Empress_1_CoverFor his latest superstar team-up, Mark Millar has joined forces with All Star X-Men/Star Wars artist Stuart Immonen to bring you the action sci-fi space opera Empress – a book which will inevitably be described as ‘Saga meets Star Wars’. But will this be another upper class Millar tale or is it just a lowly commoner?

Huck #1Huck #1 is the latest project from writing mega star Mark Millar which tells the story of a plain clothes superhero who looks after his small hometown in exchange for them keeping his secret. With American Vampire’s Raphael Albuquerque on art, will this be a title which cleans up the shelves, or is it simply something which deserves to be kept secret?

Huck #1Comics super-scribe Mark Millar has a new series out this week – Huck – which features art from the amazing Rafael Alberquerque and tells the story of a secret small town hero who tries to keep his powers to himself but does good deeds for the people in his hometown. It’s got a delightfully retro feel to it, so we ask the creator of Hit Girl and Kick Ass if creating Huck is his way of doing a good deed for his fans…

Chrononauts #1Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Mark Millar is pretty darn prolific when it comes to his roster of ‘Millarworld’ comics. His latest offering is Chrononauts #1, where he teams up super-hot artist/creator Sean Gordon Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus) and delves into a world of time travel hijinks. But can Millar create another ‘Kick-Ass’ story or is he out of time?

fantastic_four_new_logoAfter months of rumours of last minute reshoots, we have finally been treated to a first look at Fox’s new Fantastic Four movie trailer. The trailer does not show us much, but what it does show us is markedly different from the previous FF movie. Inevitably the internet has exploded with bile and hyperbole about what they have done with comics’ first family, but here at Pipedream Comics we are looking forward to it immensely and here’s why we have nothing to fear…

Mark Millar’s MPH #1 is the first issue in a new five issue miniseries from the mind of Kick Ass creator which tells the story of a young man attempting to gain fortune and glory within the world using the power of super speed. But is this new series on the fast track to success or will it end up spinning out on the first corner?

Superstar writer Mark Millar is not just a shock merchant with books like Kick Ass, he can turn his hand to almost any genre from superheroes to spies, and he’s about to prove that point with his new series Starlight arriving from Image Comics in March. Mark Millar’s Starlight with art from Goran Parlov  is a swashbuckling pulp-style space adventure that couldn’t be further from the gritty world of Kick Ass or Wanted, but we’re sure will contain all of Millar’s trademark originality!

superior 1Last week saw the debut on ComiXology of Mark Millar’s Millarworld books, the creator-owned titles he releases on his own imprint that include the likes of Kick Ass, Secret Service and Super Crooks.  Alongside last week’s releases of Kick Ass spin-off Hit Girl and ultra-violent post-modern superhero tale Nemesis, this week sees the release of one Millar’s most underrated recent books, the wonderful Superior featuring art by frequent Millar contributor Leinil Frances Yu

As one of the many high profile superstar writers and a man with a very prominent public profile, it’s very easy to pigeon hole Millar as the ‘ultra violent Kick Ass guy’. Many of his most notorious books feature a violent and splatterific edge that many other mainstream writers would avoid going anywhere near – this is after all the man who featured a scene of testicular torture in Kick Ass #1 and saw Wolverine burst from the Hulk’s stomach in Old Man Logan – however this is also the man who gave the Avengers their attitude in Ultimates, turned Superman into a Soviet icon in Red Son and plotted the epic Civil War, which proves he is more than just a shock merchant and Superior is the kind of title that reinforces what a smart and astute writer Millar is.

Writer Grant Morrison is a divisive figure at the best of times, garnering passionate fandom and fervent derision in equal measure. For some he is the psychedelic master of twisted fairy tales, the writer of The Invisibles, Doom Patrol and Animal Man who is so adored he warrants his own convention. For others he is a pretentious, egomaniac whose long winded, rambling writing lacks the depth and subtlety of his big name contemporaries like Mark Millar Brian Bendis or Garth Ennis.

As with all ‘celebrity writer’ books, your opinion of Happy will be shaped by your opinion on Morrison. For those in the former camp it will no doubt be viewed as another tour de force that exhibits the same anarchic sense of wit and invention that have instilled his other titles. However for those, who fall into the latter camp it is much more of a challenging read, but one that may surprise even his most ardent haters.

