Heroes and Villains: Multiple Man #1, Astro City #52 + more

In this installment of Heroes & Villains I’m taking a trip BACK to last week since it’s the Fourth of July and there’s nothing important happening in comics this week. Nothing at all.

Multiple ManMultiple Man #1
Matthew Rosenberg (W)
Andy MacDonald (A)
Marvel

When Grant Morrison concluded his legendary run on New X-Men I fell out of love with the X-titles… With one notable exception, 2005’s MadroX. 

I had been following the character since Peter David reinvented him for his version of X-Factor some time in the 90’s. David had taken a fairly one-note character (a mutant who can create duplicates of himself) and infused him with a real personality. So, I was understandably overjoyed when David did the MadroX miniseries which was in turn followed by a(nother) relaunch of X-Factor shortly thereafter. 

Eventually, that run of X-Factor came to an end as things always do and there was no more Multiple Man in the MCU. (Side note: Apparently, they killed him off in some 2016 X-Men crossover book that I missed because of me not reading X-books. Whoops. Anyways, doesn’t matter because comics!)

I’m sure there’s a contingent of comic book fan out there who, if given the chance to write this column, would approach the new Multiple Man book by Matthew Rosenberg and Andy MacDonald with what could politely be called trepidation. Impolitely, it could be called monosyllabic vitriol along the lines of “NO ONE’S GONNA WRTE MY GUY BETTER THAN THE LAST GUY WHO WROTE MY GUY BECAUSE THAT GUY WAS TH BEST!!!!11!”

Well, that ain’t me. 

Comics are about change and choice and in this case multiple choice. Nothing in comics is static. It’s a constantly mutating art form and when someone comes along with a fresh take on a character I dig… I’m here for it. 

I loved Multiple Man in a way I haven’t loved an X-book in a long, long time. Last year I was pretty taken with Rosenberg’s 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank so I was stoked to find out he was taking on this book. It would also seem that I’ve slept on some of the OTHER X-books he has written or will be writing. So I’ve got some reading to do.

Like some of my favorite Multiple Man stories of the past, this one involves a mystery and a healthy dose of humor. I happy that the new guy is doing justice to my guy and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Astro CityAstro City #52
Kurt Busiek (W)
Brent Anderson (A)
DC

If you haven’t read Astro City by now, you are extremely late to the party. 

Astro City has been in publication in one form or another since 1995 and I’ve been reading it for almost as long. I’m more than comfortable in saying that it’s probably one of the best takes on superheroes ever put to the page.

For those that are unfamiliar with the book, it’s an anthology focusing on a fictional city with a staggering amount of super folk running around. Characters drift in and out of the series, costumes change, sidekicks take up the mantle of their mentors and it’s all happening over the span of decades.

Heroes and other supporting characters all age in accordance with current calendar year and this is fully on display in last week’s issue 52 which just so happens to be the end of the series as a monthly title. 

Picking up with Michael Tenicek, a normal, everyday guy introduced in Astro City #1/2 (which was published as an exclusive mail-away book from Wizard magazine. Remember Wizard?) back in 1996, we see what’s happened to him over the last twenty-two years. 

Now, if you find yourself asking why you would want to read about some dude in a city full of superheroes, you obviously haven’t read The Nearness of You, the story in which he first appeared. There’s only been a few comic books that have stuck with me for years after reading them, and this was one of them.

This is a fitting end to the book and while I’m a little sad to see it go as a monthly, it will be relaunched soon as line of original graphic novels where the creative team will have more room to flex their considerable storytelling muscles.

BatmanDC’s 100 Page Giants

In the “Hey, Kids! Comics!” category, I’m going to take a look at DC’s latest initiative to entice new, younger readers into the filthy, unwashed ranks of comic book collecting.

If you haven’t heard, DC teamed up with Wal-Mart to launch an exclusive series of books for the retailer. No matter how you feel about Wal-Mart, I think we can all agree that they are EVERYWHERE. 

It’s a somewhat inspired move because not everyone has access to a friendly neighborhood comic shop, and walking into one of those places can be a daunting prospect for your average citizen. Having seen approximately five minutes of The Big Bang Theory once I can safely say that show set Nerd-Normals relations back thirty years.

This past Saturday, I set out to the local Wal-Mart to find one of these 100 Page Giant books and here’s what I found: 1) If I pick a point on the compass and drive ten minutes in any direction from my home, I can find a Wal-Mart. 2) I wish it were as easy to find the books inside the store.

Once inside the store, I made a beeline to the book section, because comic books = books! Right? WRONG. I didn’t find the comics I was looking for, but I did find an unsurprising amount of magazines about guns and a surprising amount of bibles (more than one!). Incidentally, happy birthday, America.

Undeterred, I proceeded to the toy section as the next logical spot for comics. Still nothing. I then strafed the checkout aisles and found not even a single Archie digest. This was distressing. How were the kids supposed to READ the comics if they couldn’t FIND them?

Finally, I spotted an area between the regally checkouts and the U-Scans. An area populated by collectible card games and Pop! Vinyl figures. An area where I can only assume kids congregate to play jacks while their parents shop. And there they were…

Placed at eye-level for me, an adult man. They were tossed at the top of the shelf as kind of an afterthought in a tiny cardboard stand containing four titles: Batman, Superman, Teen Titans, and Justice League. 

Now that I’ve made it ABUNDANTLY clear what a pain in the ass they were to find, how were they?

I ended up snagging three of the four titles (but only because I just bought a Teen Titans  collected edition that had much of the same material in it) and they were surprisingly good! Each edition contains a brand new story along with some reprints of the best stuff DC has to offer right now. The price can’t be beat either, $5.99 for ONE HUNDRED PAGES of comics. Compare that to the $3.99 for 30 pages of a normal book and it’s a damn value you cannot deny.

The original stories included were good fun and perfect for a kid who just wants “a Batman book.” Plus, several of the editions I picked up pointed readers to visit a website where they could locate their local comic shop which is great!

I really hope Wal-Mart wises up and puts these books in an easier to find place so they can be accessible for the next generation of comic book readers they’re half-assedly trying to create. 

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