Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Teen Titans #43: The Awesome and the Terrible

The cover of this week’s issue of Teen Titans seems incredibly symmetrical to me, probably because artist Tony S. Daniel made the line between the orange and navy halves of Deathstroke’s (snicker!) mask so straight. While the members of “Titans East” are sort of almost kinda positioned symmetrically, it’s that line on Deathstroke’s (heh!) mask that really seems to divide this image into two perfect halves.

Perhaps that’s what’s got me thinking in terms of two, easily divisible extremes, but as I was reading this issue, my mind kept leaping back and forth between excitement and disappointment, with each new detail being assigned a position in either the awesome or terrible category.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

First, the Awesome:

1.) Geoff Johns finally gets around to using some villains from the rogues galleries of some of the characters who have made up this version of the Teen Titans, namely Superboy clone Match and Impulse clone Inertia (unfortunately, he does this after he’s killed Superboy off and aged Impulse first into Kid Flash and then into Flash).

2.) Someone tries to make some sense out of Batgirl’s sudden and complete change in characterization between the end of her own series and the re-launch of Robin during the “One Year Later” initiative. Are you ready? Deathstroke (snort!) has been injecting her with some sort of drug that makes her evil. Now, is this a perfect solution? No. It explains why she’s evil (“Why do you think that Batgirl’s been acting rthe way she has?” ‘Stroke asks before administering an injection), and you could explain why she seemed to forget her own continuity (as evidenced here), her refusal to ever take another human life, what kind of clothes she liked to wear, why Robin kicked her ass so easy and why she was talking so eloquently (All side-effects of the serum!) Johns deserves a gold star, if not a gold medal, for this solution, but Adam Beechen still deserves derision for the original “Boy Wanted” story, as this doesn’t explain why Tim Drake thought Cassandra knew Navajo, why Batman is so blasé about a former sidekick who knows his secret identity running loose, why Oracle was so dumb that she took a police report that Batgirl was killed as the honest-to-God truth, or why Lynx came back to life all of a sudden for no reason. Still, way to go Johns! After this story arc, maybe DC will wise up and let Cassandra Cain recede into off-panel limbo, which is exactly the direction that Andersen Gabrych wrote her into at the end of Batgirl. (And no, I’m not reading Teen Titans when Beechen takes over. I read six issues of his Robin, and even after the Batgirl mess, it still really, really sucked, and showed the same lack of familiarity with the character. Teen Titans requires familiarity not only with Robin an Bat-history, but also about four or five other continuities on top of that).

3.) Lionmane makes an appearance. I love that dude’s name, and the fact that he’s a lion-man, but chose to go by “Lionmane” instead of “Lionman.”

4.) The “Titans East” Titans Tower looks pretty damn sweet.

5.) Johns’ Kid Devil, who is becoming the ultimate “foxhole Christian,” sneaking into mass and hanging out in the church rafters hoping God can save his soul from the devil he sold it to.

And now, the Terrible:

1.) Daniel’s art looks pretty good in single panels now and then, but he’s not a very good visual storyteller, a terrible “actor” with a pencil, and the story and art don’t match up as well as they should. Take the second panel, for example, in which Nightwing says goodbye to the Wilson kids while jumping off a roof. It’s a friendly parting of ways, but Nightwing looks grim and worried, and isn’t facing in their direction at all. He also has his little fighting sticks out…one has a weird hose near it, so maybe he shot a cable out of it, but I who the hell knows? He doesn’t look like an lifelong acrobat bidding a friendly farewell, he looks like a grim avenger of the night about to jump on the reader and buffet him or her about the face with his Daredevil sticks. There’s a certain Land-ishness to Daniel’s art, only it’s much, much, much more natural (which is a commentary on the lack of quality present in Land’s work, not the amount of quality in Daniels’).

2.) I give up, why is Match the Superboy-version of Bizarro now instead of, well, Match? Match was originally an exact clone of Superboy (albeit a blonde one) with a perfectly normal, not-backwards brain—he was sharp enough to impersonate Superboy and infiltrate Young Justice for a good long time. Here, we see that Match has the exact same haircut and taste in clothes that Superboy had right before his death (despite the fact that they haven’t had any interaction since Sins of Youth and, like the dark, mean Bizarro that Johns wrote in Infinite Crisis and Action Comics, Match has white crumbly skin, and talks in opposites. Oh, and he has a backwards “S” T shirt. What the fuck? Now that Superboy’s dead, think how much more interesting a Titans villain Match could have been. He could have easily claimed to have been the resurrected Superboy, and just about everyone would have believed him. Hell, in 52, Wonder Girl thought just about every new person she met was Superboy resurrected. Inertia explains that Match has been “rotting away little by little,” and that he’s “not much of a conversationalist anymore.” That’s Johns’ explanation for why Match is now Bizarroboy, but it’s just a way to force the dots to connect.

3.) Robin’s clothing collection is just goddam weird. Trying to clone Superboy back to life makes a certain amount of twisted sense, especially as the unhealthy reaction of a psychologically hurt young boy, but here Robin has a whole collection of the clothes of the loved ones he’s lost—his mom, his dad, Spoiler…was he planning on cloning them all?

4.) Deathstroke’s (hee hee!) explanation of his Evil Serum being responsible for Cassandra being bad comes too close on the heels of Robin’s accusation that ‘Stroke was driving Ravager mad by “pumping Rose full of the same serum that enhanced your strength and speed,” which makes one wonder if ‘Stroke was giving Cassie (and presumably Risk and Joker’s Daughter) the Slade Wilson super-serum and it was turning them crazy evil, or if that is an entirely different serum.

5.) When Inertia runs past Wonder Girl at super-speed, he mentions that her hair smells really nice. This is just a little thing, I know, and we are talking about a bunch of teenagers in skin-tight suits with super-powers, but must every villain these days be some kind of sex-pervert? Whatever happened to robbery, murder and ruling the world as villainous motivations?

Weekly Haul: January 31st

52 #39 (DC) Penciller Andy Smith joins the writing staff for an action-packed issue of DC’s best super-series, an issue which manages to touch base with just about every of the many ongoing plotlines (only the space heroes and Montoya are missing, and I think that after last week’s issue, we’ve all had more than enough of Montoya for a while). Interesting things are going on in Khandaq (the Horsemen attack!), on the ocean floor (Ralph and Helmet visit…Aquaman?!) and on the island of mad scientists (Suspendium! Mr. Mind mentioned! Magnus fights back!), but the most talked about plotline is sure to be the inevitable early climax of the Infinity, Inc. storyline (one which most readers probably saw coming for about 30 weeks or so now). In another demonstration of the fact that no one at DC ever reads anything on the Internet at all, we get the start of what looks like another classic moment of women-in-refrigerator-ism, as another teenage heroine gets the hell beat out of her (after having spent the last few weeks making out with a shape-changer who pretended to be her boyfriend). Will Natasha Irons survive her encounter with a super-powered Lex Luthor? Tune in next week! And now, some nitpicking: If that is Aquaman, half way towards losing his mind enough to become “The Dweller in the Deep,” his hand was mis-colored on page six—his left hand is made out of magic water, remember? And Montoya does not, in fact, fight a Dragon, as the cover states—I don’t mind, I’m just saying.

Black Panther #24 (Marvel Comics) This is a very ugly issue of Black Panther, but the story more than makes up for it. The cover is by Michael Turner, and it’s not a very good-looking one—His Panther and Cap look fine, but all three female characers look the exact same, and Falcon’s wings look like those of a fairy more than a bird of prey. The interior art is penciled by Aspen studios’ Marcus To and Koi Turnbull, and it’s all over the place. The worst part is the Cap vs. Panther sparring, which doesn’t make a lick of sense, from a fight choreography stand-point. Writer Reginald Hudlin has a lot going on in this issue though, all of it exciting. The U.S. readies for war with Wakanda, Iron Man and SHEILD try to get T’Challa’s bodyguards in custody, Storm approaches Reed Richards, T’Challa literally sniffs out the traitor on Caps team (if you read Civil War #6, last month, you already know who it is) and plots to break into the Negative Zone prison (again, shown in last month’s CW #6), Clor gets a clean bill of helath (just in time for this showdown next month), and some of T’Challa’s “Black Avengers” from the Bad Mutha trade get some panel-time.

Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood (DC)
Missed it! Writer Chuck Dixon recently told Newsarama’s Matt Brady that when he’s hired to write other people’s characters, he’s a professional about it and keeps his own political views out of the story. He makes several good points and gets a neat dig in at Judd Winick (with whose politics I often agree with, although he seems completely unable to communicate them in a readable fashion). “I’ve never backed away from my disdain for agenda-driven comics in what should be the medium’s primary escapist, mass appeal genre,” Dixon said. “Stand on your soap box all day long. But don’t stand on the shoulders of household-name icons. Write the characters incharacter and don’t write your world-view through them.” Okay, good point, but then, by the same token, you probably should spout off about your own backward political views all over the Internet, particularly on sites like devoted to covering things like the comic books you think responsible creators like yourself shouldn’t use as soapboxes. Now I’ve always enjoyed Dixon’s Bat-writing; the guy does good, straight ahead action stories. And I’ve always particularly enjoyed his Connor Hawke, who seemed created to be the polar opposite of Green Arrow Oliver Queen, part of what makes him so unique. I dig the fact that he’s a vegetarian (hey, me too!), multi-racial, and weird around women—he’s always been portrayed as clumsily oblivious, and it was up to the reader to decide if he was gay, asexual or just a pre-sexual virgin. Dude was raised in a monastery mastering martial arts and archery, after all! Well, Dixon can’t seem to leave it to the readers anymore, which is why his series should probably just be re-titled Connor Hawke: Straight as an Arrow. The icky cover shows him making out with his dad’s former flame (and rapist?!), the mother of his half-brother, Lady Shado. Inside, Dixon goes about assuring us that Connor is 100%, red-blooded heterosexual. After he misinterprets a woman’s attempt to pick him up in standard Connor Hawke-style, he then turns around and asks her to dinner. There they have this conversation, about his life at a monastary:

Date: You never see any women there?

