a dead alien on his way home, without understanding why. Genis only has the strong feeling that these things must be done. When Genis decides to stop a war instead of saving a woman's life, he sees the future that might have been. If Genis had saved that woman, she would have become the greatest peacemaker in the universe, and brought an end to all hatred and hostility. Further visions of possible futures overwhelm Genis, and he collapses. The most powerful individual in the universe is catatonic.

I have always enjoyed the works of the human Peter David. From his legendary chronicling of the Hulk, to his brief work on 'X-Factor', and even 'Trancers' movies. This new take on Captain Marvel promises to be very interesting. The humor and self-knowledge of the previous series are absent. And the non-inked art by Chriscross is stunning. The team of Chriscross and Sotomayor is the equal of Slavador Larocca, and creates a unique visual style rarely seen in American comics. I foresee a great future for this series, and your people, if this book wins.

Ultimate Adventures #1
Written by Ron Zimmerman, Art by Duncan Fegredo

A teen-age orphan named Hank Kipple is unhappy living at the orphanage. Although quite intelligent, his willful personality creates conflicts between himself and the home's caregivers. Hank meets the vigilante Hawk-Owl when the hero chases two burglars into the orphanage. He even helps Hawk-Owl catch the criminals. The next day, a billionaire named Danner comes to adopt one of the children. After Hank asks some tough questions and insults him, Danner decides to adopt Hank.

The similarities between this story and those of the Batman are obvious. Zimmerman is writing a satire of the hero/sidekick relationship for which Batman and Robin are the model. One assumes that billionaire orphan Danner is the masked man Hawk-Owl. But Danner's behavior challenges that assumption. He is unfocussed, insecure, immature, and nervous. He's like a child himself in many ways. And unlike Batman, he doesn't believe his parents were murdered. (Danner's Aunt and butler do, and try to convince him.) Either Danner is not the Hawk-Owl, or he's very good at maintaining a secret identity.

I confess I have not always enjoyed Zimmerman's work in the past. I found his Punisher story to be ridiculous, and had no interest in his Spider-Man comics. But this book, with its very human characters, warm humor, and promise of mystery, is actually quite good. And Fegredo's art creates and atmosphere of gritty reality. The characters look as human as they act. I was expecting this to be the worst of the three, but instead it's a close second. I would like to see the story continued even if it did not win.

Marville #1
Written by Bill Jemas, Art by Mark Bright & Paul Neary

In the year 5002, the planet AOLon is about to be destroyed by a meteor storm. The planet's owner, Ted Turner, sends his only son KalAOL into the past, to the year 2002. There, KalAOL tries to fight crime with his lack of superpowers. Through incredible luck and coincidence, he actually stops three crimes (all committed by the same man), gets a lot of money, and moves in with a hot redhead. (I may be an immortal, all-seeing being who's a thinly disguised proxy for God, but I'm not dead!)

The internal logic of the story defies itself. The book begins with a text page explaining the inside jokes, such as who Paul Levitz is, and his relationship to AOL-Time-Warner. But such humor could only appeal to people who already know this information. Explaining the joke to someone before you tell it kills the joke. And if the joke has to be explained it wasn't funny in the first place. The story doesn't even begin, and already Jemas has broken two of the most basic rules of comedy.

The book's tone is juvenile and simple-minded. It feels like schoolyard name-calling. The jokes are simple and obvious. There's very little wit or originality to the humor. This book is supposed to be a parody of the outrageous events that comprise superhero origins, but that story element is unfocused and underdeveloped.

Adding to the tragedy is the art of Mark Bright and Paul Neary. It's wonderful. It's some of the most beautiful, realistic, and best-colored work in recent memory. To pay these men to put so much time and talent into an inferior product is a crime. I hope Jemas has promised these artists work on a better book in the future. Perhaps they could take over 'Iron Man' or 'The Avengers'. Or Neary could reunite with Bryan Hitch on 'The Ultimates'. I hope they get a better book soon, because this work will stain their career for years.

In accordance with this website I ward the following ratings:
Captain Marvel (Vol. 4):
Ultimate Adventures:

Oh yes, I said this contest might lead to your doom. Heed my warning, Earthlings: Should 'Marville' win this contest, you will have proven yourselves incapable of aesthetic judgment, and I shall destroy you before you infect intergalactic culture with your inferior entertainment!

Choose wisely.

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