Saturday, July 29, 2006

Yeah, boyeeeeeee!

This week's column examines Public Enemy, Elephantmen and Strange Eggs Presents: The Boxing Bucket. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Weekly Haul: July 26th

52 #12 (DC Comics) I’m on record as saying DC’s weekly series about a year in the life of their universe is the most ambitious and ballsy project ever embarked upon by a comic book company before, right? Given the insane schedule (four times more frequent than the average comic book) and non-existent margin of error (a book can’t ship late. Period), the book certainly deserves to be cut some slack. And I’ve cut it. I’ve heard kvetching about the interior art being not up to snuff, but didn’t mind as long as it was readable. I’ve heard bitching about the time delay—Ralph Dibney cornering Wonder Girl, and then twiddling his thumbs for three weeks, for example—but didn’t worry about it much. But this is the week that will tax your slack-cutting like never before. This is the first time that the lettering in a DC book has really jumped out at me as particularly bad. Also, a whole sentence of dialogue gets repeated twice verbatim in two different bubbles in two different panels. And Captain Marvel slips in and out of Khandaqi, apparently, judging from the appearing and disappearing brackets around his dialogue (I know he’s acting nutty, but why’s he yelling at the Seven Deadly Sins in Khandaqi?). Despite the poor quality control, the story remains quite interesting, as Black Adam and a clearly ape-shit insane Captain Marvel welcome a new superheroine into the Marvel Family, The Question and Montoya pack their bags for Khandaq, and Wonder Girl converts Ralph to her cause. This week’s back-up is the first of the origin stories that will run for the next 40 weeks, this one featuring Wonder Woman, with art by Adam Hughes. It’s just 8 panels long, and doesn’t answer a single question about the now very confused history of Wonder Woman, other than the fact that her powers and birth haven’t changed due to Infinite Crisis. Long-time Wonder Woman cover artist Adam Hughes provides the art. I’ve never cared for the way he draws her costume—her breasts look like they may pop out and hit her in the eye at any moment—but his Diana is as close to the definitive one as you can get. Nitpick: Under “Essential Storylines,” pre-Crisis stories form the first four volumes of the WW Archives (um, none of which are canon) are included, as is George Perez collectionWonder Woman: Gods and Mortals, which also doesn’t count in the current continuity, according to Infinite Crisis and JLoA #0.

Action Comics #841 (DC) Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicienza and Pete Woods warm-up the title for the incoming creative team of Richard Donner, Geoff Johns and Adam Kubert, and they do a fine job of it. Burned once by Superman’s return, the DCU is a bit skeptical this time around. Superman fights robots (a classic motif…) bent on auctioning off pieces of the earth on some sort of alien eBay (…significantly updated). Guest-stars galore: Nightwing, Firestorm II and the Teen Titans. I can’t remember the last time the Superman monthly titles were this super.

The American Way #6 (WildStorm/DC) Now this is a superhero civil war, complete with North vs. South and racial issues.

Batman #655 (DC) A year ago, this particular creative team on this particular title would have been impossible to imagine: Visionary writer/Big Idea factory Grant Morrison scripting and longtime Marvel artist Andy Kubert drawing. The result is every bit as awesome as that team on that character sounds. Keeping with DC’s new trend in “hyper-compression,” Morrison packs this ish with quite a bit of stuff—the Joker, a second Batman, Commissioner Gordon, Robin, Bruce Wayne and Alfred going on vacation to England, Kirk Langstrom, Talia and the League of Assassins…Whew! I can’t remember the last time a Batman comic book was actually at the very top of my Wednesday to-read pile, nor can I remember the last time I was so excited about the next issue of a Batman comic book. Wait, yes I can— it was Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s Shadow of the Bat #1, over ten years ago.

Big Bang Presents #1 (Big Bang Comics) Gary Carlson’s Big Bang Comics seem to hover uncomfortably between homage and rip-off at times, but the more time you spend with them, the easier it is to see that he and his collaborators all have the best of intentions. Fans of Will Eisner’s Spirit or Jack Cole’s Plastic Man should particularly like this issue, consisting of three stories. The first recasts Batman-esque Knight Watchman as a Spirit-esque crimefighter, in an Eisner pastiche so perfectly executed you’d think Eisner himself had drawn it. That’s followed by a Protoplasman story that reads like the off-brand Cole Plastic Man that it is, and a short intro to Super Frankenstein, a heroic version of the monster who apparently borrowed one of Green Arrow’s tunics.

Birds of Prey #96 (DC) The Birds go to breakfast, we get a nice four page eulogy for Ted Kord as the gang visits his gravesite, the Society takes an interest in Black Alice (I’m all for more panel time for Ohio superheroines), and a three-page epilogue featuring a chick in a Batgirl costume fighting crime in Gotham City (Please be Cassie, please be Cassie, please be Cassie). Gail Simone’s script is as solid as ever (“she-peeps” aside), but penciller Paulo Sequeira really needs to tone down the cheescake factor. Why does every single woman have to have a tiny dress on in every single scene? It would be nice if the world worked that way, but, sadly, it doesn’t, and the art should better reflect our world than it does here.

Black Harvest #6 (Devil’s Due Publishing) Writer/artist Josh Howard is one of the greatest cute girl artist’s working in American comics today—Bruce Timm may be the only one who can touch him—but his writing skills are much less impressive. This story of a weird desert town, a UFOlogist researcher/writer and a mysterious girl with strange powers and bleeding word-shaped wounds started rather promising, but it was too convoluted by half, and the pay-off in this last issue was hardly worth the wait. Cute girls, though…

Black Panther #18 (Marvel Comics) I’ve been reading this title rather sporadically, having a hard time getting into it on account of the wonky continuity, the willy-nilly retconning and the inconstant art teams. But whenever I do read an issue, I’m almost always impressed by Reginald Hudlin’s skills with the title character and the way he nteracts with his world (Even if Hudlin clearly needs a more iron-fisted editor). I was pretty skeptical about the wedding between the Black Panther and Storm, as it seems more contrived than natural, and the timing is less than ideal—Marvel’s right in the middle of a huge event with their “Civil War,” and both the Avengers and X-Men are in disarray, so why build a bridge between the two franchises now of all time? Well, my skepticism was proved unfounded. This is an all around great comic book, from Frank Cho’s wonderful cover (Check out Namor’s eyes, and Bishop’s tears…Ha!) to Hudlin’s script to Scot Eaton and Klaus Janson’s art to Kaare Andrews wonderfully illustrated spirit world interlude. The guest-list is hilarious, Spider-Man and Man-Ape’s conversation is great, Hudlin revisits the idea of a “Black Avengers” team (Do it Marvel, do it!) and Hudlin even manages to work Iron Man and Captain America’s recent “Civil War” differences into the story rather naturally. Nitpicks: Why is Wolverine wearing that to a wedding? And Luke Cage says the exact opposite about fighting the Registration Act here that he says over in New Avengers.

Civil War: Frontline #4 (Marvel) In “Embedded,” Sally sees the fall of Typeface and his league of losers, while Ben Urich gets an unwelcome visit. In “The Accused,” Speedball finally gets to kick a little butt, and writer Paul Jenkins shows how sarcastic fight chatter can make a hero seem pretty cool and yet an asshole at the same time. I'm still not sure to make of “Sleeper Cell,” and what it might have to do with the war at this point, but I’m quite sure the fourth story should never have been conceived, approved, written or drawn. Confidential to Marvel: Your superhero line crossover is absolutely nothing like the Vietnam War.

Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #1 (Marvel) Despite having the ugliest comic book cover of the week (What is that? Kelly green? Seriously?), this special miniseries teaming Marvel’s two newest and greatest teen teams was a blast. YA’s creator/writer Allan Heinberg and Runaways' writer Brian K. Vaughan leave the writing up to Zeb Wells here, and he handles both teams very well—other than the weird Runaways-isms Vaughan peppers his team’s dialogue with, there’s no real discernable difference in the writing on either team. When ultra-Leftist super-person Flag Smasher causes some trouble in front of the Runaways, they come to the rescue, drawing SHIELD “cape-killers” and the Young Avengers’ attention. In classic Marvel style, when the Avengers approach the Runaways about joining their anti-Registration team, the heroes end up fighting each other. Wells writes a classic Molly moment, her best since punching out Wolverine, and artist Stefano Caselli draws the hell out of everything. If either team’s regular title ever needs a fill-in artist, let’s hope Marvel’s got Caselli on speed-dial now.

JLA: Classified #25 (DC) At long last, Steve Englehart’s story arc about the Detroit League doing battle with two warring Royal Flush Gangs comes to an end. I’ve been conflicted about this arc, as for everything I liked about it, there was something I hated just as much, so I’m rather relieved it’s over. Still, it was nice to see the title revisit a past era of League history, and here’s hoping they continue to do so in future arcs (I’m hoping to see attempts to redeem some of the strange line-ups that occurred between the end of Giffen and DeMatteis’ historic run and the debut of Grant Morrison’s Big Seven version of the League).

JSA: Classified #14 (DC) Sad to see the current Detroit League vs. Royal Flush Gang arc of JLA:C end? Don’t be. The entire creative team—right down to Mike Zeck and Jerry Ordway on covers—picks up with a modern day story in the other Classified title. The Wizard, the Sportsman, Gambler and Amos Fortune (who must not have died in the Villains United IC tie-in after all), get together for a high-stakes poker game and end up having a team-up of sorts. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening yet, but they seem to have stolen a page from Roulette’s playbook and abducted and brainwashed the JSA to pit against each other in hero versus hero brawls for the amusement of others. To the rescue come Stargirl, Vixen and Gypsy, a teaming as strange as the random groupoing of villains they’re up against. It’s too early to say if this arc will be a bust or not, but the first issue was rather mediocre, and left me with a lot of questions, most of them concerning writer Steve Englehart’s plot and lack of logic rather than anything having to do with suspense.

New Avengers #22 (Marvel) We’ve known for a while now that Luke Cage takes Captain America’s side against the Superhero Registration Act in the pages of Civil War, but this is the issue of New Avengerswhere we find out the why and the how. Iron Man and Ms. Marvel try to pressure Cage and his family into supporting the Act, and as soon as it gets passed, SHIELD arrives, only to get a couch to the face. Lots of fighting follows. Brian Michael Bendis turns out a great single issue about Cage, and Leinil Yu’s art is great. If there are any gripes to be made about the book, they’re on a larger, background level beyond what happens between the covers (like Bendis spending 20 issues just to assemble this Avengers line-up, and they’re already being broken up).

Shark-Man #1 (Thrill-House Comics) Artist Steve Pugh, apparently working with Gary Leach and some computers, provides gorgeous art to this rather straightforward superhero tale. Shark-Man seems like a Batman-type of character in a futuristic, sci-fi city called New Venice. He has a cool costume, a cool cave, a cool means of locomotion and some cool shark-themed gadgets, but don’t get too attached—he dies in this first issue. Luckily, he has a son t carry on the family name. The story, by Pugh and a trio of writers, is nothing special thus far, but the art and designs are well worth paying attention to.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stream-of-Conscious Review: Civil War #3

Page 1: Sure, he is now, but the dude’s been dead for a long time…probably not much left to him besides bones, anyway. Page 2: Sooo, Reed Richards goes to the king of soveigrn African nation Wakanda and asks for help enforcing a controversial new law in the states? Wouldn’t that be like having, I don’t know, British Prime Minster Tony Blair coming to America to fight drug dealers? T’challa is actually quite diplomatic in his response to Reed, considering what a dumb question Mr. Fantastic is there to ask. Page 3: Poor Wong. Two insect-themed former Avengers show up at Dr. Strange’s to ask the Sorcerer Supreme to join their side, and Wong has to make the good doctor’s excuses. You know Strange saw Yellowjacket and Wasp through the peephole, told Wong to tell them he was doing magic stuff, then ran up stairs and is hiding behind a curtain. Panels two and four on this page really illustrate one advantage film has over comics: In comics, the newspapers can’t spin out at the audience the way they can in film. Pages 4-5: Iron Man feels out the X-Men and mutantkind in general by having lemonade with Emma Frost. Way to put him in his place, Ms. Frost. Page 6: Bishop, hiding in a bush, sees Stark getting into his car, and calls to him, “Iron Man? Can we talk?” Presumably, he’s heard Stark recently gave Spider-Man a new costume, and is hoping to talk to him about designing him a new costume. Preferably one without giant metal shoulder pads with stoplights mounted into them. Page 7: Awesome. Four panels, each one introducing one of Captain America’s new “Secret Avengers,” and the new secret identity Nick Fury cooked up for them. Hercules, mythological son of Zeus, is now “Victor Tegler…an I.T. consultant for a major international corporation.” Presumably this is a joke on Fury’s part. Why on Earth would you give Hercules a job in the tech industry? Can you see him consulting? “Okay, didst thou turn the machine off and then back on? Zounds! Hesphateus himself would be stymied by this deviltry!” Still not as funny a joke as Goliath’s new I.D.: “Rockwell Dodsworth.” I wonder why writer Mark Millar didn’t give them more Marvel-esque I.D.s, with repeating syllables, like, I don’t know, Paul Peterson or Chad Chesterton or whatever? Page 8: I wonder why the elite squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that are trained to take down rebel, unregistered superheroes are called “cape-killers.” Seriously, who in the Marvel Universe wears a cape? Think about it. Um, Thor, the Vision and Sentry and, um, is that it? Capes just aren’t very popular in the Marvel Universe, particularly when compared to the DC Universe…Page 10: I don’t know what Cable’s mutant power is. Does it involve the ability to wear dumb-ass costumes without feeling like an ass all the time? Because this one, while a little sleeker and less weighed down with pockets and guns then his ‘90s one, seems to be an unflattering combination of a jumpsuit and a neon sign. Yow! Cloak took a tranq dart in the back of the head. I know darts are probably better than bullets, but I imagine anytime a needle enters the back of your skull forcefully it hurts like hell. Page 11-12:Two pages, five panels, a lot of heroes assembled. The top panel shows some of Iron Man’s team, including She-Hulk (whom artist Steve McNiven draws particularly hot), the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, Ms. Marvel, Yellowjacket and Atlas, who. Like Cap has an A on his forehead. He’s apparently pretty insecure about copping Cap’s look too, as he also has to overcompensate with a second, giant A across his entire torso. Tony, that dude needs a costume too… In the next two panels, we see still more of Iron Man’s team, including Susan “Invisible Woman” Richards, some Thunderbolts, Doc Samson and Wonder Man. Things aren’t looking good for Cap, who just brought some Young Avengers, Cable and his dinner club to the party…Page 13: Tony tries to talk Cap down, with Spider-Man throwing his two cents in. In the last panel, we see more of I.M.’s allies, looks like Tigra and Black Widow are on his side too. Jeez, looks like every babe in the Marvel Universe is on Iron Man’s side. Page 14: Capt makes up for the tactical blunder of showing up and falling for this trap in the first place by nailing Tony with one of the oldest tricks in the book. Page 15: Fight! Oh man, Cap just clocked Tony with the edge of his shield, and Tony’s mask wasn’t even on! Ow! Goliath vs. Yellowjacket—I expect the latter is not long for this world, given Millar’s fondness for killing giant men. Page 16: God, it’s like a bench-clearing baseball brawl all of a sudden. I like how Ben Grimm tells Hulking “I don’t wanna fight you guys,” while pasting the kid and making him spit blood. Pages 17-18: Spider-Man gets serious. I like how Millar has Spidey using his famous fight chatter; on the one hand, it seems out of place for him to be busting on his friends like they were the Sinister Six while fighting them instead of being all angsty about it, but on the other hand, it certainly shows where his head’s at right now. That first panel has a very well-drawn, well-executed gymnastic maneuver by Spidey, and shows him making use of his extra arms (nice composition, McNiven!), but I could have done without the gratuitous crotch-to-taint shot. And while I think it’s cool Millar has Spider-Man joking around while he fights as per usual, his first joke doesn’t make any sense: “Careful, Cap. You could take a guy’s eye out with that thing…like these poor schmucks, for instance,” he says, while grabbing Cap’s shield and slamming it into Daredevil and the Vision. What’s that mean, exactly? DD and Vizh are like things you can take a guy’s eye out with? Shouldn’t it be something more like “Careful, Cap. You could really hurt somebody with this, like these poor scmucks fo rinstance.” Whatever. Ben, who doesn’t want to fight, lands a nice uppercut on Hulkling. Page 19: Break out the tissues, Avengers fans, it’s Cap and Iron Man going at it like two weary boxers. Man, it’s gotta suck fist-fighting Iron Man—it’s like he’s wearing brass knuckles on every inch of his body. Page 20: And there goes one of Cap’s teeth. Great, now he’s got to go to the dentist’s on top of all this Registration crap he’s dealing with. Hercules is pissed, brushes Doc Samson, Shulkie and Spidey aside like they were nothing. Page 21: A lightning bolt takes out Hercules, “Hawkeye,” Luke Cage and Dagger. “My God…” the Catholic superhero Daredevil says in awe. Page 22: Nope, not your God, Hornhead, but a god. Holy crap! I knew this was coming at this point in the series but, wow, I didn’t expect it to be this dramatic. If you still haven’t chosen a side, I’d advise switching to Iron Man’s. He’s got all the hot chicks on his team, and it looks like Cap’s side is about to get buried. Millar’s two-for-two for cliffhanging endings now.

