5 min read

Action Mystery Adventure

In which a fire elf gets rowdy.
A panel from DEFENDERS BEYOND, out this week in trade paperback.
You'd be surprised what can be.

Another week, another insane set of deadlines! I've calculated everything out and there's no way in heaven or hell I have time to give more than half an hour to this thing this week, which is going to mean a semi-retirement for the time-consuming FAB FIVE slot and the birth of a strange new way of padding out the newsletter. What way is that, you ask? To be furthered! But first...


VENOM #17, that's what!

The cover to VENOM #17, by Bryan Hitch, showing Eddie, Venom and Bedlam melting into each other.
The three amigoos.

In which Eddie Brock - or what's left of him - returns to the other-dimensional demon playground of Limbo and completes a weird trans-temporal crossover I started off in an issue of THOR many, many moons ago. I'm joined for that by my old chum-in-crime CAFU, who old friends will remember from VALKYRIE - last time we created Mr. Horse, what abomination will we curse the Marvel Universe with this time? Buy it and find out, True Believer! There's some fun storytelling trickery in this that I won't spoil, but I will spoil that the title, apropos of nothing in the story, is "Temptation", because I thought that was funny. (The joke will be explained when I play us out.)

What else is hitting a store near you? Only the trade paperback edition of DEFENDERS BEYOND!

The cover for DEFENDERS BEYOND, replicating the cover for #1.
Presented here in glorious 3D and also with a weird black line because I don't have time to tidy it up.

This was a second 100-page magnum opus I did with one of my very favorite co-storytellers, Javier Rodriguez, and this was absolutely as much his baby as mine. The first series was very complete in and of itself, while this one sets up a few bits and pieces that will be touched on elsewhere - a result of us guessing wrong in both cases about whether Marvel would want any more. So it goes. But if Defenders Beyond is about anything, it's about the joy of the journey - the cosmic truth the Defenders travel to find is necessarily unreadable by mortal eyes, but in travelling to get there, the team uncovers truths about their universe, universes beyond, the larger nature of God, and even themselves. I'm not saying you will too if you pick this up - but hey! I'm not saying that won't happen either.

One thing I will say - if somebody on YouTube tells you they know what this is about and they're going to "explain" it to you, run away. For one thing, you should form your own opinion of the work, and for another, everything these video people say is wrong. I mean, everyone's entitled to their own opinion of the work, and all's fair in love and content... but yeesh! Coming away from issue #4 of DB thinking I'm arguing for rebooting Marvel is some next-level misinterpretation. Read it again, pally!

Anyway. Speaking of continuity, I don't have time for another Fab Five this week, because I'd need to find five songs, list them, write about them, etc, it's just not happening tonight. Instead, let me start a little something I call...


In which I'm going to go through the entirety of Marvel Comics, panel by panel, and write about each panel in turn - starting with the cover to MARVEL COMICS #1.

The cover to Marvel Comics #1, showing the Human Torch melting out of a bank vault.

The cover to ACTION COMICS #1 merited a whole section in Grant Morrison's Supergods, but I'm giving myself a ten-minute timer, so you won't get that. It's full stream of consciousness, starting... now.

Boy howdy, that's a lot of pink! I'm betting it printed differently on old newsprint, but that's a pink I'm a fan of. Pink and yellow - the colors of a penny sweet, like a Refresher or a Fruit Salad. We're in the realm of childhood. What's the pink saying to us? "ACTION         MYSTERY       ADVENTURE", tapped out like a ouija board. Intoned, the way Spider-Man would spookily intone things when Stan Lee decided he wasn't going to end sentences with full stops or exclamation marks. I guess I'll get to those panels in eighty years or so. But a promise is being made here. We're getting action, we're getting mystery, we're getting adventure. And MYSTERY is front and center - the heart of it. The Mystery we're journeying into. This is why I like Marvel better than DC, honestly - DC knows its important, it's a classical tarot, all spread out, Marvel is the entrails of birds, random signs and portents.

Speaking of portents - look at that image! Again, the comparison is begged with Superman, but Superman this ain't, or Captain America. Who's even the hero on this cover? The guy in the comfy sweater who looks right out of central casting for a "heroic college football" movie? Or the deranged, grinning fire imp? That is not the look of a superhero. That's the look of a demonic creature summoned from the depths of hell. Bullets don't stop it! I'm going to draw your attention back to that gol-dang cardigan. On covers to come, the crooks would have the decency to dress like crooks - they'd be unshaven, they'd have scars and fedoras and tommy guns and signifiers. It's only the weight of all the history to come that tells us this must be a bad guy, and the blazing thing, this weird elf from the fiery pit, is somehow the good guy.

I cannot stress enough how this monster is reaching to burn that poor college footballer alive. Hey, kids, welcome to Mighty Marvel.

By the time I come to write the thousandth issue of this thing - thanks, Tom, that was a good gig - the Human Torch has been cemented in stone, fictionally and figuratively, the flaming monster sealed into a box, bounded by story, and made safe for mankind. That has not happened yet. The year is 1939, the world is about to explode, you have ten cents, and there is a flaming demon bursting through a bank vault to fry some jock in a sweater and he's promising you ACTION   MYSTERY   ADVENTURE. And twelve pages of Ka-Zar.

Alea jacta est. Make Mine Marvel.


We're through another week, so this is still the place to find me. Love and strength to all those who need it - and I'll play us out with "TEMPTATION" by HEAVEN 17.

Adorable creatures with unacceptable features.