SOMEDAY THIS WAR'S GONNA END
Thoughts on a Hulked-out She-Hulk, some Forever news, the arrival of a long-awaited Omnibus, another installment of Books From My Basement and more
So I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but now the first evidence has begun to emerge into the world: that I’ve got a whole lot of new stuff getting ready to head your way. And a lot of big collections of my old stuff too. But more on all that in a bit.
First let’s talk about what’s out this week and what it means to me, which is something I’ve wanted to address for a while now.
AVENGERS #48 continues the “World War She-Hulk” storyline. Our first arc of AVENGERS post-HEROES REBORN. An arc I’ve said many times I’m pretty proud of, of how it ties together a lot of the different threads I’ve been exploring for years now, all in the form of a fast-paced, globe-trotting action/espionage story, with absolutely drop-dead stellar visuals from series artist Javier Garrón. Seriously, I think it’s Javier’s best work yet on the series, and probably one of the best overall arcs from my run on AVENGERS.
From the very beginning, a big part of that run has been about exploring a different version of Jennifer Walters, the Jade Giantess, the She-Hulk. This Jen is bigger, she’s Hulkier, with new gamma powers and way more thought balloons. So why stray from the version of the character that most fans best know and love? The confident, sexy, quick-witted Sensational She-Hulk. The one soon to be a star of the small screen.
It’s simple really. I just wanted a Hulk who looked like a Hulk.
When I was first putting together my Avengers roster, I asked for She-Hulk. I’d written the Bruce Banner Hulk before, and I wasn’t really interested in going back to him. But I was intrigued by Jen. And I already knew that the ever-awesome Ed McGuinness was coming on board as the main series artist. One of the all-time greats. Who I’d been lucky enough to work with before on AMAZING X-MEN, where we brought Nightcrawler back to life. And who is perhaps best known for his legendary run on HULK, in particular the Red Hulk storyline. Ed draws great fucking Hulks. Giant muscle-bulging monstrosities with absolutely impossible physiology. Arms the size of tree trunks. Fists that are bigger than their own heads. That’s what a Hulk is to me. That’s what I wanted to see Ed draw. Meanwhile She-Hulk has most often been portrayed as a real-life shapely woman who’s simply been spray-painted green. And look, I love a good, gorgeous, John-Byrne-drawn She-Hulk swimsuit shot as much as the next nerd. But I was much more interested in Jen having Hulk fists the size of her Hulk head for a change. And in her solo series that was still going on when I started writing AVENGERS, Jen was already in a much darker and angrier place. So it all came together to create a version of She-Hulk who was more Hulked out than ever.
Since then, I do think we have sometimes struggled for consistency, in terms of her appearance, across the different artists and different series. I think we didn’t always bring to life the true She-Hulkiness I was hoping for. But with this arc, I feel like things really clicked, and in particular, I think Javier totally nailed it.
Meet the Winter Hulk. She’s even red now too!
So again, not only am I proud of this particular little war story, with its Russian super soldiers and Soviet synthezoids and depressed, alcoholic gorillas, but I’m proud and happy as hell to have been a part of bringing this big-fisted, Hulked-the-hell-out version of Shulkie to life, especially now as I get to get sit back and watch her beat some fucking ass.
AVENGERS #48 is in comic stores today.
Other New Stuff I Got Coming Up Soon
So here’s one big new upcoming thing that just got teased this week, that’ll be spinning out of the pages of the super-colossal comic book behemoth that is AVENGERS #50/750. Here’s the official tease:
Marvel Comics' Avengers Forever pulls together archeologist Tony Stark aka the Invincible Ant-Man and Avengers from across the multiverse to bring order to timelines where 'hope' is a four letter word. Jason Aaron and Aaron Kuder present an all-new series that will redefine the Avengers as…the Multiverse's Mightiest Heroes.
Artist Aaron Kuder is also a big part of AVENGERS #50, and along with Javier designed the new Multiversal Masters of Evil that debuted in the AVENGERS Free Comic Book Day issue and who we’ll be seeing much much more of very soon. Aaron has been exploding with ideas for AVENGERS FOREVER, and given the nature of the series, he and I will be getting to tell all sorts of different stories with all manner of characters, old and new. So I’m super excited to be working with Aaron here, even though part of me still wonders if he’s only on board because he knows that when the book comes out and it has our last names on the cover, it’ll say it’s by Aaron Kuder.
Look for more info on AVENGERS FOREVER sometime next week. With other new announcements to follow.
In terms of other things that are on the way, the long-awaited first Omnibus collection of my THOR run just got advance-solicited and will be hitting shelves in March 2022, boasting 1200 pages of God-Butchering and super goats and hammers with sentient super-storms inside them. It’ll collect the entirety of the THOR: GOD OF THUNDER series and a good chunk of the Jane Foster Thor saga and feature three different equally-lovely covers for you to choose from. Maybe someday all three versions will be collected together in one 3600 page Omnibus of Omnibuses, called the All-bus! But also probably not.
For more info on the THOR Omnibus and the other comics and collections of mine that were included in the latest round of solicitations, including the next volume of the THOR: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION trade paperback series and a new printing of the baby-crib sized WAR OF THE REALMS Omnibus, they’re all conveniently collected for you right here, along with my thoughts.
I’m One of the Old Guard Now
Wait, I should rephrase that. I’m referring of course to THE OLD GUARD, the awesome comic series about a bunch of badass immortals, created by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, which you may have also seen adapted on Netflix. THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME is an anthology series that has the Old Guard crew starring in all new stories from throughout their very long, very violent lives, told by a string of top-notch creators, like Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction and David Walker. That's a pretty All-Star batting order, and last week, with issue #5, artist Rafael Albuquerque and I got to step up to the plate.