Who Will Actually Be on Brad Meltzer's Justice League

The cover to Justice League of America #2—or at least one of the covers for it, as DC seems to need at least two covers for every new book these days—has been out for a while now, showing ten shapes on it. Meltzer said his League will will consist of ten characters initially. Which means that more than likely, the cover features the new members of the Justice League, we're just not positive who they are just yet. Michael Turner's expressisionistic art won't make guessing any easier, nor will the fact that DC could be cheating (by coloring that bow green instead of red, for example). But here goes anyway:


Green Lantern Hal Jordan

Wonder Woman


Black Canary

Green Arrow Connor Hawke

Black Lightning



Red Tornado

There. Check back in a few months to see if I'm right, and if so, you all owe me $1.00 a piece. Those are the rules.

Who Should Be On Brad Meltzer's Justice League

This week's zero issue of Justice League of America ended with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman standing around a table full of superhero glamorshots to start picking who will make up the next Justice League of America, While we readers won't know for quite some time, Meltzer has already made up his mind, and the entire line-up is already picked. Well, having not seen a single issue of the new series with the new League in it, aside from the preview issue that reveals Bats, Supes and Wondy will be on the team, I'm ready to come out and say it: Meltzer's wrong.

So, who should he have picked? Well, I'll tell you. Here's the criteria: The characters have to be Justice League material (household names, the most powerful and competent heroes in the DCU, and iconic enough that their name and powers can be summed up by a little symbol than can be stuck on the back of a chair), they can't be currently out of play (Like Arthur Curry/Orin's Aquaman, Wally West's Flash, Mr. Miracle, Steel, Booster Gold or Captain Marvel), they can't be already determined to be on another team (Like Alan Scott's Green Lantern or Jay Garrick's Flash, though they'd be cool Leaguers, wouldn't they?) and they have to be characters Meltzer would like enough to be able to write well (So no Plas or Martian Manhunter, unfortunately).



Wonder Woman

Green Lantern John Stewart From a story stand point, this would seem to make the most sense, as John Stewart was the Leauge's GL right up until the League dissolved just prior to Infinite Crisis. Also, John doesn't have any trust issues with any of the other Leaguers (i.e. he was never posessed by a space bug and turned totally loony). Also, there are currently two Earth-based members of the Green Lantern Corps, John and Hal Jordan. Jordan's starring in the Green Lantern monthly, while Guy Gardner is in Green Lantern Corps, Alan Scott is in JSA and Kyle Rayner is in Ion, making John the sole book-less Lantern. Finally, John is the Green Lantern of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, and why not match the book up to the cartoon in an effort to make the former accessible to fans of the latter? Especially when doing so comes as naturally as it would in this case?

Oracle Her role as information hub of the DC Universe makes Barbara Gordon a sort of de facto member of the League at all times anyway, so why not make it official and add her to the roll call?

Arsenal or Green Arrow Connor Hawke I think the League should have an archer, but as much I like Olliver Queen (and Meltzer's version of him), I would much rather prefer one of his two protegees take his spot (Meltzer seems to have a greater-than-average degree of affection for both of them, and writes them both well). Either is more versatile than Ollie (Arsenal is skilled with a variety of weapons and ordinance, and Connor's kung fu is better than his archery) which justifies using either of them instead of Ollie from a story stand point, and, from a storytelling stand point, it would be more interesting than simply recycling all the old characters. Choosing between the two, however, is hard. On the one hand, Connor's already been on the League, so seems like the person they'd go to first; on the other hand, Arsenal's put the most time in as a superhero and Titan, and thus seems to have earned it more. If diversity matters—and it does—then Connor has an edge, being half-Asian.

Tempest With Aquaman missing, the JLA doesn't have its Navy, and it would be cool to see the grown-up Aqualad graduate to the JLoA to fill in for his mentor, as Wally West did when Barry Allen died during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Why bother replacing Aquaman at all? Well, from a story stand point, it would be a rebuke against the convential wisdom that Aquaman is useless to the League. If the need to have a sea-going hero were demonstrated by replacing Aquaman with Tempest, it would show the former is needed. Also, Tempest is a sorceror, which would allow Meltzer to have a magic expert on staff without having to use Zatanna, who's still a bit tainted from Identity Crisis (As are the rest of "the Power Pact"). From a practical standpoint, Tempest isn't on any other team in the DCU at this point anyway.