Connor: No.

Date: But you think about them, right?

Connor: Yes.

Date: Am I making the big, bad Justice League member uncomfortable.

Connor: My social skills ar epretty much…non-existent.

Date: You’re doing fine…maybe I’ll come around to your room.

Connor goes upstairs to wait for her, and finds Lady Shado in his bed, wounded. She kisses him, and, instead of a panel showing us Connor recoiling (as you might expect him to do if just about any woman kissed him all of a sudden like that, let alone Shado), we get a panel of them making out. They’re interrupted by Connor’s date, who dies from an arrow shaft in the back, thus preserving Connor’s virginity (but see? He totally made out with a woman, while waiting to hook up with another woman, so he’s obviously totally straight!). While Dixon’s politics and use of the issue to highlight the fact that a character he created doesn’t accidentally turn out gay sort of ruins the proceedings, artist Derec Donovan is simply fantastic. I hope he gets tons more DC work after this miniseries; he’s easily the most skilled artists I encountered in any of this week’s books, and his presence would have infinitely improved any of the stories I read this week.

JLA: Classified #33 (DC) DC seems to have cleared up the confusion over who did what on this story that was evidenced in the credits of the last issue , with Dan Slott now being credited with the plot and Dan Jurgens with the script and layout art (Trevor Scott finishes the art). After the double-sized introductory chapter of “The 4th Parallel,” we pick up in one of the several realities Darrin Proffit is trying to destroy the JLA in under the guise of “The Red King.” His plan is to help the League until they invite him to join their ranks, and this involves repeated battles with the Royal Flush Gang, who get a pretty cool upgrade halfway through the story. The script is pretty dreadful (and now I know who to blame!) and makes the “World’s Greatest Superheroes” seem more like a Little League baseball team. I mean, the whole team just to take on the Royal Flush Gang? Half the Detroit League totally kicked their asses a few issues ago. Maybe it’s my own fault for having just reread JLA: Trial By Fire, in which the Flash evacuates an entire North Korean city by himself in less than a second, but it seemed odd to me that the whole League had to stop chasing the R.F.G. to evacuate one measly burning hotel. While this story is currently tied with the afore-mentioned Detroit League arc for Worst Story-Arc In JLA: Classified ever, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I like seeing John Stewart, Plastic Man, Wally “The Flash” West and proper-skull-shaped J’onn J’onnz on the Justice League.

Teen Titans #43 (DC) As it turns out, this is the very last story arc of Teen Titans by Geoff Johns. Based on the first issue of said story arc, it’s a very typical Johns story, with a bunch of characters sort of jumping out and posing and being cool and saying cool lines. Tony S. Daniel is back on pencils, and apparently he’s leaving after this arc too. Which is odd, because I didn’t even realize he was the regular penciller, based on how often fill-ins were needed over the past year.

DinoWars #2 (Antarctic Press) Huh. I honestly can’t tell if writer/artist Rod Espinosa is making fun of big, stupid action movies in this series or not and, if so, to what degree. The part near the end of the book where our two principals meet up and catch up on old times definitely gives it a parody feel, but it could just be bad; I can’t decide. Kind of wish I would have waited for a trade, considering I’ve already dropped $7 on the series and we’re only two issues in.

Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham #1 (Featuring Wolverham) (Marvel) Perhaps I was expecting too much from this book, which features a fun title and contributions from a whole lot of artists whose work I enjoy and admire, but God, this sucked so much worse than I ever could of imagined. I loved the cover, which spoofs Michael Turner’s Civil War #1 cover, with Spider-Ham striking a Cap-like pose, and holding a blood-soaked dollar sign instead of a shield. The first five and a half pages aren’t bad either, with writer J. Michael Hamzynski parodying Marvel’s current outlaw of the though balloon by having Spider-Ham say “I am out of ideas” in a narration box, and then realize he’s out of ideas because he’s not allowed to think in thought balloons anymore, so he’s off on a quest to find his thought balloons. He wanders into a lame Civil War parody, and, from there, a Dr. Strange spell shows him possible futures (one-page splashes by various artists that make visual ham puns on Marvel properties), each drawn by a different artist. On the surface, it’s similar to Evan Dorkin’s wonderful World’s Funnest, a trade special in which Mr. Mxyplkt and Bat-Mite battle through the DC Multiverse, destroying everything in their wake, with each universe drawn by a different artist, in some cases those who created them (including Alex Ross doing Kingdom Come, Frank Miller doing Dark Knight Returns, etc). But this is only 22 pages. And Marvel doesn’t really have that many recognizable universes to parody, at least not that they’re willing to parody (Spider-Ham doesn’t stop by the 1602-iverse, or Earth X, or any place from any movies or cartoons). And JMS isn’t as funny as Dorkin. Nobody parodies Marvel as effectively as Marvel (as Brian Michael Bendis’ recent Impossible Man/Stan Lee crossover illustrated), but this book has the same sort of dated, unfunny toothlessness that marked their overly-safe Wha---Huh?! special. First up, check out the title. You may notice something missing, specifically the word “Crisis,” which was there when the project was announced and discussed. In fact, it must have been there fairly recently, because the Diamond shipping list reads, “NOV062278 ULTIMATE CIVIL WAR SPIDER-HAM CRISIS #1,” and’s solicitation misspells the word with an “F” instead of a “C,” but was written when it was still to be Crisis apparently. What gives? It’s not like DC owns the word “crisis,” guys. While it’s a very small matter, it’s like Wha—Huh?!’s Infinite Crisis parody—cowardly and afraid to offend. Not exactly attributes of good comedy. As for the “Ham” makeovers, having seen them all posted on months ago, I didn’t find the sight of Hambit, Hamneto or Ultimate Captain Hamerica all that hilarious here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Seven Stupid Things That I Totally Hated About Green Arrow: Heading Into the Light

The other day I borrowed a trade from the library to see what I've been missing out on since dropping Green Arrow. It was entitled Green Arrow: Heading Into the Light, and it collected issues #52 and #54-#59 of the Green Arrow monthly series. Two writers are credited, Judd Winick and J. Calafiore, although it never says who wrote what. Likewise, there are four pencillers credited, but the individual issues are uncreddited; Tom Fowler, Ron Garney, Ron Lim and Paul Lee.

The story is roughly the follow-up to Identity Crisis, and features the second appearance of Doctor Light after writer Brad Meltzer’s story retroactively added some tarnish to the Silver Age Justice League, telling us that Light raped Sue Dibny on the League’s meeting table, and they responded by trying to magically alter his brain so that he wouldn’t ever rape anyone again (and they screwed up, turning him into a joke that the Teen Titans beat up regularly).

The plot for this story is roughly the exact same plot for the preceding story arc (collected in Green Arrow: Moving Targets), in which villains hire other villains who hire other villains to mess with Green Arrow and his family in a Byzantine revenge plot.

There are some good points here. I like the fact that Black Lightning guest-stars because, well, Black Lightning is awesome.

I also liked seeing Doctor Light II, the Japanese scientist who was an on-again off-again member of the JLI and was featured on Justice League Unlimited appearing, even though she simply gets brutalized by her namesake (And isn’t it time to change her name, given what Meltzer and DC have done to the original Dixrie Light?).

I liked the idea of Merlyn fighting Green Arrow.

And I always like seeing Connor Hawke, a very interesting and highly unique character in the DCU.

But the good ideas are lost in a terribly pedestrian story that’s overflowing with icky, misogynistic moments, one that features an amoral, unlikeable hero fighting a super-powered rapist.

As for the plot, The Society wants to make an example of Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow, because he’s just a normal guy with no superpowers who is still brave enough to stand up to supervillains. (Presumably they decide to go after G.A. instead of Batman because they know Batman would totally kick their asses). Now, they don’t want to just kill G.A., but make him suffer, by destroying his city and killing his family first. Got it?

Okay, so to do this, Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator (Man, that name makes me giggle every time I type it!), hires Merlyn, who hires Dr. Light, who hires Killer Frost and Mirror Master.

Like almost all of Winick’s Green Arrow run, it’s just a terrible, terrible story. But some aspects of it really stick out as exceptionally terrible. In fact, seven things do:

1.) The IC Mind-Wipes

Looking back at everything that’s happened in the DCU since Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, it’s clear that DC looked at the story as a sort of launching pad from which to relaunch their entire fictional universe and the line of comic books that chronicles the events in it. It lead quite quickly to the “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” period (the 80-page giant that saw Ted Kord take a bullet to the dome, plus the five mini-series that lead directly into Crisis), which in turn lead to Infinite Crisis, which in turn lead to 52 and the “One Year Later” relaunches.

