Sagas in Panels #10

Jeff Hargarten

Comic books have spawned a significant portion of our modern mythological tapestry. Spandex-clad super beings are our demigods, gritty vigilantes our folk heroes and nerdy creators and producers our priests and gurus.

Comics are perhaps more mainstream now than they’ve ever been. You’re no longer automatically a potential social pariah for reading them. It’s become important for the pop culture literate to know at least something about comics, even if the minutia is still left to the diehards.

We also live in a golden age of comic book filmmaking, where the epic, interconnected, sweeping serialized story arcs of paper panels are manifesting on screens big and small.

Unfortunately, I have to bid this blog farewell. It’s been a fun and satisfying pastime. Thanks to anyone who’s been reading. If anyone ever just wants to talk comic books, I’m easy to find.

Anyway, here are my final thoughts and suggestions.

What to read

The theme of today’s reading suggestions is story arcs. Sometimes these massive, multi-issue, multi-title events are collected into graphic novels or omnibuses. Some of them you have to hunt down every last issue to collect. Either way, here are some of the best classic comic book story arcs that define the current storytelling landscape and have provided creative fodder for decades-worth of adaptions.

Comicvine: 61 storylines to read

CBR: Top 100 Comic Book Storylines Master List

Comic Book Informer: The 5 Greatest Comic Storylines of All Time

With “X-Men: Days of Future Past” coming out this summer, I’ll place special emphasis on mutant-related storylines. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is a must, as is the original “Days of Future Past” storyline. Plus, seeing that “X-Men: Apocalypse” will be the next X-sequel to hit theaters, reading the incredible “Age of Apocalypse” story arc would be useful too.

And with Joss Whedon having risen to such nerd prominence, his run on “Astonishing X-Men” is as vital as it is entertaining.

“Civil War” is another prominent Marvel story that spanned its universe and might someday play out on screen if Marvel Studios gets its way.

“Planet Hulk” is another that is supremely underrated and has found fans even among those who don’t traditionally like the angry green giant.

On the D.C. side of the tracks, fans of the Green Lantern should enjoy “Blackest Night,” and those who like the Man of Steel should enjoy “New Krypton.”

What to watch

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

To anyone following the doubt surrounding ABC’s Marvel Cinematic Universe spinoff “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” it might come as a surprise that even some of its more outspoken critics now label it “must-see TV.” After the MCU tie-in episode “Turn, turn, turn,” the show has done just that.

Following the release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the hugely significant twists by the film’s end, “AOS” of course had to change radically as well, the show’s premise taking a “Firefly”-esque turn as rosters and alignments change for the better. While “AOS” started out as rather toothless, harmless and somewhat stilted, the show did such an about-face following “The Winter Soldier” it lends veracity to ABC’s hashtag #ItsAllConnected.

If this is what the showrunners had in mind all along, this first season may become retroactively better on a repeat viewing and it lends immense hope to what a second season could have in store.

Arrow

The WB’s “Arrow” continues to astound, weaving a symphony of twists, turns, compelling human interest, gritty brutality and a devoted reverence to its source material without hitting a sour note yet this season.

We’ve seen the Suicide Squad. Deathstroke the Terminator has appeared fully-formed and is cutting a bloody swath through Starling. “The Flash” series is being subtly setup. The season finale promises to kick incredible amounts of ass.

The Amazing Spider-man 2

The second installment of director Marc Webb’s Andrew Garfield-led Spidey franchise is shaping up critically similar to the first, scoring around the low 70 percentile on RottenTomatoes. This new series of films was challenged out of the gate by comparisons to Sam Raimi’s very recent and mostly-adored Spider-man trilogy (ignoring the jazz-hands anyway). Yet, despite constantly battling the temptation to retread the same territory while still somehow feeling similar, “The Amazing Spider-man” is still quite a good movie and far more true to the comics than the Toby McGuire iteration. The new franchise is on its way to establishing a shared universe model for Sony.

What’s most interesting, speaking of shared universes, is that Sony and FOX will be cross-promoting each other’s Marvel properties, with a post-credits button scene for FOX’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” appearing at the end of “The Amazing Spider-man 2.” Hopefully a similar or better arrangement can someday be forged between these studios and Marvel.

“The Amazing Spider-man 2” hits theaters May 2.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

There’s not much to say about the most recent X-Men film, other than it’s among the expensive comic book film ever made and is likely going to be awesome. The recent trailer and the release of the movie’s opening scene sell its epic scope and establish high expectations.

Guardians of the Galaxy

I’ve already gone over why Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” has the potential to be one of the most exciting and unique of the MCU’s entries. The film premiers Aug. 1.

These Awesome Batman Animated Shorts

As part of Batman’s year-long 75th anniversary celebration, D.C. and WB have been releasing a series of animated shorts, each one encapsulating a different aspect of the character thus far. Some familiar names of Batman legend have returned, with “Batman the Animated Series” creator Bruce Timm giving us the first one and Batman’s voice Kevin Conroy gracing our ears in the second. These are short, sweet and fun with more on the way.

What to expect

Minneapolis Comic Con will become a thing

Wizard World’s Minneapolis Comic Con, a brand new annual comic book convention, comes to the Twin Cities May 2-4. It joins larger and longer established local conventions like CONvergence and Anime Detour and should easily eclipse smaller events like FallCon in St. Paul.

This is MCC’s first year but it’s already headlining stars like Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”), Steven Amell (“Arrow”) and Nichelle Nichols (“Star Trek”).

Tickets, even right now, are cheap for a convention. Cons like this are becoming increasingly popular ever year and the prices and stakes and names tend to burgeon. MCC should provide a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something fun.

Marvel Predicted Phases

Marvel Studios has intimated it has films planned out until 2028. We don’t know what all of them will be, but What Culture has a great speculative list of upcoming movies that seems pretty close to the mark.

Batman/Superman

Confusion and controversial casting and creative decisions will continue to be reported about this 2016 movie, but all will likely be forgiven when the costumes are unveiled, likely at a large convention this year.

Also, it appears a Justice League movie is slated to follow this film, which is the only way casting Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Aquaman makes any sense for what was originally planned as a Superman sequel.

Farewell for now, true believers. ‘nuff said.

Other entries in this series
Sagas in Panels #1: Best in the pages, on the screen
Sagas in Panels #2: Sorting the unified universes
Sagas in Panels #3: Understanding retcons, reboots, relaunches and multiverses
Sagas in Panels #4: Unveiling Guardians of the Galaxy
Sagas in Panels #5: Comparing digital comic subscriptions
Sagas in Panels #6: Touring the DCAU
Sagas in Panels #7: The Flash and other upcoming comic-based television
Sagas in Panels #8: Happy Anniversary Batman!
Sagas in Panels #9: The Winter Soldier