Nightwing Damn, why so many former Titans? Because there just happen to be a lot of former teen sidekicks who have grown up and don't seem to fit in anywhere else at the moment. Take Nightwing for instance. Outsiders is a terrible book for him to be in (actually, it's a terrible book period). Within the context of the DCU, Dick Grayson is one of the most experienced superheroes on the planet with one of the longest and most impressive resumes. In the real world, he's one of the most popular and well-known heroes (even if people are more familiar with his secret identity than his current hero moniker). Besides, he's already temporarily graduated to the Justice League, briefly leading an incarnation of the team during "The Obsidian Age" (an incarnation of the League, incidentially, which should really be revisted again soon in the pages of JLA: Classified). And, finally, there's what I like to call The Superfriends Precedent, in which heroes on the show are automatically considered League material. And Dick Grayson was one of The Big Five on the various seasons of Superfriends (Even if it wasas Robin rather than Nightwing).

Black Lightning Like Nightwing, the Superfriends Precedent applies to B.L.—Black Vulcan was simply a thinly (and lamely) veiled version of him. Like Tempest, the character really doesn't have anywhere else to go. Like Arsenal, he's never been on the League. Within the meta-story of the DCU, it's easy to see his former Outsiders bossman Batman recommending him, and, from a real world stand point, he's a) black (the JLA has traditionally been too white) and b) Melzter must love the hell out of the guy, as he was included in Identity Crisis for one scene for no reason at all.

Hawkgirl The thinking goes that there should always be someone with wings on the team (see Grant Morrison's inclusion of angel Zauriel during his run, when the Hawk-people were unusable). I'm assuming Meltzer will want a Hawk, and I'd prefer he go with Hawkgirl, since she's the Hawk from the cartoon at the moment. Also, she's a woman (which is why she was the Hawk on the cartoon), which, like people of color, is something else the League has always lacked enough of. Finally, she'd be just plain more interesting than Hawkman, whom we've seen so much of in team settings over the years. Wouldn't you rather see Hawkgirl and Connor Hawke flirting than Hawkman and Olliver Queen arguing?

Vixen She's black and a woman!

Cyborg Again with the Titans! But hear me out: He was on a season of Hanna-Barbera's old Superfriends series (wasn't it called Galactic Power at the time?) as well as becoming a household name thanks to Cartoon Network's Teen Titans. His story arc as a character really seemed to run it's natural course under Marv Wolfman's time writing the Titans (when he went into space and embraced his mechanical side), and then again when Phil Jimenez brought him back to Earth and Devin Grayson wrote him (when he finally became fully human again). Geoff Johns restored him to cyborg-status (I don't think they ever did explain why he' sa cyborg again, actually) and stuck him on the Teen Titans, where he sticks out as the only adult on a teen hero team. He doesn't really fit on the team, and if the character's going to be relevant again, it almost has to be on a new team, like the Justice League.

Stream-of-Conscious Review: Justice League of America #0

Cover: I know the angle of this image of DC’s “Trinity” looking down at us is to convey the fact that they’re actually all leaning over a pile of photographs of superheroes to begin the selection process for the brand new JLA—I’m sorry, Justice League of America--but you know what it looks like to me? You know how in movies when someone gets knocked out, the screen goes all black as they lose consciousness, and the next scene, in which they wake back up, has other characters who were present when they were knocked out leaning over them? It’s like that. Seriously. Lay on the floor and hold your copy of JLoA upside down over you. I can practically hear Wonder Woman saying, “Are you alright, Caleb? That was a nasty hit you took”, and myself responding, “Oh man, what hit me? The last thing I remember was reaching for one of J’onn’s cookies…” Page 1: Let’s see, first panel of the first page of the first issue of writer Brad Meltzer’s new JLoA series, and what do we got? A first-person narration box color-coded to match the costume of the speaker. No surprises there. And what’s Superman saying? “It didn’t take super-hearing to catch the anxiousness in his voice.” Or the anxiety, I bet. Page 2: So, Batman decides to join the Justice League because sometimes the threats are so big, they require more than “just a utility belt and a solid right hook.” I think I preferred the rationale John Ostrander gave in JLA: Incarnations #2 better; that Batman joined the League because he didn’t really have any peers or friends, and that was the one group where he could actually find both. But I guess that series isn’t even continuity anymore, given that it was Pre-(Infinite)Crisis. Page 3: Nice depiction of Batman and the way he deals with fear, but jeez, he’s that freaked out about the idea of the JLA? He’s sweating like a pig. Not that pigs sweat.Page 4: Again, nice little character detail in the narration. And here comes Wonder Woman. I don’t really like her presence this far back in League history, as it sort of diminishes her and just plain screws up too many good stories (Matt Wagner’s Trinity springs to mind at the moment), but I’ll give Meltzer a few more pages to sell it. Page 5: Yeesh, who’s art is this? It looks totally old school. Oh, Dick Giordano’s. He is totally old school, so I guess that’s fine. “The three of us…back then, we met regularly on our own,” Batman says. “Hal and Barry did the same. As did Arthur and J’onn. We all wanted the same thing. Just to keep track of how things were going.” That’s cool. I like how Meltzer acknowledges the rest of the League’s leadership, even if he’s focusing on the popular ones. If the Trinity are the jocks, J’onn and Aquaman’s clique must constitute the band geeks. Still, I think I would have preferred an issue like this focusing on their meetings instead of the Trinity’s. They’re arguing about the Red Tornado sacrificing his life, back when his costume didn’t hurt my eyes. Batman’s really bent out of shape. Guess he doesn’t realize just how often Reddy will come back to life and be destroyed in the years to come, huh? Page 6: Hmm, this page is set “Tomorrow,” whereas all the previous ones were set “Yesterday.” I guess this wedding of Hal Jordan’s is something that’s yet to happen, huh? I don’t think Green Lanterns should be allowed to marry. One ring on a man if fine. But two? That’s pushing it. A nice scene showing the Trinity as schoolgirls. Meltzer does nice character work. And is there a better artist than Tony Harris? Page 7: Oh, yeah. George Perez. He gets to draw—well, re-draw—the wedding of Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy to That Guy With The Beard Who Isn’t A Super Hero, the lamest point in Donna Troy/Titan history. Now, what’s up with Dick Grayson’s tux? Look at all those ruffles? I know in real time this wedding was forever ago, but in the DCU, it should only be a couple of years ago, and if Dick was wearing that many ruffles in the late ‘90s, well, he might as well have just worn his old Robin costume to the wedding. Ew. Page 8: Oh my God, what is Lex Luthor on? Page 9: The Trinity has an argument that DC editorial probably should have had at the time: Whether or not the Detroit League is a good idea. Batman says no, predicting that “someone’s about to get hurt.” I don’t really like how this implies that J’onn and Aquaman are screw-ups that can’t lead a League, and if Bats were in charge Steel and Vibe would still be alive. Page 10: Tomorrow again…and holy crap, Pa Kent is dead?! This comes as a real shock, considering the fact that he and Ma seem to have been so drastically de-aged in the DCU of late, losing weight and regaining their natural hair colors again. Hmmm, hopefully this is way in the future, as I’ve always sort of like the fact that Superman’s parents are still around. Think about it—how many adult superheroes even have both of their parents alive, let alone as supporting cast members they actually get along with? Ad On The Facing Page: I think this ad for Dungeons & Dragons is the most depressing thing in the whole world. You’ve probably seen it. There’s a picture of a bored, sad looking guy using a computer in a dark, dark basement, lit only by the moonlight coming in through the window behind him and the sickly glow of his monitor. Above his head float the words “If You’re Going To Sit In Your Basement Pretending To Be An Elf,” and, then below that in smaller font, “You Should At Least Have Some Friends Over To Help.” Oh God, that’s heartbreaking on so many levels. First, that role-playing on the computer exists at all, if it really has the soul-crushing effect it seems to have on this poor fellow in the ad. Second, that playing Dungeons & Dragons is being used as the more socially healthy alternative to it. And, mostly, that D&D’s makers and marketers realize that their product is for social misfits and play that fact up in the ad, essentially saying “Hey, we know only an awkward, unhappy loser would sit in their basement pretending to be an elf, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it with a few other awkward, unhappy losers, you know?” Oh, and it’s also depressing that this ad is in a comic book I’m reading, meaning I’m part of the target demographic that D&D thinks needs to hear this message the most. (Confession: I did role-play in junior high and high school. But only on paper, with dice and with friends, never on the computer. And I was always a half-elf) Page 11: Rags Morales does a very nice Jim Apro-esque Batman. Page 12: Superman and Batman argue over who will be Wondy’s maid of honor. Okay, not really, but they seem to be discussing her upcoming nuptials. This is set “Tomorrow,” of course, and on Paradise Island, which raises all sorts of interesting questions, if Meltzer actually plans on covering this during his run and isn’t just throwing out random possible future events. I always thought she should marry Aquaman—what? I’m not projecting, I just thought I saw a spark during Superfriends, you know?—but it doesn’t sound like it. So who’s the dude? When’s Paradise Island get back from wherever it went? Who’s Batman’s love that Wondy reference here? Why does she have to give up immortality to be with the man she loves? Is she an elf all of a sudden? Wait, since when is she immortal, anyway? Ethan Van Sciver draws this page; I love the way he’s turned Batman’s cape into bat-wings. Page 13: Woo hoo! Kevin Maguire pencils! I wish he’d do more Justice League work; I really think he deserves a chance to play with the A-List League after all his hard work making the C-List JLI iteration top-notch (same goes for Giffen and DeMatteis on the writing end). Page 14: “Tomorrow” you’ll believe that a man can…cry? Looks like Wonder Woman and Batman both stood him up. He says something about a funeral, and he’s crying. Wonder why Adam Kubert drew the Hulk’s head in their trophy room? And why the chairs don’t have little symbols on the back? That’s the coolest thing about the JLA—their chairs! I hope this is just Kubert’s oversight, and not an indication that in the new series the chairs won’t have individual icons on the back. Page 16: Jim Lee draws the Trinity, the JLA and the JSA (nice to see his rendering of so many Golden Agers in their classic duds, though Lee just might draw the worst Martian Manhunter ever) and two Earths?!?!! Page 17: Flashback to the post-“Tower of Babel” fall out between Bats and the rest of the Big Seven. Probably Mark Waid’s best story of his short run (not counting Heaven’s Ladder) and one of the best non-Morrison League stories. It’s nice to see Howard Porter League art here, but this isn’t in the awesome style of his upcoming Shazam book, sadly. Page 18: Foul! Yellow flag! You can’t write stuff in Dark Knight Returns continuity, Meltzer! The DKU (Dark Knight Universe, natch) is Frank Miller’s and Frank Miller’s alone, man. Maybe if he would have drawn this page, it would have been okay. But he didn’t. Page 24: Ha ha! So, what, prospective Leaguers all have glamour shots of them in action taken and sent to Batman? Or did he compile these portraits of them all himself, going so far as to go into space to take a picture of Hal Jordan flying around? Or the ocean floor to take a picture of Aquaman? Or did he just use Brother I to take these photos? Because, if so, he probably shouldn’t call attention to his super secret spy satellite, given the fact that just resolved that argument. So, let’s look at the candidates: Supergirl, Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, Vixen, Hawkman, Hal Jordan, Red Tornado, Black Canary, Power Girl, Zatanna, The Huntress, The Flash and Cyborg. Hmm, a lot of red herrings here—we know Aquaman, Flash and Power Girl aren’t going to make it, since A-man’s missing, Flash is broken and P.G. is in JSA. Cyborg’s sitting comfortably in Teen Titans, though he should graduate to the League by now. Vixen, Arrow, Red Tornado, Black Canary and Hawkman all seem like locks, however. But let’s look a little closer at these photos, for a second, shall we? Check out the Black Canary one: Note the fact that the photo captures the soundwaves coming out of her mouth. Think about that for a second—the photo visually captures sound? What the hell kind of film is Batman using? Must be pretty high speed stuff, because it also gives a crystal clear image of the Flash running at super-speed. The “speed-lines” around him are captured, but the Flash himself is not in the least bit blurry.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Can't Get No...Escapism?