Considering how important the story apparently is, it just boggles my mind how often the later stories that refer to it get points about it wrong.

In this particular storyline, Green Arrow and Flash, are chatting on the Watchtower when Batman stops by to say hi. After he leaves, Flash tells G.A. that Batman will find out eventually (Nevermind the fact that IC makes it pretty explicit that Batman already knows and always has). When G.A. responds, “Find out what?”, Flash says, “That when you mind-wiped Doctor Light, Batman tried to stop you… And you mind-wiped him, too.”

Now Green Arrow and his co-conspirators did not wipe Doctor Light’s mind, as they were said to do (and shown doing via flashback) to the members of the Secret Society of Supervillains. In that case, all the Justice League did, through the agency of Zatanna’s magic, was erase certain memories from the villains’ heads.

But with Doctor Light, instead of removing a memory or two, they tried to, in Green Arrows words, “clean him up a bit,” or, in other words, magically change his personality.

When Batman tried to bust them up, they magically froze him and then erased ten minutes of his memory, enough so that he forgot what he saw them doing.

So they did mind-wipe Batman, but they did not mind-wipe Doctor Light.

2.) Arrowcave v 2.0

Winick and/or Calafiore open one scene with an establishing shot of a skyscraper, and the following caption: “The Steadman Building. Luxury condominiums, currently completely unoccupied. Except for three miles below, in the subbasement.

Three miles deep? Just to put that in perspective, the Grand Canyon is about a mile deep. The new Arrowcave is a full three Grand Canyons beneath an abandoned building in Star City? Did Superman do his human drill thing and build this base for Team Arrow or what? Man, that’s an awfully deep sub-basement.

Later, Mia will be shown running through a door to find Dr. Light there and, later still, firemen will be shown digging them out of the rubble. Though the narration never points this out, I assume those scenes must all take place on the first floor of the abandoned building, because those firemen sure as hell weren’t digging through three miles of rubble.

3.) Doctor Light vs. Doctor Light

An early low-point of this graphic novel occurs when the two Doctors Light face-off with one another; the bad, male Doctor Light shows up to absorb the powers of the good, female Doctor Light.

His first strike rips up her suit and splays her out on the ground, so that throughout the rest of the fight we can see her bare thighs and exposed belly. Now, the torn outfit is a staple of superhero fights, but it’s more remarkable in this particular instance because a) the good Doctor Light has one of the least revealing superhero costumes, one which covers her entire body, even part of her hair, and b) the male aggressor is, in this case, a known rapist.

Winick and/or Calafiore actually draws/draw the comparison himself/themselves, when Bad Doctor Light talks about the fight to Green Arrow later on: “Yes…alost like I raped her, huh? Similar exchange…but I seem to be benefiting more than usual.”

And if anyone feels like making the case that using rape plotlines into superhero comics makes them more adult, sophisticated and better reflections of the real world in which we live, I would just like to point out that this fight scene contains the following sound effects: Breeeoot! Coom!! Tzot! and Breee-ock!

4.) For a Liberal, Green Arrow Isn’t Very PC

I’ve never fought a woman who could shoot ice at me or been held prisoner by a super-powered rapist, so I don’t personally know how stressful these situations are, or whether or not they’ll make a man say things he doesn’t really believe. But I was pretty surprised at the language and epithets G.A. throws around in this story.

Aside from the fact that he wears green, shoots arrows and has a funny beard, the one thing that defines Green Arrow’s personality is that he’s a liberal. So, you’d expect him to be sort of sensitive to offending women and gay people right?

Not so.

Contemplating whether or not to shoot a chemically treated super-arrow at Killer Frost that acts like Greek fire, G.A. narrates, “This stuff is a real bitch. Then again…so is she.”

Sure, he just thought it, but still, he totally called a woman a bitch.

Later, when Doctor Light goes on one of his many speeches about raping, Green Arrow spits, “Sick @##$%% twist…”

Now, that swear word is probably meant to be “fucking,” because there are only a few words that can’t be used in a DC comic book, and fewer still that can be used as an adjective to the word “twist,” which is slightly more polite way than “faggot” to refer to a gay person.

I could see Hawkman or Hal Jordan calling someone a “@##$%% twist,” but G.A.? Really? I’m disappointed.

His current sidekick, Mia Dearden, a.k.a. Speedy, also derisively refers to Doctor Light as a homosexual in the story. After he calls her a “hooker” (which is the first time I’ve heard that word in 20 years), she responds: “You’re dressed like the Good Humor Man at a pride parade and you’re gonna take shots at me?!You’re a feather boa and some chpas away from emceeing a drag show!”

Okay, I admit, I laughed at that remark, mostly because I never thought of the Good Humor Man as gay before, and the mental image of him driving his ice cream truck through a pride parade is rather amusing.

But would a superhero say this? Even a smart-mouthed teenaged superhero? I mean, look at what Doctor Light is wearing—a skintight costume with a cape and his underwear on the outside. You know, like Superman or Batman or every other superhero in the DC Universe! (Speedy, by the way, also wears a skintight costume with a cape).

The comment seems even more out of place when Black Lightning walks in wearing his costume of the time, which has a neckline that plunges all the way to his navel.

5.) Green Arrow is a dickhead

Call me crazy, but I’ve never found superheroes who torture bad guys to extract information all that heroic. I’ve grown accustomed to Batman doing it over the years because over those same number of years he’s been characterized as a psychotic asshole (although the best writers usually find a way to get Batman to scare info out of stoolies rather than beat it out of them, however).

But all of DC’s superheroes have shown a real meanstreak of late, particularly those written by Geoff Johns and Judd Winick, and here we see Green Arrow engaging in a little torture for info. Remember that “Greek fire” arrow? Well he fires it at Killer Frost, setting her on fire, and interrogates her while she burns. Let me say that again: He sets a woman on fire and refuses to put her out until she talks. And remember, this is DC’s resident lefty. I shudder to think how Hawkman would have interrogated her.

6.) No You Didn’t

In the issue Doctor Light narrates, in which he stalks Mia at her school and then follows her home, he tells us, “I discovered all of their identities and raped Elongated Man’s wife.”

While he did do the latter, he didn’t do the former. Elongated Man hasn’t had a secret identity since his, I don’t know, fourth appearance? He was the first superhero to “out” himself and have a public identity. Everyone always knew who the Elongated Man was. And that was how Doctor Light was able to rape Sue Dibny. He didn’t break into the Dibnys’ home, he snuck aboard the Justice League satellite, where Sue was hanging out (If Ralph had a secret identity, he presumably wouldn’t be able to bring his wife to work).

I don’t know that that whole “I discovered all of their identities” bit was about; I never read the original SSOV storyline in which the bad guys discovered the League’s identities (the one referenced in Identity Crisis and JLA story “Crisis of Conscience”), so maybe Doctor Light was one of those villains though, I don’t know—if he was, then he was suspiciously absent from the SSOV line-up in “Crisis of Conscience.”

7.) Doctor Light Can’t Shut Up About Rape

Rape is a horrible, repulsive crime, one that’s so horrible and repulsive that it doesn’t belong in comic books…or at least comic books written by hacks. Why? For the simple fact that a hack can make such a horrible, repulsive subject laughable, and laughter isn’t exactly the sort of response an artist or an entertainment company should illicit from their audience when talking about it.

But as Heading Into The Light reaches it’s climax, Winick’s Doctor Light just cannot shut up about rape. Everything that happens, everything that Green Arrow says to him, he keeps bringing it back to rape.

When G.A. calls him a sick twist, he responds, “Why? Because I rape?”

When he and Merlyn blow up Green Arrow’s house (the second time Green Arrow’s house gets blown up in this book), Doctor Light says, “Oh, poor Ollie…are you feeling violated now? And you thought I was such a rapist? Which would you say is worse, rape of the body or rape of the mind?”

This scene was already rather effectively skewered here. Best part? “Gee whiz, dude! Why don't you just change your name to Dr. Rape and get it over with!”

And now, four totally awesome things about this story arc:

Those, by the way, are four of James Jean's beautiful covers from his time as Green Arrow cover artist, proving that you can, in fact, put lipstick on a pig. They're reproduced in the back of the trade collection but, for some reason, DC opted to slap a Scott McDaniel drawing of the two GAs and Speedy's with bows drawn on the cover, instead of that sweet Merlyn vs. Green Arrow image, which appears with the online solicitation.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Actually Essential Storylines: Red Tornado

(Note: That super-cute customized Lego figure of Red Tornado above? It's courtesy of artist Todd Nauck, and there are a ton more like it at Nauck's site I clicked there looking for a Nauck Red Tornado image, since he's drawn the character more and longer than just about anyone in the past decade or so, but this is all I could find. But that's cool—I think this is the single greatest version of Red Tornado I've ever seen anywhere.)

This week’s 52 origin story is that of everyone’s favorite sentient cyclone housed in an android body, Red Tornado, as drawn by Phil Jimenez.

Mark Waid does a pretty great job on this origin, devoting much of it to a rather thorough (well, as thorough as a six-panel story can be) re-telling of the Red Tornado’s origin and, killing two birds with one stone, the skinny on T.O. Morrow (who’s turned out to be a much bigger player in 52 than the Tornado has).