I've wanted to work with the amazingly-talented Rafael Albuquerque since he and I first met years ago, sharing drinks together at one of the world's best comic cons, in Avilés, Spain. Seriously, that was one of the most memorable con experiences of my entire life, spent hanging out with fans at gorgeous open-air cafes and going for meals that seemed to last for at least seven hours, then mingling with amazing creators from all over the world in a bar-tent that stayed open until the wee hours of the morning. That week I even took home the coveted Brian Azzarello award, for being the creator who stayed up the latest each and every night. Definitely one of the proudest moments of my career. My Azzy still sits on a shelf right next to my Eisners. Anyway, turns out that whole experience was good research for the story Rafael and I did for THE OLD GUARD, a tale set in the 1970s that focuses on Booker, as he wanders into the wrong sort of church after a particularly wicked Times Square bender.
Like I said, the issue hit stores last week, so see if your local comic shop still has some in stock. If not, you can also buy signed copies from my online store.
I think I barely spoke out loud to anyone at all when I was 13 years old. But Daniel Fee of Dublin, Ireland is 13 and interviewing comic book creators and doing a right awesome job of it.
Books From My Basement
Once again I’ve ventured down among the many long boxes stored in my basement archives and returned with an old comic from my collection. Today it’s a mostly-forgotten series about the most 80s of all 1980s action heroes, who also happens to have two creepy little extra arms.
ROACHMILL was created, written and drawn by Kubert School graduates Rich Hedden and Tom McWeeney, originally appearing in a five issue run for Blackthorne Publishing in 1987-1988, then moving to the newly established Dark Horse Comics for a ten issue run from 1988-1990. At the time, I first discovered the Dark Horse issues, then went back and tracked down all the earlier ones too. I was really big into a lot of those early Dark Horse books, like CONCRETE and BLACK CROSS and THE AMERICAN. Some of those, especially CONCRETE, have held up really well and are still great reads.
ROACHMILL is very much of its time. It’s like if you took all the biggest action movies of the day, from Stallone’s Cobra to James Cameron’s Aliens to Richard Donner and Shane Black’s Lethal Weapon, wadded them all together and smoked them in a crack pipe. It is delightfully balls-to-the-wall about what it is, which is unabashedly tropey, silly and in some ways wildly irreverent. Roachmill, or just “Roach” to his friends, is an Exterminator in the far future who’s licensed to take out all manner of household pests, from insects to aliens to other humans who get on your nerves. In this first issue of his Dark Horse series, “Dog City” Part One, he’s sent to clean out a satellite that’s been overrun by hungry man-eating alien security “drabits.” It’s basically a whole issue of a dude killing space dogs, putting every single one of his four arms to murderous use, all rendered in glorious black and white.
Looking back at ROACHMILL and what maybe drew me to it (other than a dude killing a buncha aliens with his bare hands, all four of them) and what definitely most interests me now is how quickly and wildly it will vary its tone. As the series goes on, the look of the world quickly grows to include characters drawn realistically like Roachmill himself (well except for the two baby roach arms I guess, but you know what I mean), alongside characters with giant cartoonish heads and exaggerated features. And storywise, it’s the exact same way. At times it’s a book that feels solely action-driven, while other times trying to be a bit dark and serious (like when Roachmill goes on the typical 80s action hero hunt for a serial murderer, the Laser Killer, who’s targeting sex workers), and then within the same issue or even the same scene, it’ll shift to outrageous humor or some clever bits of social satire. Maybe it’s all meant to be satire at the end of the day, but there also seems to be plenty of genuine fondness here for some of those 80s action hallmarks. I mean I don’t think you could so whole- heartedly render a whole issue of drabit slaughter if you weren’t getting some kinda joy from it.
But anyway, those kinda freewheeling shifts in tone within the same story really fascinate me. As a writer, I think I’ve always been attracted to doing that when you can make it work. Though in the past, I think for me that was usually confined to how I might mix up the genre from one arc to another on an ongoing series. These days I’m much more interested in seeing how you can maybe weave together wildly different tones within the same story, for a very specific narrative purpose.
But we’ll talk about that more on down the road a bit. It’s kinda interesting though that I’d been thinking about those ideas so much lately, and then I pick up this old comic that I remember liking and suddenly I’m reminded of just how much that tone-shift was a part of the series. The way things imprint on us are kinda fascinating. I think as I continue to re-examine some of these books in my basement, I’ll be struck more and more by how they shaped not just my reading interests but my instincts and ideals as a creator.
Anyway, after ROACHMILL, Hedden and McWeeney had a good run together on THE DEMON for DC and worked on a few different TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES projects for Mirage. As a fan, I seemed to lose track of them after that, but hey, here’s an interview with McWeeney from a couple years ago about the Roachmill move that apparently almost happened.
This has been BEARD MISSIVES, direct from the roach-free face of Jason Aaron.
This week’s newsletter has been brought to you by S. Pellegrino Cocoa and Coffee Flavored Sparkling Water, Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Latte dessert bars, Fox’s “Lego Masters,” the “Who Was Prince?” podcast hosted by Touré (good god, this is great and also devastatingly heartbreaking), the Willy Wonka pop-up bar at Kansas City’s Union Station and the Near Eastern flavors of Clay & Fire restaurant on KC’s West Side.
Be safe, be loved, be your own damn self.
KC, September 1, 2021
“But the smell. You know, that gasoline smell. The whole hill.
It smelled like...
Someday this war's gonna end.”
—Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, 1st Battalion, 9th Air Cav