This week's column features a closer look at Rick Veitch's challenging new graphic novel Can't Get No and The Escapists #1.

And if you need still more online comic book-related reading and haven't been to yet today, make sure you check out Professor Troy Browfield's history lesson on the Freedom Fighters.

Weekly Haul: July 19th

52 #11 (DC Comics) Some new character named Batwoman debuts. Maybe you’ve heard of her? Plus, scouring the labels on the boxes in the back of the Question’s Questionmobile, I’m glad to see someone is looking into the election in Ohio in ’04. Come visit us after you bust Intergang, huh Vic?

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #43 (DC) How do you know when a late-shipping book is too late? When a reader can’t really remember what was happening when he last read the book, and half the characters seem unrecognizable. Otherwise, I have no complaints about Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice’s new take on Aquaman, even though they’ve gone and replaced my favorite DC character (I don’t know why, so don’t ask) with a younger, newer version. Confidential to Guice: Draw faster!

Civil War #3 (Marvel Comics) Wow. For two issues in a row, Marvel has ended their crossover event with a panel that will blow their fans’ minds right out of their skulls. It’s not quite as big as Spider-Man unmasking, of course, but it’s definitely the biggest "Holy @#$%!" moment in mainstream comics since then.

Civil War: X-Men #1 (Marvel) I promised myself I wasn’t going to buy this, but my growing excitement over Marvel’s Civil War (coupled with the fact that I’d just slogged through Jim Lee’s first seven issues on X-Men on Monday) compelled me. And I regret it. It’s not a terrible read, and I imagine X-Men fans will enjoy it, but it is so tied into recent X-Men continuity (Heavily referencing House of M and at least two “Decimation” spin-off series) that it’s a pretty daunting read for the uninitiated. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve actually read the first-page summary of past events that leads off almost every Marvel book these days. The story, by David Hine, deals with the X-Men’s stand on the Superhero Registration Act, which Millar dealt with quite elegantly in a few panels of Civil War this week. Hine doesn’t really add anything to that position, just details. Two members of the old X-Force rescue “the 198” from their semi-captivity at the Xavier school, and Tony “Iron Man” Stark recruits Bishop and an all-mutant team to hunt them down. Meanwhile, the four original male X-Men suit up in their Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely-era costumes to try and beat Bishop to the punch. If those last two sentences meant nothing to you, neither will this story. Penciller Yanick Paquette’s art is always a welcome treat, however, even if he can’t draw Beast to save his life.

Conan #30 (Dark Horse Comics) Yeah, I know it was just 22 pages of a man in a loincloth fighting a giant monster frog, but, on the other hand, it was 22 pages of a man in a loincloth fighting a giant monster frog!

Elephantmen #1 (Image Comics) Easily the best comic book about a mutant elephant/man hybrid killing machine adjusting to civilian life and soberly coping with some hardcore PTS flashbacks released this week.