Glossing over is a necessarily evil in these origins, and Waid ends up glossing over just about everything that’s happened to the Tornado since the “Satellite Era” of the League, including when he got his android-like face plate, that ugly yellow arrow on his forehead, his time with Young Justice and Primal Force and his current status quo as a member of the still-relaunching Justice League of America team (a senence is devoted to pointing out that his “soul has recently been merged with flesh and blood.”

Looking at the recommendations under “Essential Storylines” this week, DC has done a much better job than usual, and reading the three books they suggest on top of this origin should pretty much get you up to speed. But in the interest of overkill, I’ll offer plenty more.

Here’s what DC suggests…

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 (2006): The first story arc of Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes and Sandra Hope’s new JLoA story is called “The Tornado’s Path,” and Red Tornado—or “Reddy,” as his teammates insist on calling him—is the focus of the story. In this issue, his soul is seeking to return to his body after his seventh death (give or take a few), but he’s lead by “Deadman” to take on a human body, a discarded duplicate from the lame-ass villain Duplicate. Thus “Reddy” has a human body, although when he powers up he still has green, pupil-less eyeballs and a red face with an arrow on top of it. I don’t know if he paints all that on and pops in green eye contacts or what.

He still has his tornado powers, but I personally feel this is something of a bad move. It’s not just because I’ve experienced the non-human sentient being becoming human for the first time story so many times before (though that’s a factor), but because the Red Tornado’s character up to this point was that he was an android that makes tornadoes. Now, he’s just a guy who makes tornados, which cuts his individual attributes in half (it be a little like Batman not dressing up like a bat anymore, you know?).

Oddly enough, DC only suggests #1, but the Tornado appears in #2-#5 as well, and will presumably be part of the formalized line-up of the team (as seen recently in Green Lantern #16), whenever Meltzer gets around to formalizing the line-up. A trade is certainty and, in fact, has already been announced.

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOL. 2:This is the second in a series collecting classic crossovers between the JLA and the JSA, back when the former was on the parallel Earth-2. The stories referred to by the first couple panels of Waid and Jimenez’s 52 origin refer to are contained within.

52: Yes, Red Tornado does appear in this series, but then, so does most of the DCU, doesn’t it? The Tornado hasn’t been seen much in it, those his severed head appeared on the cover of #28, and, in that same issue, he showed off his crazy new battle and shouted “52!” over and over. Perhaps he’ll have a bigger role as the story progresses, since he likely saw whatever Animal Man, Starfire and Adam Strange saw (Smart money says the multiverse). His maker, Morrow, has been an important player, recruiting Dr. Will Magnus to join Egg Fu’s island of mad scientists.

And here’s what they missed…

THE GOLDEN AGE RED TORNADO: The origin doesn’t mention it, but the Red Tornado is something of a legacy character. Or, at the very least, his name comes from another character that proceeded him. It was Ma Hunkle’s superhero identity. You can see her subjected to ridicule here, as well as in some archive editions that I can’t afford.

Post-Crisis, she appeared alongside the female JSA members in 1999’s Sensation Comics #1 (part of the Justice Society Returns! event), and in JSA #55 Green Lantern Alan Scott, Flash Jay Garrick and Wildcat visit Ma Hunkle and convince her to join the JSA in a non-combat role, and she’s since become something of their den mother. Her granddaughter, Maxine Hunkle, was recruited to the team in JSoA #1, and will apparently be joining the team under the codename Cyclone.

THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA HEREBY ELECTS…: The Satellite Era, during which Red Tornado was an active member, is one of the least-collected League eras, and short of lucking into some back issues, you’re pretty much stuck with the Crisis on Multiple Earths books and this recently released volume, which collects the story of Red Tornado’s induction into the League (as well as those of several other heroes).

The Justice League and Society weren’t the only teams that Red Tornado served on, of course. This short-lived ongoing series spun out of the Zero Hour crossover/event, and featured an extremely odd collection of heroes: A new Claw the Unconquered (going simply by Claw), a golem named Golem, one of the ten or twenty Jack O’ Lanterns, Meridian, Dr. Mist and, of course, Red Tornado. It launched in 1994 and only lasted 15 issues (counting the #0 issue). Tornado was one of the more recognizable characters, but he didn’t have very many liens. When the team first find him, he’s in some sort of walking android coma, and just sort of floats around, dragging across the ceiling like a helium balloon while indoors, and occasionally springing to life to shoot tornados when threatened. It wasn’t terribly popular and is now mostly forgotten, but the weird line-up of obscure properties, and the fact that it was written by Steven Seagle (who would go on to write It’s a Bird…) make it worth a look, should you come across it in back-issue bins.

Two-part prestige miniseries JLA: World Without Grown-Ups teamed Robin, Superboy and Impulse together for the first time and would promptly lead to the creation of Young Justice, an A-List version of the Teen Titans (a name used at the time by Dan Jurgen’s all-original team of Teen Titans). The series, which pitted the kids and the League against a villain named Bedlam, ended with the Big Bad’s consciousness taking refuge in an inert Red Tornado, who was just sort of decorating the corner of the League’s old Happy Harbor base (Red Tornado only makes a two-panel appearance in this series).

It was enough to make him a prime player in the Young Justice ongoing. The series got off to a very rocky start, but eventually the creative team of Peter David, Todd Nauck and Larry Stucker settled into a groove and started producing a great team book, one which lasted 56 issues (counting the #1,000,000 issue, and was cancelled not because of poor sales, but rather to make way for Geoff Johns’ relauched Teen Titans title).

Red Tornado served as the chaperone/mentor for the team of teen heroes. His wife Kathy Sutton and adopted daughter Traya would play increasingly large roles in the supporting cast, with #11 standing out as a Tornado-focused story (in it, Kathy is put in coma by a brainwashed Traya and R.T. has to go to court to determine if he’s considered human enough to have custody of a human being or not).

The Suttons also played a role in Young Justice 80-Page Giant #1, a story that featured Bedlam in Reddy’s head. The 1998 Secret Origins 80-Page Giant #1 featured Tornado bonding with Secret. Very little of Young Justice has made it into trade form, but the YJ miniseries/event Sins of Youth is definitely worth a looksee.

Shortly before Young Justice was forcibly disbanded—the contrived ending of the series was covered in the godawful Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day series—the Tornado had an interesting spotlight story in JLA/JSA Secret Files and Origins #1. This 2003 prequel to JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice featured a four-page story called “Stormchasers,” in which several super-teams converge to help with emergency flood relief, and Superman asks Reddy to re-up with the League and Flash asks him to rejoin the Society. He turns them both down, saying he’s needed most as a mentor to the Young Justice kids, and tells the heroes that “the child has become the parent.”

JLA: The Red Tornado had a solo story in 1998 anthoogy JLA 80-Page Giant #1 by Todd Dezago and penciller Ben Herrera. Entitled “Tin Man’s Lament,” it’s about Reddy trying to reclaim his place in Kathy and Traya’s life, but he’s rebuffed by Kathy (who doesn’t want to keep putting their daughter through having to announce that her android superhero father has “died” every couple years). He flies off to go sit in the Happy Harbor HQ and for his JLA: World Without Grown-Ups cameo.

Like most of the Satellite League, Red Tornado appears in the Geoff Johns/Allan Heinberg co-written JLA arc “Crisis of Conscience”. He gets torn to pieces by the Secret Society of Supervillains and dumped on Batman and Martian Manhunter in the first issue. Batman puts him back together in the Batcave just in time for the Tornado to spring to the rescue at the climax. It’s not a very good story, and basically boils down to groups of superheroes making unexpected entrances for five issues.

Tornado would also briefly appear in the next (and last) JLA story arc, “World Without a Justice League.” He spins onto a crime scene just in time for Donna Troy to swoop in and ask he and the other space-worthy heroes assembled to go off to space as part of her cannon fodder brigade. Red Tornado spends the Infinite Crisis with Donna and company, and comes back to earth in pieces (see 52).

The Kingdom Come-iverse, which is apparently about to become part of the DC Multiverse v 2.0 (Earth-KC?), had a pretty cool Red Tornado in it, though I don’t recall him/it doing much more than standing around looking cool. It was roughly man-shaped, wore a cape and had a pair of eyes, but rather than a solid, android body, it’s was simply made out of a little, person-sized tornado.

In the Alex Ross-iverse, Tornado is a member in good standing of the Justice League. He had a small role in Ross and Paul Dini’s oversized JLA: Liberty and Justic, and is also among the massive superhero army currently starring in Justice (In #3, an unseen villain takes control of Tornado, and forces him to tear his own head off and rip wires out of his chest. That poor bastard seems to get torn to pieces in every third appearances).

Tornado was also one of the eight thousand DC superheroes who made up the Justice League Unlimited line-up, which was more than sufficient to earn him a place in DC’s Justice League Unlimited comic book (where he sports blue gloves and boots, a slightly cooler look than he does in the Ross-iverse). JLU #13 was a Red Tornado spotlight of sorts, focusing on his relationship with Steel, who learns to appreciated Tornado as a friend as well as a marvel of engineering.

Meanwhile, in Omaha...

