A-Z

My Marvel Life Presents: A-Z of Comics part 5 – E

E is for Executioner

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The Executioner, the man called Skurge first appeared in Journey into Mystery #103 working in tandem with Amora the Enchantress and appeared several times with her as a Thor villains who ofttimes battled the Avengers. Strong as any Asgardian, armoured and wielding a mystical axe he is…

..lets be honest, an uninspired villain. But this isn’t his hook for me is something else. Now hands up who has ever been in love/lust with someone. OK, put your hands down if you have done something stupid because of that at some point in your life. Those with their hands still up .. are LIARS! Love makes fools of us all. Skurge’s great crime is falling in love with the wrong woman. Brutish? Yes. Prone to violence? Yes again. But his worth character flaw is letting the little head call the shots. She had him around her little finger from day one and made him her bitch, whenever Thor didn’t.

He became a joke. This battle hardened warrior was laughed at, his name and reputation devalued, all because he wanted a woman who had little love for him. We can all get that right? The thing worth knowing about Skurge isn’t his fall from grace, but his hero moment.

Thor had journeyed into Niefelheim along with a mass of warriors from Asgard, to rescue some modern men from Midgard (Earth) and managed to and was on the run from the hordes loyal to Hela. Between them and freedom was a long road, with the bridge at Gjallerbru in the middle. Hela’s hordes would catch up, unless someone held them at the bridge. Thor goes to do it, but is knocked out by Skurge, who takes his place. Taking some modern weapson, Skurge the Executioner admits he was a joke, but knows Thor is too important to lose here. So carrying a pair of M16s, he stood at Gjallerbru and faced the hordes of Hel. And he held the bridge.

Love makes fools of us all, but in the right place and the right time, fools can become legends.

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When I think of the Executioner, I think of that bridge and that moment, he lived a joke, but died a hero.

That’s a way of saying read Walt Simonson’s Thor run, it’s EPIC and fantastically good.

E is for Excalibur

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Released in the late 1980’s Excalibur was the 3rd spin off from the main Uncanny X-Men series. Excalibur was the brainchild of X-Men scribe of legend Chris Claremont and artist of the swoopiest of hair, Alan Davis. Using the left over X-characters from Uncanny X-Men such as Kitty ‘Shadowcat’ Pryde, Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Wagner and Rachel ‘Phoenix’ Summers. This series added Marvel UK characters Meggan and Brian ‘Captain Britain’ Braddock and forged a team at home in the high octane action as it was in the flat out ludicrous. The covers were funny, the art was gloriously sunny and the stories had an absurd eccentricity that was inherently English, but fit this series so well.

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Under Alan Davis, the series was fun and entertaining with a focus on the strange and comical, while later writer Warren Ellis gave it a more grim and 90’s sensibility with the introduction of British spy Pete Wisdom. After Ben Raab took over, well lets just say Davis and Ellis were high points and leave it at that. People remember New Mutants fondly and regard X-Factor well enough, but Excalibur’s often overlooked, it shouldn’t be. It’s comical, exciting, dramatic and above all, fun. Isn’t that what comics are supposed to be?

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E is for Events

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They can draw you into a comic series you’ve never read, or simply be the death-knell of your interest in a comic. It can be a dramatic story that thrills and excites, or a blatant cash grab by a cynical industry.

Yes events are here. It’s hard to even consider talking about comics without mentioning them. They are often the sales pillars which prop the comics industry up, whilst also preventing new readers from stopping by. Done well they can mark a moment in history and define what comics can be for years to come. Done badly they are whatever Fear Itself ended up being. Now here’s where I have to get a bit anal about the whole thing.

When I say events, I don’t mean just crossovers, either with a guest star and then a return in the guest’s book later, nor a multi-part crossover between two or more titles an example of this would have been the classic Avengers/Defenders war. I mean the 6-9 part plus large scale crossover events, with a main series, tie ins and the like. The first of these could be said to be Marvel Super heroes Secret Wars from 1985. Secret Wars was a 12 issue series written to tie in with a toy line and that’s pretty much as it read. The same year DC Comics did Crisis on Infinite Earths and the gold standard was set.

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DC did one a year after that, Legends, Millenium, Invasion and many others. Marvel’s X-Men also did plenty of these stories: Mutant Massacre, Inferno and others. They were big, loud, moderately expensive and for the most part entertaining, not all of them though (Yes Phalanx Covenant and Genesis, I am looking at you) and there really wasn’t anything wrong with them, even the bloated clone sage and the ri-Donk-ulous Age of Apocalypse have their high points, but ten years ago that began to change.

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With Dan Didio taking the reins at DC and Joe Quesada maintaining his grip on Marvel, these two decided to up their game against one another and used their superstar writers (DC’s Geoff Johns and Marvels Brian Michael Bendis) as sort of writers for the universe as a whole. All of a sudden each comics universe had it’s own storyline, not just the individual comics and things were not going to go well for our heroes, or indeed our wallets.

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Bendis fired the first shot with his relaunch of Avengers and the sense of impending doom that seemed to go along with it. Before we knew what was happening, Mark Millar brought us Civil War (which I am only mentioning in passing, because I want to keep the swearing down to a  minimum, I may do a post one day, but explicit is the word for that one) It changed cross overs forever. The era of EVENTS was here. There was the main story as it had always been. But now there were spin off books, tie-ins to EVERY comic in the line. In the past, you could just avoid a title or two and wait for the series to end, now you have to leave the comics altogether for months at a time. DC countered with Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, which also had ties and spin off series to go with it. It didn’t end there,  after the event was the aftermath. I’ll stick to Marvel here for ease. Secret War, led to Civil War, which led to the Initiative, which led to Secret Invasion, which led to Dark Reign, which led to Siege, which led to whatever the hell Fear Itself was and…. well you get the idea. Rather than be a framework for the stories in individual comics, the Marvel universe was now a continuous narrative and if you were not getting the ‘key’ series, then you missed out.

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DC have gone back to the more thematic events, Rebirth being the latest and that is for the most part very enjoyable, but Marvel still follow the EVENTS model, which as the overblown Avengers vs X-Men, Secret Wars (2014) and the inevitable Civil War II. Seeing Civil War II on the horizon, I cut my ties with current Marvel. The comics industry call it Event Fatigue, I call it liking to read a story, enjoying it and moving on. It’s like comics have homework now. I’m not interested in EVENTS, there’s only so high the stakes can go. Once universes and multiverses have been destroyed, it’s hard to give a toss about Team Iron Man and Team Captain Marvel after all.

Stories don’t have to be, or to ties into EVENTS to matter, they just have to be good.

E is for Elf with a gun

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Wow, that one went on for a while there.

 

Next Time: F

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