Eternals #2 (Marvel) Two strange men continue to try and kill the very-hard-to-kill “Ike Harris” in a variety of creative ways, while “Mark Curry” and “Sersi” meet and bring something…interesting out of one another. No complaints about this plot-heavy story by Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. so far, other than the fact that Rick Berry’s painted covers seem out of place. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer Romita Jr.’s art on the cover of a book with Romita Jr. interiors.

Justice League of America #0 (DC) Novelist Brad Meltzer begins his tenure as the monthly writer for the relaunched JLA, nonsensically renamed without explanation “Justice League of America”, with this special zero issue. The story jumps back and forth between a retconned past (Wonder Woman is once again a founder of the League, contrary to the past 20 years of JLA and Wonder Woman stories) and a possible future to show us how the three are best friends, how the past was changed in Infinite Crisis and what could be coming in the near future. Other than broad, problems integral to any story working with this new continuity (which are editorial problems, really), Meltzer does a fairly strong job, giving each of DC’s “Trinity” members a shot at first-person narration, which checking in on them throughout certain period’s of League history (the Detroit years, the JLI years, “Tower of Babel”). The real pleasure of the book is the unparalleled art team though: George Perez, Rags Morales, Kevin Maguire, Dan Jurgens, Jim Lee, Howard Porter, Phil Jimenez, Ed Benes and others not known for their work on the League.

Public Enemy #1 ( American Mule Entertainment) Public Enemy front man Chuck D teams with artist Adam Wallenta to bring the noise in the first issue of Public Enemy: The Comic Book. Though Chuck D and his bandmates are the stars of the book, I’m pretty sure it’s not exactly autobiographical.

Robin #152 (DC) Despite the horrible way new writer Adam Beechen’s first story arc wrapped up—for anyone who’s read any issues of Batgirl and/or was aware of her existence, the arc didn’t just reveal Beechen’s horrible mishandling of her character, but of Batman’s and Robin’s as well—I thought I’d give he and artist Freddie Williams II one more issue. Why? The boomerang sticking out of Jack Drake’s grave on the cover. The meeting between Robin and Captain Boomerang Jr. (hey, I don’t name ‘em) has been long overdue. Unfortunately, it takes a really long time to get to their actual meeting, and the bulk of it seems to occur next issue, and I don’t think I’ll be wasting any more time or money on this creative team. Williams is a competent artist, and I know Beechen’s capable of good writing, but I really don’t understand his characterization of Batman and Robin in reaction to Cassandra “Batgirl” Cain at all. In this issue, the Dynamic Duo discusses her, and Batman seems so utterly blasé about the fact that one of his closest allies has gone over to the dark side (two, if you count Jason Todd, who’s still running around in the pages of Nightwing, but I try not to think about him at all) that he doesn’t resemble any Batman I’ve ever read about.

Runaways #18 (Marvel) I know it says “One of these Runaways is about to die” right there on the cover and everything, but I was still pretty shocked at the death. For a variety of reasons, I honestly thought the person who died in this issue was the last person Brian K. Vaughan would kill off. Of course, maybe that person’s not dead-dead. The title of the next story arc, after all, is “Dead Mean’s Dead,” which was what Marvel E.I.C. Joe Quesada famously said about death in the Marvel Universe…before they brought Colossus back from the dead. If it sticks, let’s talk more about this death later here, okay?

She-Hulk #9 (Marvel) Come for Shulkie’s wedding to Colonel John Jameson, stay for She-Hulk’s first dinner with her new father-in-law, J. Jonah Jameson. Writer Dan Slott gets Jameson’s reaction to Spidey’s unmasking over in Civil War #2 so right it’s beautiful, and the page of spit-takes reacting to the news of the eloping couple’s nuptials is equally awesome.

Snake Woman #1 (Virgin Comics) The second Virgin Comics title is the second comic book character created by film director Shekhar Kapur, but written by someone else (Zeb Wells). No matter—hard to decipher credits aside, the fantastic art work of Brian Michael Bendis’ old Alias partner Michae Gaydos makes this first issue really sing. It’s a very strong first issue and, unlike Devi #1, has me very much looking forward to the second one.

Strange Eggs Presents: The Boxing Bucket (Slave Labor Graphics) This 48-page anthology comic, edited by Chris Reilly and Ben Towle, is full of short, humorous stories about a bucket who wears boxing gloves and boxer’s shorts and, um, boxes a lot. If that synopsis doesn’t grab you, this probably isn’t the book for you—personally, I loved it. Some of the stories were weak, but the best of them were pretty funny and this is exactly the sort of subject matter—boxing buckets—that our medium should be tackling more often.

Superman/Batman #28 (DC) I knew this series’ regular artist, Ethan Van Sciver, was a good artist, based on his past work. But the true test of a great artist? He makes Silver Age Superman foe Titano look totally awesome. Little happens in this issue, the first from the brand new guaranteed-to-always-be-late creative team of Van Sciver and writer Mark Verheiden, other than a succession of random villains and one hero-turned-villain pouncing on the World’s Finest team, but that’s quite all right. The way Van Sciver draws, that’s story enough.

Testament #8 (DC/Vertigo) It’s a new story arc, and writer Douglas Rushkoff and Liam Sharp pick up on the Bible story of Joseph (he of the amazing Technicolor dream coat) to parallel the modern day action. The book that’s a perfect blend of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and Superbook continues to be a rewarding read.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1 (DC) As a huge fan of the original Freedom Fighters line up, and a fan, individually, of The Ray II, Damage and Black Condor II, I was pretty primed to hate this book, which introduces a brand-new team, composed of brand new versions of the familiar heroes. Two things helped sell me on picking up #1, however: The Brave New World preview story wasn’t bad, and the “based on ideas and concepts developed by Grant Morrison” box hovering above the credits. While this new team of Freedom Fighters seems incredibly unlikable (well, Doll Man’s okay), it seems that they may end up being the bad guys of the series, as their mission is to bring in Uncle Sam himself. The last panel is pure Morrison, and issue #1 has definitely sold me on issue #2.

X-Factor #9 (Marvel) Writer Peter David may be a vocal critic of crossovers in general, but you wouldn’t know it from how well he writes tie-in issues. This issue finds the members of the X-Factor detective agency arguing with Quicksilver over the secrets of “M-Day” as well as the upcoming Civil War, and when they look to Jamie “Multiple Man” Madrox for leadership, he splits. First figuratively, then literally. Plus, the Astonishing X-Men show up to throw down.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Superman to Hurricane Victims: "Where were your precious X-Men when you needed them?"

Today's link comes courtesy of my mother, who pointed this article out to me. Michael Heaton is a humor columnist and reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer , Ohio's greatest daily newspaper that's based in a city that begins with the letter "C." Heaton's sort of like Cleveland's answer to Dave Barry (only less wacky), and was a favorite around my household growing up, as he was one of my mother's and father's favorite writers (Actually, my mum said he's her second favorite writer, after me...Awww!).

Anyway, in his July 7 column he interviewed Superman, who's living in semi-retrement in Boca Raton, Florida. Perhaps with others like him, in the Old Super Heroes Home, , as on the above cover from Action #386? You can read Heaton's piece online here.

Sample exchange:

"What about Hurricane Katrina? Weren't you able to help at all during that?