A feature I wrote on Impeach Bush!'s Bob Scott and Mike Leffel ran in this week's Reader. Go read it if you're hard up for something to read.

I actually had a nice, long interview with the pair with lots of interesting tidbits about the difficulties of political cartooning that I'd planned to post here at EDILW when the Reader feature finally ran, but when my last computer died a terrible death, it took that interveiw down with it.

I do remember Leffel saying he had a lot of trouble getting Rumsfeld right, which I found really odd, considering what a good Bush Leffel does.

Me, I've never been able to draw Bush to my own satisfaction, but I was able to draw a passable Rumsfeld fairly quickly. He may have been the shittiest secretary of defense to serve during my lifetime, but man, that crazy old mummy man had, like, the greatest facial structure ever.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

January 25th's Meanwhile in Las Vegas...

This week's LVW column features reviews of The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb (a title I never tire of typing), Mitsukazu Mihara's highly recommended manga Haunted House, and Marvel Adventures Spider-Man Vol. 5: Monsters on the Prowl.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere...

— and U Weekly sponsored Stephen Slaybaugh and Kevin Elliott's Bands to Watch 2007 (Jesus, that's a mouthfull) included one local band with a comic book connection, The Black Canary. You can listen to an MP3 and find more info on them here.

—I believe the Best Shots Crew can now officilly claim the crown of Absolute Last "Best of 2006" List To Be Posted on the Internet, with our list making it to this week. Our Christmas trees are all still up, too.

—I have no idea what this image is all about—and apparently no one this side of Phil Jimenez does—but iI do know it frightens me. At the very least, it means another big DC crossover/event series. At the most, it means the returning, expanded multiverse (inculding the Kingdom Come-iverse and Earth-Pirate), which means more continuity question marks on top of the ones that haven't been resolved since the last crisis.

—In blogging about the anniversarry of Roe v. Wade, Ragnell offers up another good argument for why Milestone's Icon series should be collected in trade paperback form, like, stat!

This is the funniest thing I've read in a comic book in a good long time. Eddie Berganza can't possibly be that clueless, can he? If so, I have a couple of suggestions for him to consider: Hiring an artist with at least a rudimentary grasp of anatomy capable of drawing Supergirl like a real human being (this means no more Turner or Churchill); a costume redesign that includes lengthening her skirt so she's a little less half-naked and replacing her halter top for an actual shirt (and requiring her to wear a bra at least until she's 18 and a superwoman); and maybe, just maybe, think about hiring a female writer who's actually been a teenage girl at some point to write Supergirl. Oh, and most importantly, fewer panels like this

and more panels like this

(That first one is form Michael Turner's Superman/Batman story arc, "The Supergirl From Krypton." The second one is from Dean Trippe's website.)

The price is right: Free Comic Book Day 2007 offerings announced

Borrowing the tried-and-true tactic of drug dealers, Free Comic Book Day gives newcomers a free first taste in the hopes of hooking them on comics and, should they become truly addictedd to the medium—bam!—comic shops and publishers have another new customer for life.

Free Comic Book Day is May 5th this year, which is probably a little too early to start seeing which of your local comic shops are participating and finalizing your shopping list, but it's not too early to look at what books we can look forward to, and contemplate whether or not they’re very good choices for evangelizing the medium and growing the customer base.

First, let’s look at the offerings of the two big companies which, for all intents and purposes, constitute the comic book industry.


DC's gold-level title for this year, is [the] all-new, all-ages Johnny DC series spinning out of the smash-hit animated series on Kids WB on the CW! In this debut issue, the Legion travels back in time for reinforcement to stop the Fatal Five from destroying Metropolis because this looks like a job for—Clark Kent?! Can six teenagers from the future help a mild-mannered teenager become the Man of Steel, or will the Fatal Five determine his destiny before it's even begun?
The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1 is a 32-page comic book written by J. Torres, with art by Chynna Clugston-Flores and a cover by Steve Uy.

Media tie-in books are popular giveaways on FCBD, but the choice for companies to release them always struck me as somewhat counter-intuitive (DC’s been giving away a comic book adaptation of a cartoon adaptation of one of their comic book every FCBD since the holiday was launched).

On the one hand, they tend to be titles newcomers are already familiar with, making them likely to pick them up, but on the other hand, they’re also books that don’t really need any sort of push. The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century (holy shit, is that title long enough?) is a comic book that already has a half-hour commercial for itself running on TV, does it need the FBCD push too?

Additionally, I can’t imagine it being a book that’s going to lead to life-long comics readers or, if it does, that it’s the best one to start them on. I’m about as nerdy a DC reader as you can get (Hell, I blog on their comics, for chrissakes!) and even I’m leery of the LOSH. The first year’s worth of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s current series is the longest I’ve ever read any Legion series, and I wouldn’t have even attempted that if it weren’t a hard reboot. Legion continuity is a fucking desert full of mirrors, and any traveling into it are risking their own sanity.

That said, I do plan on reading this new series for a couple of issues, at least. All of DC’s cartoon tie-ins are incredibly hit-or-miss, but this one has the advantage of Chynna on art chores. Of course, Chynna writing and designing her own LOSH series would be even cooler than this, but I’ll take Chynna art wherever I can get it.

Confidential to DC: There’s no hyphen in the word "superheroes!" Cut that out!


DC's silver-level title is Best-selling author Brad Meltzer broke the JLA down in the top-selling, critically acclaimed
Identity Crisis—and now he puts all the pieces back together again! The core heroes of the DC Universe, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, are back—but where do they stand with each other? Join us for this historic and unforgettable new beginning of the Justice League of America as we look at the past, present and future of the World's Greatest Super Heroes! Justice Leage of America #0 is written by Brad Meltzer, with art by Eric Wight, Dick Giordano, Tony Harris, George Pérez, J.H. Williams III, Luke McDonnell, Paul Neary, Gene Ha, Rags Morales, Ethan Van Sciver, Kevin Maguire, Adam Kubert, Dan Jurgens & Kevin Nowlan, Jim Lee, Howard Porter & Dexter Vines, Andy Kubert & Jesse Delperdang, Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning, and Ed Benes & Sandra Hope, and a cover by Michael Turner.

Now this is just a jaw-dropping surprise, although I guess it shouldn’t be, since last year DC gave away Superman/Batman #1, a title that was so chock-full of crazy cameos and Easter eggs that you need to read it with a copy of Who’s Who within reach. And it was also a title that was always late, making it one of comicdom’s more frustrating “monthly” series.

JLoA is one of DC’s bona fide hits, one of only three such hits that comes out on a monthly basis (along with JSoA and 52). According to Comics Buyer Guide’s latest estimates, the title’s #4 and #5 issues were the top-selling books in December, both topping out at over 130,000 books.

It’s one of the very few books that doesn’t have any problems attracting new readers, and doesn’t need any help racking in tens upon tens of thousands of readers each issue.

But as popular as it is with people who already read comic books, it’s hard to imagine that this special zero issue will convert non-comics readers into comics readers.

The one thing the book had going for it was a ton of great art (seriously, look at that list!). The story is pretty unintelligible, consisting almost entirely of flashbacks and flash-forwards.

The flashbacks occur along a heavily revised timeline of Justice League history. This is set on the post-Infinite Crisis timeline, which is similar to the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths time line, although it covers events between the two Crises as well. See, you have to know special nerd vocabulary just to get through a synopsis of the issue.

The flash-forwards cover scenes we might see at some point in the future (the Trinity’s re-discovery of Earth-2, the death of Pa Kent, the battle with Luthor, Hal Jordan’s wedding) and events we almost certainly won’t see (Wonder Woman’s wedding, Superman and Wonder Woman commiserating after Batman’s death). Meltzer has some neat ideas in the story, but if you don’t already know who Hal and Barry and Arthur and J’onn are, then it’s unlikely they’ll strike you as neat.

Of greater concern is the fact that if someone picks this up and falls in love with it, where do they go from there? Track down every Meltzer comic book, and all you’ll get are a particularly strong Green Arrow trade and Identity Crisis, both of which are extremely steeped in continuity (or Meltzer’s version of it; IC actually makes a number of mistakes regarding secret identities), and the latter of which pivots around a brutal rape and puts most of the “Satellite Era” JLoA in a very unflattering light.

And I did mention the brutal rape, right?

In that respect, if DC had to put one of their best-sellers out there, JSoA #1 woulda been a much better choice. It’s a more accessible read (jam-packed full of legacy characters as it is), and anyone who reads it and wants to follow Johns’ work on the JSA will have a whole backlog of trade paperbacks to peruse featuring the team, not to mention Johns’ Flash, Green Lantern, Teen Titans, Infinite Crisis and so on.

Better still might have been a very accessible, jumping-on-point of a book featuring a popular character that isn’t already a blockbuster hit, like 52 and the two Justice titles. Maybe Superman #654 or All-Star Superman #1 (or any issue of that superior series, really).

Come to think of it, DC doesn’t really offer a lot of good jumping-on-point books that are also done-in-one’s sure to hook a lot of readers, do they? I guess they could always create something original that fits that criteria. That’s the route Marvel’s going with one of their FCBD offerings, namely…


Written By Dan Slott
Art by Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning
Cover by Phil Jimenez
Fan-favorite writer Dan (
Avengers: The Initiative; She-Hulk) Slott and Superstar Artist Phil ( New X-Men; Infinite Crisis) Jimenez bring you a brand new tale of danger and intrigue starring your favorite web-slinger...a tale that may just come back to haunt Spidey in the coming months.