The world is going Avengers crazy this week, thanks to the launch of the rather excellent movie in cinemas, so it seems only appropriate to have a look at a couple of related titles in this weeks Pipedream Pull List, both of which have had an influence on the success and style of the new movie as well as the fortunes of their parent company.

The first is Avengers Reborn #1, published in 1996 by Marvel and was revealed this week by Comichron, to be the best-selling Avengers comics of all time, with a whopping 276,374 pre-orders.  So what was the secret? The Heroes Reborn story arc was Marvel’s first attempt to reboot it’s core titles, and saw them outsource the titles to their former star artists Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee (who oversaw an equally successful Fantastic Four and Ironman reboot) who were now running their own studios under the Image Comics banner. Both had left in 1992 to found Image and create phenomenal sales for their new titles, and Marvel were desperate for a cut of the action and gave these key titles to Liefeld and Lee in order to spike sales. With the storyline idea that the heroes were sent to an alternate reality by Franklin Richards where their histories were updated and amended for a new generation, the Avengers Reborn would see Thor as the man rescued from the ice, rather than Steve Rogers, and would see Loki attempt to outfox the newly formed team to attempt to gain the power of the lost Odin-son. (Sound familiar?)

With a story by Liefeld and fellow Image founder Jim Valentino and art by Liefeld and his protege Chap Yaep, Avengers Reborn sums up everything that was bad about late 90s comics and the ‘Image style’ that had developed. Liefeld’s unorthodox anatomy with his improbably posed female characters and contorted, muscled up monster males reach almost parodic levels in Avengers Reborn. While his  ability to give his character only two facial expressions – shouting and grimacing – give the whole story a very hollow feel. The dialogue is clunky and the story is confusing and cliched, introducing too many characters and not giving them much to do beyond standing in forceful poses and grimace. However, despite it’s flaws, it’s major positive is that it set an interesting precedent of moving away from the established Marvel canon set down by Kirby and Lee and opened the door for later, more successful reboots.

Despite the critical mauling Heroes Reborn suffered it sold well (thanks in no small part to Liefeld and Lee’s involvement), and so Marvel were not put off the idea of relaunching their core titles using ‘name talent’ and six years later in 2002 relaunched the Avengers as part of their Ultimate universe, under the helm of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Millar and Hitch had made their name at Image on books like Wanted and The Authority, but unlike Liefeld and co they were on the upswing of their careers, developing a new and gritty style of books that would become the template for the entire Marvel Universe, not to mention it’s movies, rather than rely on past-glories and lots of cross-hatching. Rather than re-write the origin for the sake of it and be ham strung by which character they could include, as Liefeld and Valentino had done, Millar was given a blank canvas and took the ‘classic’ Avengers starting point of Steve Rogers in the ice and updated it for a post-9/11 world. In Millar’s world superheroes were not paragons of virtue, but were global super cops who were the only ones capable of dealing with these world-changing threats and events. Out went the colourful spandex of the 60s and in came leather flight suits and combat chic while the heroes were given real world issues and story lines, rather than just stand around looking pneumatic and grimacing.

The first issue focused on Steve Rogers in World War Two and how he ended up in the ice but this was much more than your standard origin story retread. Set in 1944 it was packed full of action from the start with Rogers literally leaping from a plane into the thick of the action, and would set the tone for the new world which these characters would inhabit – just as the Captain America movie would for Avengers Assemble. Ultimates #1 focused on a gritty, bloody, rain soaked world, that most importantly realistic.  In doing so, Ultimates would become a bona fide modern masterpiece over the course of it’s 12 issue run and would directly influence the development of the film, not just in the casting of Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury but also in the updating and modernising of the story and language to reflect modern values and expectations. (Not just drawing them in the current art style du jour!). Thanks to Hitch’s expansive, epic style and Millar’s punchy dialogue it was comics as cinema, before cinema became all about comics, and would help turn around Marvel‘s fortunes making them viable and current for a new generation. This upturn in their fortunes would in turn give them the chance to develop their core characters for the screen and ultimately led to the film filling theatres this weekend.

Avengers Reborn and Ultimates are available on ComiXology for £1.49 each