"I'm strictly a crime fighter. I don't do politics, and I don't do acts of God. Where were your precious X-Men when you needed them? Look in the papers, that's all you read about. That wolf guy with the claws?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Weekly Haul: July 12th

52 #10 (DC Comics) Black Adam flirts, Booster Gold rants and super-scientists chat, but powerless Clark Kent gets the spotlight this issue, tearing a page out of his wife’s playbook to land an exclusive interview with Supernova. Plus, what did Will Magnus find in Dr. Sivana’s lab…an empty cocoon? Hmm, what's the tag line for next issue? “You’ll believe a Venusian worm can fly”? In the back-up that just won’t die, the “History of the DCU” continues, covering the beginnings of Infinite Crisis. When can we expect it to cover weeks one through ten of 52?

A Man Called Kev #1 (WildStorm/DC) Another week, another WildStorm series debut from Garth Ennis, this one drawn by his longtime collaborator Carlos Ezquerra.

Civil War: Frontline #3 (Marvel Comics) Sally interviews a bunch of nobodies, Ben interviews Reed Richards, Thunderclap and Bantam fight. That’s the lead story, which is decent enough if unremarkable. There are no less than three back-ups, which makes this particular issue the most anthlology-esque of the series. In the strongest, we continue to follow the de-powered Speedball’s harrowing prison experience—the kid may have the lamest codename in the entire Marvel Universe (even lamer than Thunderclap and Bantam), but he’s got balls. As for the back-est of the back-ups, the ill-conceived Let’s Compare This Fictional Marvel Comics Event To Some Real Life Tragedy Thus Trivializing It And Making The Comic Seem Crass And Exploitive In The Process story, I didn’t even understand it this time around. Please Marvel, stop these.

The Escapists #1 (Dark Horse Comics) I may just be biased because of the love letter to Cleveland that this inspired-by-Michael-Chabon’s-novel-about-the-Golden-Age-comics-industry miniseries opens with, but this was a great start to what promises to be a great series. Not only can writer Brian K. Vaughan apparently do no wrong, he can’t even do anything less than totally right, either.

Green Lantern #12 (DC) Better extremely late than never. Geoff Johns continues to undo much of what happened to the Green Lantern franchise since “Reign of the Supermen” (here a half-dozen Lanterns Parallax iced in “Emerald Twilight are found alive), but at least he’s doing it well. Johns is a veritable superhero repair man. Love what he and penciller Ivan Reis did with the Cyborg Superman’s costume, too (Too bad Simone Bianchi’s otherwise cool cover didn’t reflect the new black and red color scheme).

JLA: Classified #24 (DC) I really wanted and (continue to want) to like this story arc, in which Martian Manhunter and Aquaman train the fledgling members of the short-lived Detroit-based iteration of the League and run afoul of two warring Royal Flush Gangs, but Steve Englehart’s script is just too sub-par to enjoy. It’s certainly not the worst JLA story since the Morrison/Porter/Dell relaunch—it’s still head and shoulders above “The Tenth Circle” or “Pain of the Gods”—but it is terribly weak, and full of accidentally hilarious moments. Exhibit A? See Aquaman’s conversation with the fish that sticks its head out of the water to talk to him. Confidential to Amos Fortune: Spandex is a thin man’s material.

Shaolin Cowboy #6 (Burlyman Entertainment) Line of the week: “You might be nature’s perfect eating machine, but you are sadly lacking in fencing skills whitey.” I’ve long since forgotten exactly why that disembodied demon head is trying to kill S.C., but I could care less. Geoff Darrow draws the best damn fight between a school of sharks and a kung fu cowboy wielding staff-mounted chainsaws inside the belly of a behemoth I’ve ever seen.

Superman #654 (DC) Hmm, so this is what an absolutely perfect issue of a Superman comic book is like, huh?

Ultimate Fantastic Four #31 (Marvel) Wow, I should get a job doing security for the Baxter Building in Ultimate New York City—apparently, you can be a complete fucking idiot and still be considered qualified for the job. I love what artist Greg Land has done with Zombie Reed Richards, but dislike just about everything else about his art in this series of late. I’m really looking forward to his and writer Mark Millar’s last issue next month.

Ultimate Spider-Man #97 (Marvel) The inks seem a little off this week—fess up, John Sibal—resulting in pretty fuzzy art on a title that has earned a rep for being one of the most consistent titles in comics history (Soon to become the most consistent, when penciller Mark Bagley breaks Jack Kirby’s record). At least Bagley’s new design for the Ultimized Scropion is awesome. Major props to he and writer Brian Michael Bendis for taking the title of the most controversial and reviled story arc in Spider-Man history and using it for their record-making, record-breaking arc. If anyone can redeem the words “Clone Saga,” it’s Bendis and Bagley.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Comics Is Educational

Brief anecdote about the educational power of comic books: Today while out running errands, I stopped to buy a cup of cofee at a shop that was offering ten cents off the price of purchase to any customers who answered a trivia question. The question was, "What does 'defenestration' mean?"

I correctly guessed that it meant to throw someone or something out of a window.

Know how I know? Because of Garth Ennis and John McCrea's late '90s DC series Hitman, my favorite comic book series of all time.

In it, Ennis and McCrea introduced a team of "super" heroes known as Section Eight. They were lead by local drunk Sixpack and included among their number the fearsome Dogwelder, who welded dead dogs onto his enemies, and Bueno Excellente, a sweaty naked man in a trenchcoat who fought crime with "the power of perversion" (Whatever he did to criminals, it happens off-panel, thank God).

Anyway, one of these degenerate superheroes is named The Defenestrator (far left in the picture above), a big man who dresses like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator and carries a window with him at all times. In battle, he picks up his foes in one hand, and then throws him through the window he's holding in his other hand. Sure, it's not much of a gimmick, but it's better than Dogwelder's.

So thanks Mr. Ennis and Mr. McCrea. Not simply for producing my favorite comic book, but for saving me ten cents on my coffee today.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Weekly Haul: July 6th

52 #9 (DC Comics) Wow, I’m running out of ways to say “This series is really great” every week, and this is only the ninth issue of a planned 52-part series. While the Steel/Natasha/Luthor and the Montoya/Question/Batwoman storylines both make action-packed leaps forward this week, the highlight was probably Devilance the Pursuer keeping the M.I.A. space heroes captive in a cave like a fairytale ogre. While the ten-part “History of the DCU” back up story has been progressively less interesting, this installment, which covers Identity Crisis, is downright infuriating, as this story that exists solely to relay pertinent information to new readers about DC continuity gets several important details wrong.

The All New Atom #1 (DC) This may just be DC’s most promising new series in a long time. Young, Chinese import Dr. Ryan Choi arrives in fictional DC college town Ivy Town to fill the position vacated by his long-time correspondent, Dr. Ray “The Atom” Palmer. Not only will Choi be living in Palmer’s old digs and teaching his old classes, he’ll be wearing his size-changing belt as well, it seems. Writer Gail Simone, who does stellar character work, takes some re-design concepts and ideas from ever forward-thinking Grant Morrison and lays the groundwork for what seems to be an incredibly fun, new series. First conflict: Microscopic aliens who speak in bizarre tenses are infiltrating earth, beginning with the hides of dogs. Only two real flaws that I see (well, three if you count the costume redesign, as the Atom’s costume is one of the best in superhero history): Simone inserts non-sensical, distracting quotes like footnotes attached to dialogue throughout, and having controversial, old school penciller John Byrne drawing anything called “All New” seems a little silly, as he’s one of the few least new artist working in superhero comics today.