Well, if I had to choose between one of these first four books, this is the one I’d be all over.

Dan Slott is pretty much the perfect Marvel writer—his scripts are smart, fun and funny, his understanding of the characters and history are unassailable, and he manages to tell stories that capture that old Marvel spirit while reading thoroughly modern and vital rather than dated. He’s a perfect Spider-Man writer (as his Spider-Man/Human Torch and Shulkie story about Spidey suing J. Jonah Jameson proved) and I can’t wait to see what he does with the wall-crawler (I’d like to see him take on a monthly Spider-Man book at some point, but hopefully not until Marvel loses interest in its current Spider-Man direction, what with the magic totem powers and the arm spikes and the different costumes every ten issues).

Phil Jimenez has long been one of my favorite artists, but I wouldn’t imagine him as a very good fit for Spidey stylistically, which actually makes me more eager to see his work on this book.

This seems like a good FCBD offering. Anything Spider-Man is a good idea in light of this summer’s movie, the fact that this is an original book means it’s likely to interest people who already read comics, and Slott is a writer with enough trades under his belt that if this is a hit with brand-new readers who want more of the same, it could potentially interest them in Slott’s ongoing She-Hulk and it’s trade collections, the Spider-Man/Human Torch digest and the upcoming Avengers spin-off.

First, Tony Stark must find out who or what is behind a mysterious series of thefts at Stark International of Brazil, but is the answer more than his alter-ego, the INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, can handle?
And in our second feature, brilliant scientist Bruce Banner has a secret side to his personality—an alter ego that's capable of causing mass destruction—THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Can he keep the gamma-powered monster at bay while on the run from the authorities?
PLUS…we've got a story featuring Eisner Nominated FRANKLIN RICHARDS! Son of a Genius!

I have no idea what the hell this book is all about. I’m assuming the Iron Man and Hulk stories are new, since neither character has his own Marvel Advantures book. Fred Van Lente’s philosophy comics are phenomenal, but I’ve never read any of his super-work.

As for the Franklin Richards story, I would assume that would have to be the work of Marc Sumerak and Chris Eliopoulos, but the copy doesn’t say for sure.

I’ve heard good things about the Franklin books from other members of the “Best Shots” crew, but the whole thing makes me very uncomfortable. The Calvin and Hobbes homage was cute once, but doing it over and over well, that joke isn’t funny any more, and the longer it goes one, the less it seems like an homage and the more it feels like robbery.

And now, everything else!


By Various
Three for the price of… none? Conceived and written by My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way,
The Umbrella Academy features interior art by Gabriel Bá (Casanova) and Dave Stewart (Hellboy), and covers by multiple-Eisner-Award-winning artist James Jean (Fables). The Umbrella Academydebuts with a 12-page story set before the start of the upcoming series. This issue also features sneak-peeks of two other upcoming Dark Horse titles: Zero Killer, by Rex Mundi creator Arvid Nelson and Matt Camp (Shadows), and Pantheon City, written by Ron Marz (Samurai: Heaven and Earth) and drawn by Clement Sauve (Stormwatch)!

Something about the words “Conceived and written by My Chemical Romance front man” fills me with anger and hatred, but one glance at that beautiful James Jean cover soothes me and dissipates all my negative feelings. This one might be interesting.


2006 Eisner Award Hall of Fame honoree Floyd Gottfredson brings you the Mickey Mouse you love: a two-fisted scrapper in a jaw-dropping epic! “The Robin Hood Adventure” takes our hero to Medieval times, where he must prove himself a warrior—sword-fighting, jousting, and risking his life to rob the rich! And then there’s that little matter of marriage to one of Minnie’s ancestors… ods bodkins!

The Gemstone offerings tend to be some of the best FCBD books. While I generally prefer ducks to mice, this one certainly sounds fun, doesn’t it?


by Robert Kirkman & Jason Howard
When Gary Hampton is mauled and left for dead — his life takes a drastic turn. Gary is cursed—when the moon is full he transforms into a beast of the night—a werewolf! But this curse will not be used for evil— witness the birth or the world’s most unlikely new superhero—The Astounding Wolf-Man! Don’t miss Robert (
Invincible, The Walking Dead) Kirkman’s new series from Image Comics! It all starts Right Here for FREE!

Aaa! If you must use a dash in every single sentence in the same paragraph, at least use them right! Ghah. Anyway, this looks awesome. Robert Kirkman certainly knows his away around the superhero genre, and is no slouch at horror either. This should be a series to keep an eye on well past FCBD.


By Charles M. Schulz
Charles M. Schulz's
Peanuts is the most-reprinted comic strip of all time, with literally hundreds of collections published in the last 50 years. You would expect that by now every Peanuts strip has been collected more than once... and you’d be very wrong! In fact, hundreds of Peanuts strips were never reprinted. The Complete Peanuts has been rectifying this, and The Unseen Peanuts is a special collection of over 100 of these rarities. It’s a great introduction of the strip to new readers, and a fascinating trove of rarities that will surprise and delight even the most diligent Peanuts — a perfect sampler for both neophyte and old hand!


By Mr. Eddie Campbell
First Second Books celebrates Free Comic Book Day with a preview of the graphic novel
The Train Was Bang On Time: An Episode from The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Mr. Eddie Campbell, to be published later this spring. It’s a tale of robbery, explosions, and terror in America's heartland at the turn of the twentieth century.

As someone who is alread a comics addict, I’m not a big fan of these sorts of preview books on FCBD, since I’ll likely buy and read these things in full eventually anyway, but they should be great recruiting tools. Particularly that Peanuts one. I don’t know how hooky an Eddie Campbell book will be to people who just walked into their first comics shop, but Schulz’s Peanuts is a tried and true sequential art lure, and Fanta as designed a beautiful set of books collecting his life’s work.


By Various
It’s time again for
Comics Festival!, the most exciting FCBD title of the year! Featuring new stories from Darwyn Cooke (The New Frontier), Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Hope Larson (Salamander Dream), Chip Zdarsky, Michael Cho, and a host of great Canadian cartoonists (including a full-color section!), Comics Festival! 2007 is the FCBD book not to be missed!

Based on that line-up alone, I concur with that last sentence of copy. I kind of wish Oni had another kick-ass installment of Scott Pilgrim to give away like that did last year, but their offering is still a solid if old one.

By Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber
Oni Press and the Eisner-winning team of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber are pleased to offer the first issue of one of the most critically acclaimed indy comics series of the last decade! U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko is the lawwoman charged with maintaining order in the snowy wasteland of Antarctica, but when someone commits murder on "The Ice," will Carrie be able to find the culprit?

Easily Greg Rucka’s best comics work. Considering how old this story is (Whiteout was one of Oni’s first offerings, if I recall correctly) I’m downright shocked to see this here, but it is a book that will appeal to mainstream, non-comics readers. If I were Oni Press, though, I might have tried to make something like their old color specials, in which characters from a variety of their titles would interact in a single story drawn in a jam-style by many of their creators.

By Matt Groening
The comic company that brings you
The Simpsons and Futurama in the fantastic four-color format joins the ranks of promotion-seeking publishers on Free Comic Book Day by joining with retailers to reel in new readers, with a comic cornucopia of tantalizing tidbits and a spectacular sampling of the best in humor comics!

I generally only read the Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials, but it’s nice to see Bongo offering this, if only to remind folks that there’s still one medium in which the Simpsons are still really funny.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Weekly Haul: January 24th

52 #38 (DC) This week’s issue is dominated by the Montoya/Question storyline, which, of all the plates this book has spinning, is by far my least favorite. It’s not just that it seems to be killing off a cool character (and if Booster Gold and Animal Man escaped the Grim Reaper already, what are the chances of a three-peat?), but it’s just so badly written. Firstly, I don’t understand why Montoya can’t just get to Nanda Parbat the same way she did last time. And secondly, there’s that damn first-person narration; only the Montoya scenes have any kind of narration at all, which makes them stand out awkwardly from the rest of the story, and the things she says in narration are never pertinent. The same information is usually relayed in the dialogue and the images, more so this issue than usual. In the plus column, those nutty mad scientists unveil their scary-ass Horsemen, and Natasha Irons seems to have wised up. The back-up is the origin of The Red Tornado, as drawn by Phil Jimenez. More on that later.

Cable & Deadpool #36 (Marvel Comics) Missed it! I’ve been curious about this Deadpool character for years now, and this Cable-free issue seemed to be a good jumping-on point. I’m glad I jumped! I don’t normally think of Fabian Nicieza as a fun and funny writer, but I’ll be damned, this was a fun and funny issue. Deadpool’s rep as a killer for hire is on the wane, so to fix it, he comes up with a crazy plan: Kidnap a bunch of people who hire hired killers, kidnap dreaded hired killer Taskmaster, and force the former watch him defeat the latter. ‘Pool starts his hunt for Tasky at Marvel Comics, on a first-page that recaps the series in a way that’s entertaining (rather than simply wasting that first page, like most Marvel Universe comics do these days), and eventually the plan goes off without a hitch. I really dug ‘Pool’s Spidey-like quipping, the Skeletor-faced Taskmaster (who ends up not being as lame as his name makes him sound), and the surreal sight of D.P. hopping around the battlefield (he’d shackled his legs together to make his victory more impressive). Of course, like almost all books set in the MU since the debut of Civil War #1, this story also had it’s continuity problems. For one, isn’t Taskmaster pumped full of behavior-controlling nanites and serving under Tony Stark and SHIELD’s Thunderbolts initiative? And the Rhino, seen escaping at the end of this issue to face Deadpool in the next issue, was spotted this week fighting the Punisher in Punisher War Journal #3. Civil War has vividly illustrated that Marvel has problems making the trains run on time, but is it too much to ask that they stop their trains from running into one another?

