Ambidextrous 309: Chicago Con Afterthoughts, Ultimate Comics


So, I actually had some fun at this year’s Wizard World Chicago/Chicago Comic-Con/Whatever We’re Calling It Now…

Usually, in the shadow of the beast that’s become San Diego Comic-Con International, going to this show feels like a tired ritual, something my friends and I do strictly because it’s a local show and easy to reach. This year we all skipped SD and decided this would then be our one show of the summer, so you combine that with Craig Cermak (one of the aforementioned "my friends") and I splitting a table in Artist's Alley, and things felt a little different this time around. Which just happened to be the prevailing theme for the entire show, which saw some major changes in both the floor layout and guest list from years past.

Without the presence of Marvel and DC on the main floor, the real action was back with the creators in the Alley, and it looked like the bigger guys in attendance (Frank Cho, J. Scott Campbell, Rob Liefeld, etc.) were doing extremely well with commissions, sketchbooks, and the like. Craig and I did very well too, especially on Saturday when the show floor got really packed. He moved tons of prints and booked a good handful of commissions that day, which included a pretty dope Batman, a nice Captain America, and a really cool Metamorpho, believe it or not. Craig just finished his first year at the Joe Kubert School, is anxiously looking forward to his second, and his work has already grown tremendously in just the last year. Might post a link to his Deviant Art page in the next couple weeks for anyone interested.  

Coolest thing for me though, were all the people that came to the table with their own copies of Miranda #295 for me to sign. When it dropped awhile back, it seemed like the book was in relatively short supply, but so many people had them already, that it really confirmed my suspicions about how important a strong pre-ordering initiative will be for us going forward. But it was great to see, and Miranda and Robin #167 were the books flying off the table, which was great as that's my most recent material. Next year should be good fun, as I hope to be coming back with Miranda hardcovers and things for sale. Everyone joked about the wrestlers and "celebrities" moving into pole position on the con floor, but if this truly marks the beginning of this show turning into a more creator driven affair, I think a lot of people would be cool with it. Especially with C2E2 coming next spring, which will be a massive event for both the comics industry and Chicago. It's change or die time for Wizard World, but this could turn into an effective counter-program for San Diego, as it's slowly engulfed by the pop culture it spotlights.         

Lightning In A Bottle

Much has been said about the Ultimate Comics banner, and whether or not it's really necessary to kick-start the imprint with number one issues. From a creative standpoint, it makes sense, as the kind of "anything goes, nothing is sacred" mentality of the original Ultimate books has slowly crept into the more traditional Marvel U, making the distinctions between the two universes more cosmetic than thematic. And though it'll be impossible to perfectly replicate all of the things that originally made the line a huge success, a few creative tweaks and some re-focusing should restore the main titles to the sales and critical prominence they once enjoyed. Those 3.99 cover prices will make the former a little easier to hit presumably.  

Bottom line, the first issues of Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate Avengers were pretty great for a couple different reasons. I think Bendis in particular really took advantage of the opportunity to start things slightly fresh, without compromising any of the elements that made the book enjoyable for over 100 issues. Peter Parker is still Peter Parker, but the effects of Ultimatum are all over the place, especially in the way everyone responds to Spider-Man now. That right there is going to give this series its own unique feel from the 616 interpretation, and at the end of the day, that's what this imprint has always been about. Also glad to see Kingpin fall out a window, as the second he showed up again, I groaned out loud, because I'm tired of seeing him in this book. Hopefully Bendis feels the same way and his plunge will be fatal, though I can kinda see him wheeling around in a huge ass wheelchair, like some twisted and bloated version of Professor X.

Another thing going for this one is David LaFuente, whose style is just perfect for this title. I've been following him from book to book since Cebulski gave him some much deserved props on the Millar board way back, and I know there's been some grumbling about Spidey's "balloon head," or whatever, but personally I love his approach here even more than I did on Hellcat. Some really nice storytelling, facial expressions, and design work to be found, and Mysterio hasn't looked this cool since Joe Quesada drew him a few years ago.

Ultimate Avengers felt like a return to the same kind of vibe and pace of the earlier (and incredibly well-received) The Ultimates and The Ultimates 2. Wide-open panels, big action sequences, some shocking and not-so shocking revelations, and great cliffhangers once again rule the day. I'd be interested in Pacheco drawing pretty much anything, and hopefully all of the characters featured on the final cover will play some role in this initial arc. Also very cool how Millar planted the seed (forgive me) for the Red Skull with that final scene from The Ultimates 2, which always felt to me like a perfect bookend that made the entire run curl back on itself, and now, he uses it to rocket forward into new, uncharted territory. And again, that's Ultimate Comics, love it or hate it.

Last Wednesday…

Knew it wouldn't be too long before Batman crashed through a window and kicked somebody in the face. Let's be real…Kamandi is stunned by a lot more than this mystery girl's speed and skill. Blowing up Superman's house is probably not the best way to get his attention. Also, didn't know Clark slept in his costume. Love that overhead shot of Deadman looking at the bloodied spear poking through his chest. Was Hal Jordan always such a stupid jerk and I never noticed? Gaiman and Allred have really turned it on in recent weeks…how awesome was that board game? Adam Strange's life on Rann is so much cooler than his life on Earth, though both look beautiful when drawn by Paul Pope, so there is that. Aquaman has a sea-shell cell phone!? That's actually sort of weirdly cool. I hope there's at least seven versions of Barry Allen in this strip by the time it ends. The castaways of Oceanic 815 could've used a Hawkman. I love reading the Wonder Woman strip now…always saved for last, and really appreciated the vertical layouts here.

That's all for now folks, sorry for the slightly abbreviated column, but the recent apartment move ate up a little more time than I expected. Probably going to skip next week as well just to get my business in proper order, so I'll see you all soon. Thanks, and one final thing---will I be the only one rushing out to buy a PS3 Slim when it drops in September? That's easily the announcement of the week for me, barely edging past getting digital comics on the PSP. Who ever thought a Nintendo dude could feel so good about Sony?

The Fiction House

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