Battler Britton #1 (WildStorm/DC) If you’re like me (i.e. not British), chances are you had no idea who Battler Britton was until you heard of this series, but apparently he was a famous British comics hero that has currently come into DC’s possession, akin to Thunberbolt Jaxon. Battler being a World War II character, who better to bring him back to life than Garth Ennis, probably the only writer in mainstream American comics still telling war comics of any kind these days, let alone good ones. Together with artist Colin Wilson, Ennis reintroduces us to BB as he and his Royal Air Force squadron come to North Africa in 1942 to teach the Yanks how to shoot down Jerry proper like. They mix like tea and Coca-Cola. It’s far from Ennis’ best work, and feels a lot like all of his other World War II war comics, but that’s not exactly a bad thing—even mediocre Ennis is better than many writers at their best.

Conan and the Songs of the Dead #1 (Dark Horse) Let’s see, writer Joe R. Lansdale and artist Timothy Truman…on Conan? I can review this in just three words: Best. Conan. Ever.

Detective Comics #821 (DC) Paul Dini is best known for his work on the phenomenal mid-‘90s TV show Batman: The Animated Series, but he’s penned some pretty compelling Batman comics over the years as well, including Batman: Mad Love for Bruce Timm to illustrate and Batman: War On Crime for Alex Ross. He’s also responsible for the other five Ross oversized books and the fun Jingle Belle Christmas comics that Oni and Dark Horse have published. The guy knows Batman, and he knows how to write great comics—so what exactly took DC so long to give him a monthly Batman series? Regardless, he’s here now, and the results couldn’t be more spectacular. He accentuates the “Detective” in Detective Comics, and in the process does two things too rarely done in Batman comics these days. First, he presents an entire story in just one single issue. And second, he invents a new villain, which most Bat-writers have been too reticient to do for a long time, presumably because Batman already has the best rogues gallery in popular fiction. Dini’s collaborator is artist J.H. Williams III of Promethea fame, whose work I won’t even bother trying to compliment here—pictures are worth a thousand words, and Williams’ pictures are worth millions of my words. Suffice it to say that Detective hasn’t been this great since Greg Rucka left it years ago.

Devi #1 (Virgin Comics) Everything I’ve seen from new publisher on the block Virgin Comics so far—#0 preview issue, the ads—has looked promising, and the first issue of their first comic book is no exception. The production values are high, the book and logo design are slick and gorgeous, and the art is eye-popping. The story I’m yet to be convinced of. The title character is, or was, a human being infused with the power of an Indian pantheon to battle a rebel god in human pre-history. The first half of the book is devoted to Devi’s battle with the evil, bat-like god Bala, and it’s pretty cool stuff; Mukesh Singh’s art demands plenty of pauses to stop and simply admire it, and Siddharth Kotian’s cheesy script seems appropriate for the comic book mythology. Then we flash forward to the future, where the Devi character is a scantily-clad assassin with Witchblade-like powers, and Lord Bala has restyled himself as a James Bond villain.

JSA #87 (DC) This is the way JSA ends, not with a bang but a whimper. For years now, it’s been the most reliable team comic on the shelves, but for the series’ final arc its regular writer Geoff Johns turned the reigns over to Paul Levitz, and the result was a so-so two issue story stretched out across five issues. Considering the gigantic conflicts this usually huge team has dealt with over the past few years, this throw down against minor villain The Gentleman Ghost has been an anticlimax to the whole series.

Secret Six #2 (DC) Six villains unite as a team to fight all the other villains in the world for, um, some reason. Honestly, the story end of this series is a little foggy, but no one—myself included—picked up Gail Simone’s return to the team she introduced in last year’s Villains United for the story. It’s the cool characters, and Simone’s way of writing them, that sells this thing, and I continue to be sold, even though Brad Walker and Jimmy Palimiotti’ art leaves a lot to be desired. This issue, I especially enjoyed Catman’s cute little winter outfit, complete with cat ears on the hood, and the fact that Deadshot lights up a cigarette as soon as he finishes climbing up to a peak in the Himalayas—is that his superpower? The ability to smoke under any conditions?

Teen Titans #37 (DC) The new Titans and the new Doom Patrol versus the new Brotherhood of Evil, plus plenty of teen melodrama—a perfect superhero comic, really.

Transformers Evolutions #1 (IDW) After the initial blast of nostalgia wore off, I quickly tired of Dreamwave’s millennial relaunch of Transformers comics (Just as I did with G.I.Joe—both properties ate up a lot of time in my childhood, but I need something more than the fact that I loved something when I was eight to keep reading about it every month). This intriguing series drew me back quite quickly though. After centuries of war on prehistoric Earth, the sentient machine armies of Cybertron retreat to the bowels of the Earth to go into suspended animation and wait out the Ice Age. One awakens to find man mastering the steam engine, and the robots in disguise are primed to adopt Steam Age disguises—so Bumblebee’s a train, Shockwave’s a steamboat, Starscream becomes a biplane, et cetera. It’s a pretty cool idea, but I was a little disappointed in the human characters, which seem a little too League of Extraordinary Gentleman, only not as clever: steel-driving man John Henry, Jules Verne and Mark Twain (Counting The Five Fists of Science and The American Way, that’s the third time Twain’s popped up in a comic book this summer). Still, I’ll stick around to see what forms the steam age Transformers take.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Rogues for when "Superman Returns" returns

When the time comes for an inevitable sequel, the big guy's going to need enemies to fight, right? So which members of Supes' underused rogues gallery will be starring in Superman Returns Again, or whatever they end up calling the next installment of the Super-franchise? That's the subject of this article, in Washington altweekly the Pacific Northwest Inlander. Two villains who didn't make the cut are written up below.

Remarkably, The Onion's AV Club' Keith Phipps had a pretty similar idea for a story, although while I focused on the Man of Steel's top rogues, he hilariously went right for the bottom of the barrel, including the wannabe Titano, the Super-Ape, King Krypton, the Super-Gorilla (pictured above, in matching Superman outfit) and abstract concepts like poverty and obsolescence. His is much funnier.

Now here are your bonus rogue write-ups:


Winslow Schott was a brilliant toymaker who turned to super-crime, his modus operandi being to commit robberies using deadly versions children’s toys. The colorful motif and the fact that he’s a few hotels and a thimble short of a Monopoly game make him Superman’s most Batman-like villain.

Adaptation history: A regular member of the Legion of Doom on Superfriends (where he resembled a swishy marionette), he got a creepy update on Superman: The Animated Series, where he was a little person in a glossy ventriloquist dummy’s mask. His only live action appearance was on Lois & Clark.

Benefits: His is an interesting gimmick, which lends itself to cinematic set-pieces of giant toy soldiers with wind-up keys sticking out of their backs and giant teddy bears guarding a Lego fortress.

Downside: Lacks the recognition of most of Superman’s rogue’s gallery.

Odds: 3 to 1


Small-time crook John Corben ironically hit the big time after a near-fatal car accident completely destroyed his body. A Good Samaritan robotics specialist was luckily passing by, and was able to transplant Corben’s still-living brain into a powerful robot body. The body’s power source made him a natural foe for Superman: A kryptonite heart.

Adaptation history: He’s appeared in live action on Superboy and Lois & Clark and was a regular on Superman: The Animated Series, where he was voiced by Malcolm McDowell.

Benefits: As a human-looking cyborg, Metallo’s probably the easiest villain to create in live action, next to Luthor himself, and he makes a good deputy villain or super-powered henchman. Plus, McDowell’s probably available to play him.

Downside: He has little to no name recognition beyond comic book fans.

Odds: 10 to 1