Civil War: The Return #1 (Marvel) Based on the all-white cover with just text on it, this looks like the most generic comic book ever. Woah, wait a minute, there’s some vague image on that field of white, I think. Let’s see…yes, yes, if you look really, really closely, there’s an off-white star-like shape above the title. So, this book will feature the return of either the original Captain Marvel or Nova, who have such stars on their uniforms, or Jesus, whose birth was heralded by such a star. I do hope it’s Jesus, so I can pray to him to give Steve McNiven the strength to finish Civil War #7 on time and Marvel editorial the wisdom to find some way to reconcile Civil War’s many, many, many mistakes. Three pages in and it’s clear which of those three it is—the original Captain Marvel (Well, Marvel’s original Captain Marvel, not the original original Captain Marvel). You may remember him as the superhero that dramatically died of cancer decades ago, in one of the first powerful superhero comics that injected real world tragedy and emotion into its narrative with a modicum of sophisticated storytelling. Which is a pretty good reason not to fuck with it. But then, this is the company and writer who recently introduced us to "Dark Speedball," so, hell, anything goes, right? Not unlike Paul Jenkins’ Civil War: Frontline, The Return is an anthology. The first of its two stories is called “Captains Courageous: The Return of Captain Marvel,” and in it, Jenkins uses second-person narration to recap Cap’s death and explain to us how he returns from the dead. Would you believe that when trying to open a portal to the Negative Zone (to build their gigantic, Star Wars-sized Guantanomo for unregistered superheroes), Tony Stark and Reed Richards accidentally created a rip in fabric of space-time right in front of a young, still-living Captain Marvel, and he got shunted forward in time? And as soon as he gets here in the present, they make him the warden of said Negative Zone prison? (Not that he tries to stop the mass breakout that occurred off-panel in Civil War #6). Or that he's still got cancer and will still die of it in the present? Seeking inspiration from a deodorant commercial, Jenkins writes perhaps the worst line in his entire career: “You’re the first person ever…to get a second chance… to make a first impression.” Yikes. The second half of the book is devoted to “The Decision,” which is a story about The Sentry deciding to register during a battle with the Absorbing Man. This might strike anyone who’s been reading New Avengers, which already explained how and why The Sentry decided to register, as fairly odd.

Doctor Strange: The Oath #4 (Marvel) Writer Brian K. Vaughan had me at the words “Emerald Bands of Exador.” In the penultimate chapter of this adventure, in which the good doctor, his manservant and his new sidekick Night Nurse seek to acquire a magic potion that can cure cancer, they battle a tentacle-y Lovecraftian demon and a rival surgeon-turned-sorcerer. Vaughan’s character work is sharp and his dialogue is razor sharp, while Marcos Martin’s art is equally adept and rendering the characte’s as distinct, real-looking people and choreographing magic vs. monster action scenes. As eagerly as I’ve anticipated each new installment of the series so far, now that the finish line is in sight, I’m dreading #5, as that spells the end for BKV and Martin’s take on Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. I do hope they’ve got a few more miniseries in them, if not an actual ongoing series, although I suppose we’ll be seeing a lot of Dr. Strange this year either way. Despite Strange’s exasperated, “This is why I never joined the Avengers” comment after his associates refuse to follow orders, he will in fact be doing just that.

Eternals #6 (Marvel) I was fairly certain I’d dropped this book, but since it showed up in my pull this week, I went ahead and bought and read it. Like the last five issues, it was wonderfully illustrated by John Romita Jr. and capably if disappointingly written by Neil Gaiman (the downside of having so much ingenious work on your resume is that readers hold everything you do in the future to the standard of it, and this falls far short of pretty much all of Gaiman’s previous comics work), and featured a completely incongruous painted cover by Rick Berry. The inclusion of Iron Man, Yellowjacket and the Wasp and talk of registration seems out of place, although JRJr does a nice job drawing the more mainstream Marvels, and Yellowjacket’s presence does set up a nice size reveal when the Eternal finally stands up.

Fantastic Four #542 (Marvel) Missed it! I didn’t realize that Dwayne McDuffie would be coming onto FF as the new writer until after Civil War wrapped up, so I neglected to grab this issue last week. Based on this story alone, McDuffie couldn’t get on this title soon enough. The issue finds Anti-Reg Johnny Storm meeting with Pro-Reg Reed Richards in a coffee shop, and checks in with the Richards children, Ben Grimm and Sue Richards. For the most part, the story is devoted to explaining the various members’ positions on the Superhero Registration Act and which side they’ve taken in the “civil war” in a way that makes both some sort of logical sense and squares with their character histories. In the process, McDuffie has to pretty much call the writer he’s replacing, JMS, on a lot of bungled character work. The whole issue stinks of damage control, as many of the points raised within are the exact same ones I’ve been reading on’s message boards for months now, but at least someone finally got around to addressing them. Granted, this issue would have served the “Civil War” story and the FF’s thread in it much, much better had it come out on the heels of Civil War #1, but better late than never, I guess. Despite the team’s break-up and the uncertain direction of the title, I’m really looking forward to where things are going in the future—McDuffie’s first script is just jam-packed with great dialogue, strong characterization and a sense of humor and melodrama that seems organic, growing out from the characters rather than being forced upon them. The pencil art, by Mike McKone, is sort of sparse in background and detail, but strong in character design. The photorealistic cover of the Human Torch with his flame on doesn’t do much to sell the book, however, and it’s generic-ness no doubt contributed to my passing it over at the shop last week.

The Helmet of Fate: Ibis The Invincible #1 (DC) I’ve complained here before about DC’s seemingly terminal case of legacy-itis (At the rate they’re going, Superman and Batman will be the only heroes left who haven’t been replaced by younger versions in the whole DC catalogue of characters by next year), and the wrong-headedness inherent in taking the name of a character incapable of carrying his or her own title and giving it to a brand-new character who’s even less likely to be able to carry his or her own title. So naturally I wasn’t too excited to learn that Golden Age magician/crime fighter Ibis the Invincible (I love typing that!) is passing his name and mission on to an Egyptian-American teenager who’s to become Ibis II here. I suppose Ibis the Invincible has been out of circulation so long (unlike The Atom II, Blue Beetle II or Firestorm I) that there’s little risk of alienating a sizable fan base (I think he’s only appeared once since his death in Swamp Thing anyway), and in this particular case making sure the legacy character is of a non-European ethnicity isn’t as forced or offensive* as it sometimes is, given that the character’s powers and identity are so tied to Egyptian mythology. Novelist-turned-comics writer Tad Williams introduces us to 17-year-old Danny Khalifia, bullied for being Egyptian in post-9/11 America. He follows a flaming Ibis symbol through a huge vagina in a brick wall, which leads him to the dying bodies of the original Ibis the Invincible and his girl Taia. Ibis the Invincible bequeaths unto Danny the Ibistick and charges him with rescuing the Helmet of Fate, which has fallen into Set’s hands. With the aid of the Internet and Thoth, Danny is given a dumb superhero costume, some superpowers and the abs of a twenty-something and goes about saving the world. Fittingly, Danny/Ibis share a lot in common with Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, from the magical portal in an urban locale, to the origins in Egyptian magic, to the elder/advisor, to the turning into a full-grown superhero by saying a magic word. The tone is also quite similar to what a Captain Marvel story should be—light and adventurous. Williams’ script, beautifully illustrated by Phil Winslade, is more about the new Ibis than it is about the Helmet, which is simply a magical maguffin here, but that's fine by me. I’d certainly look forward to seeing future stories by Williams featuring this character, if only because they would give me more opportunities to read, say and type the worlds "Ibis the Invinicible" and "Ibistick." As far as I’m concerned, Helmet of Fate is two for two, and comics bloggers who complain about super comics that lack a beginning, middle and end, be sure to check this one out; I think you'll dig it.

Punisher War Journal #3 (Marvel) It was a little irritating that the Spidey rescue scene in Civil War #5 and the Spidey rescue scene PWJ #1 differed so greatly from one another, and it was really irritating when the Captain America vs. Punisher fight in CW #6 and PWJ #2 were so completely different. Now it just seems like writer Matt Fraction is trying to but me, as PWJ #3 features a third version of the Captain America vs. Punisher fight—you can kinda forgive Fraction for the first two not synching up (maybe he didn’t get to read Mark Millar’s script before writing his own?), but this time he’s contradicting himself. I swear I’d be pulling my hair out if I hadn’t shaved it all off. This was by far the weakest of the PWJ issues to date, with nothing to really recommend it (Artist Ariel Olivetti’s Rhino costume looks kinda cool, I guess). Fraction's sense of humor is suspiciously absent, and his portrayal of Punisher as a lunatic that made the first two issues so appealing is not carried through to this issue. Perhaps things will pick up once CW reaches completion and Fraction won’t be shackled to a line-wide crossover.

X-Factor #15 (Marvel) One Jamie Madrox is kidnapped by Hydra and brainwashed into serving their evil organization. Another Jamie Madrox, Agent of SHIELD, shows up to rescue him, but it seems their subconscious has wrapped things up for them. That whole duplicating power can be pretty scary when it gets out of control, as it does here. This issue’s probably worth the price of admission just for Jamie’s joke about Hydra’s motto.

*Making second generation heroes black, Hispanic, Asian, gay or female (all of which still qualify as minority in mainstream superhero comics) fosters the sentiment that they’re essentially sidekicks or stand-ins for the white, straight, male originators of the role, and these characters end up always being under the shadow of the originators. John Stewart, for example, is always going to be the black Green Lantern, and never the only, one, true Green Lantern (not in the comics, anyway). In that regard, creating original characters that are black (or Hispanic, Asian or gay) seems preferable to passing a white, male, heterosexual hero’s name on to them. For DCU examples, Black Lightning and Vixen are stronger characters that can stand on their own far better than, say, Firestorm II or Mr. Miracle II.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Actually Essential Storylines: Firestorm

This week’s 52 back-up origin is that of Firestorm, Jason Rusch.

Actually, he’s Firestorm II. The original Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond, died in the midst of Idenity Crisis (kinda sorta), and Jason was in the right place at the right time to become the next Firestorm, as Mark Waid and Jamal Igle’s origin story explains in slightly more detail.

It’s an odd week for this origin to appear, and not simply because Firestorm’s biggest appearance in 52 happened 13 weeks ago (so if anyone was reading that issue and thinking, “Hm, I wonder who that guy whose head is on fire is?” this story might have been useful back then). No, DC’s April solicits were released on Monday, and they included the two words Firestorm fans have been expecting/dreading for a while: “Final Issue.”

The writing has been on the wall since before this latest volume of Firestorm launched, if you ask me, and I’m actually surprised it’s lasted as long as it has, having gone through (by the time it concludes) three writers and several new directions.

The original Firestorm was never all that popular a character, though he was perhaps the most popular brand-new DC hero since the ‘70s, earning a fairly healthy solo title run (What was it? Over 60 issues?) and a spot on one of Hanna-Barbera’s Saturday morning Justice League ‘toons.

He hadn’t been up to all that much in the DCU. Prior to his Identity Crisis appearances, he was a member of the Nightwing-lead JLA that took over for the Big Seven when they were presumed dead (in “The Obsidian Age” epic). Prior to that, he was one of several JLA reserves who helped Kyle Rayner and the mysterious new Green Lantern Corps in Green Lantern: Cirlcle of Fire and he was one of several heroes who joined a Justice League Europe revival that The Mist promptly decimated in the pages of Starman. And prior to that, he was a member of the Captain Atom lead faction of the Justice League, which starred in the horribly titled Extreme Justice, which was cancelled as soon as DC realized just how stupid a name Extreme Justice really was.

So, kinda sorta killing him off didn’t really shake the foundations of DC fandom, although replacing him with a brand-new character pretty much guaranteed the cancellation of the new title.

Say there are, I don’t know, 1,000 Firestorm fans who still read comics and are likely to buy a Firestorm monthly based solely on their affection for the character. Probably 990 of those are more interested in the character, his personality and his history than his codename and super-powers. Since Jason was a brand-new character who would inherit only the codename and super-powers, he would alienate many of those Firestorm fans, since he wasn’t their Firestorm.

Another drawback: You would think that giving a new character the brand name “Firestorm” would free the creators up to tell stories not bound by old continuity, making the new character as new reader friendly as possible, but the new Firestorm series was chockablock with old Firestorm supporting cast members and villains.

So, to review: The new Firestorm series would be sure to irritate whatever few Firestorm fans were still reading comics all these years after the last volume was cancelled and prove unwelcoming to new readers, with the strongest selling point being the name of the hero.

Now, keep in mind, none of this is a reflection on how well written or how well drawn the series itself was. These are just factors that existed at the outset, when the publisher, editors and original writer were considering launching a new Firestorm title with a new character in the starring role.

Personally, I won’t miss the title, nor will I miss the character any more than I missed Ronnie Raymond (I imagine Jason will, like Ronnie, still be as visible as any other third-tier DC hero without a book of his or her own around the DCU for the foreseeable future).

If there’s a positive to Firestorm’s cancellation, it may be that DC will realize that the quality of the stories they’re telling, the creators doing the story-telling and the characters in the stories are what really sell their comics, and not the names. Looking at other new series to launch since Firestorm did, far too many seemed to make the same mistakes, banking on the name of a relatively unpopular hero to sell a book better than the relatively unpopular hero himself could (Think Manhunter, All-New Atom, Blue Beetle and the renamed and refocused Hawgirl and Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis) .

But we’re not her to bury Jason Rusch or praise him, we’re here to look at the “Essential Storylines” segment of the origin.

DC does a pretty good job of it this week, actually. Unlike the recent Blue Beetle origin, they don’t pretend every single story the hero has ever been in to be “essential.” Instead, they suggest his origin, his re-definition and his role in the larger events of the DC Universe. There isn’t a whole lot to add to that list. A completionist could look to the rest of the issues in the current volume of the title, and the Firestorm guest appearances I mention below. And, in the case of the latter, I do so more by way of recommending good stories featuring Jason Rusch that are also nice introductions to the character than claiming they’re essential.

Here’s what DC suggests…

FIRESTORM #1-#4 (2004): Dan Jolley, ChrisCross and John Dell introduced readers to Jason Rusch, who inherits Ronnie Raymond’s Firestorm powers and codename in a freak accident. They end up coming in rather handy. Green Lantern John Stewart and J’onn J’onnz appear in that fourth issue.

FIRESTORM #20-#22 (2006): These Infinite Crisis tie-in issues are all by writer Stuart Moore, the series’ second writer, and they feature Jason and Donna Troy’s other recruits on their trip through space. There are guest-stars galore, but Animal Man, Donna and Professor Stein appear most prominently.

FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN: REBORN TPB: You know what this trade paper back needs? More colons. It collects the first “One Year Later” story arc, in which Jason’s new status quo is that he must merge with Firehawk, who said she was going to retire at the end of Identity Crisis, but apparently kept on heroing…and became the youngest U.S. Senator in history. I only read the first of the four issues contained within, and didn’t like it at all. According to DC’s write up of its contents, “Firestorm must stop a deadly nuclear accident and a threat to his very existence. It all leads to an epic battle with Killer Frost and Mister Freeze that rages from the mean streets of New York City to the very heart of the sun!”

IDENTITY CRISIS: As I’ve said about 300 times before, this is six-sevenths of a compelling superhero mystery (provided you don’t mind Justice League stories featuring brutal rape scenes), one which falls apart at the end and flies in the face of both story logic and DCU continuity (The killer couldn’t possibly have known who Superman or Robin really were; nor did he or she have any real motivation; nor would he or she have any reason to have the particular equipment he or she had with him or her when he or she did what he or she did to poor Sue Dibny, and on and on). Jason doesn’t appear in the story at all, but it’s where Ronnie gets mortally wounded, thus setting up Jason’s acquisition of the Firestorm powers. It’s perhaps the single lamest death of a hero in all of DCU history…I mean, even Nightblade and Razorsharp got killed while fighting someone tough, like Superboy-Prime. This story is also the one that returned Lorraine “Firehawk” Reilly to reader consciousness.

INFINITE CRISIS: Jason gets recruited by Donna Troy to join her team of cannon fodder on a mission to the center of the universe where they fight Alexander Luthor’s fingers for a few seconds for, um, some reason.

And here’s what they missed…

52 #24: With all of the heroes who comprised the last incarnation of the Justice League missing, Firestorm and Firehawk gather together a new team to fill the void. So far, their line-up consists of Ambush Bug, Super Chief and the Bulleteer, and they aren’t having much luck finding any other recruits. When Jason asks Green Arrow to join, he not only shoots him down, but he tells him he’ll be by shortly to take away his hand-me-down League communicator. Ouch. Jason’s League has exactly one adventure, where they take on Evil Skeets’ army of pirates and cyborgs in the streets of Metropolis, and get their asses handed to them. The surviving members break up by issue’s end. This short-lived incarnation of the League is one that is just begging to appear in JLA: Classified sometime soon. Maybe when DC runs out of two-year-old inventory stories to run there, they’ll see if Keith Giffen and some collaborator pals want to tell a lost tale of this League.

Action Comics #841-#843: When the Johns/Donner/Kubert needed more time before coming onto Action Comics OYL, Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods stalled for them, delivering this incredibly fun three-parter pitting Superman and one of the most random assemblages of DC heroes ever against an alien threat. In the first issue of the arc, Superman meets a skeptical Jason in Baltimore, and later, when the heroes are all captured and de-powered, the pair team up along with Nightwing, Bluejay, Skyrocket, Livewire, the Veteran and Aquaman II to save the day. The storyline is slated for collection shortly in Superman: Back in Action.