Saturday, June 30, 2007

This post has pretty much nothing at all to do with comics (although drawing is involved in the things discussed within it)

I was walking through my local library the other day when the cover of this children's book caught my eye, and I checked it out on the strength of that image alone.

I'm glad I did; it was a fun read, and a really beautifully designed and illustrated book. 365 Penguins (Abrams Books; 2006) is written by Jean-Luc Fromental and illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet, both of whom are apparently rather productive in the world of children's books (I don't recognize their names, and I don't think I've seen any of their previous least not that I can remember. But then, I don't read a lot of children's books).

This is a nice, big, sturdy hardcover, with a nice spine; it would look nice on a coffee table, and nice on a bookshelf, two things I look for in books because, well, I'm shallow.

As for the story, it's first-person-narrated by a little boy who lives with his mother, father and older sister Amy. It starts on New Year's Day, when they receive a delivery of a a penguin in the mail. They get one penguin a day for the rest of the year (hence the title). The book deals with the frustrations of having multiple penguins living in one's house, and how having 365 of them is pretty much impossible.

Jolivet limits her palette to just black, white, orange and blue and brown, and it works out quite lovely. The pages are all big and airy, which makes the encroachment of the hundreds of penguins seem all the more dramatic, and her penguin designs are killer. Each has a blank expression, only really betraying emotion when in the act of running towards or away from something, with its flippers back and beak open.

As problematic as the penguins prove, it could be a lot worse. The story refers to the cost of feeding them, and obliquely to the problem of penguin waste ("We can't stand the smell! Find a solution!" the family complains, after the boy tells us, "Let's not talk about the other problems...") But they are fairly docile, reamining motionless and going along with the father's attempts to organize them by stacking them in pyramids or cubes and, later, in boxes of a dozen, like eggs.

This works fine when there are only 144 of them, but then they all rush out to greet the 145th. I could actually relate pretty well to the whole "how do we organize these hundreds of things which increase in nuber with every passing day and are completely crowding us out of our home?!" conflict, since it parallels my own ongoing struggle to share my one-bedroom apartment with hundreds of comics and graphic novels.

Thank God I don't have to feed my comics.

Anyway, a really fun book. At $17.95, I probably won't buy a copy of my own, because it's repeated entertainment value is kinda low, but it is an all around well-designed, well-illustrated children's book.

And while I'm not really talking about comics at all, here are three animated music videos I really like, to songs that have spent a significant portion of time stuck in my head...

Peter, Bjorn & John; "Young Folks"

Well, they do use dialogue bubbles in this, so I guess it's kinda comic book-y.

I don't know why exactly, but this video really makes me think of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I think it's maybe because when I close my eyes and imagine Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy, they totally look like the couple doing the singing here. Or that there's a real Mike Allred-ness about the character designs, and Allred's the artist I'd like to see draw the LOSH more than any other.

Los Campesinos; "You! Me! Dancing!"

I happened upon this video purely by accident, and it was my first exposure to Los Campesinos, and, as it turns out, they're a pretty great band. The video itself contains may of my favorite things—laser guns, giant monsters, rocket ships, flying surfboards—and it's cool that it has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics at all. I really love the song though too, from the Sonic Youth-y slow build at the beginning to the chorus that will embed itself in your brain. See also "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives." (That seems to be it for videos, but you can hear more music at their myspace page).

New York Dolls; "Dance Like a Monkey"

Dozens of dancing primates, Darwin thrusting his pelvis, Hanuman, Dick Cheney's sneer, King Kong, dinosaurs, a mammoth, an orangutan pope, a hot creationist, a monkey with a jetpack, a gorilla with a top hat, skeletons, Bigfoot... it's like a buffet of awesomeness.

Note the bear who's haning out amidst all the monkeys all the time. He is a terrible, terrible dancer.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Shadow of the 'Cat

It's Friday night in Blogsville, and you know what that means, right?


You did click on the above images to make them Bahlactus-sized, right?

And because it seems unjust to scan from a Cameron Stewart drawn comic book featuring Ted Grant and not also scan an image of him in his cat suit, here are a few panels of Wildcat and Catwoman beating up some swarthy, scimitar-wielding bad guys:

(Both above squences are from 2003's Catwoman #20 by Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart, published by DC Comics. Check it out for plenty more pages of a cute girl in sportswear boxing and people dressed like cats kicking the crap out of theives, or, better yet, buy the trade, Catwoman: Wild Ride. The Stargirl image is from the same place as the the last Stargirl image.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 28th's Meanwhile in Las Vegas...

This week's Las Vegas Weekly column features reviews of


If that last one seems a little too innocent and childlike for your tastes, I suppose I should point out that there is actually some pretty extreme violence in it.

Check it out:

Did you see that?! That cute little dog on the cover? It totally set that dude on fire!

Or how about this. See that chick on the cover?

She punched that little monster so hard that she knocked its eyeball clean out the socket!

Damn,those are some hardcore little all-ages fantasy comics characters right there.

And while I'm link-blogging, here are some links to things that I didn't write...

—You’re likely familiar with this Dick fellow, the one who’s not terribly fond of your blog, right? Well, this recent post of his deserves a bit of metaphorical underlining (via linking), I think. He sits his wife down for a sort of Rorschach test of recent comics controversies, showing her such images as the MJ “comiquette,” the “Heroes for Hentai” cover and Michael Turner’s Power Girl cover, and asking her opinions on them (And I wonder how often, if ever, Marvel and DC’s marketing people do the same with their significant others, or focus groups?)

She’s not a regular superhero comics reader, but she is someone who has read comics before, and could conceivably be in a comic shop with her husband Mr. Hatesyourblog some day. In other words, from DC and Marvel’s perspective, she’s a potential customer.

Her answers are thus especially fascinating, because in almost every case, her initial reaction is to laugh at the images and/or call them stupid, despite the fact that she gets the aesthetic references they’re going for, like Adam Hughes’ allusion to classic cheescake or Marvel’s tenatacle rape homage. And then, once her husband further clarifies things, like what the zombified MJ cover refers to, for example, or who exactly is on the Heroes For Hire roster, then she sees the icky sexual politics at work in sharper relief.

So, based on a test audience of one, it seems like in the cases of almost all of the products in the experiment, the reaction of a "civilian" was that the product was stupid, and to those that get the “jokes” and/or know the context (i.e. direct market consumers like us), the products are likely to be actively offensive.

If you’re selling your products with images that elicit responses ranging from thinking they’re stupid and thinking they’re offensive, chances are you’re doing something wrong.

Tom Spurgeon writes the single best comic book review (and one of the better reviews in general) that I’ve read in a long time. It’s of the much talked-about Flash #13, which I didn’t even read, but Spurgeon’s review is a smart, entertaining reading experience all by itself, regardless of whether or not you’re personally familiar with the work he's discussin.

—At The Beat, Marc-Oliver Frisch examines DC sales data from May, which is of greater interest than usual (at least to me) because that was the month Countdown launched. Looks like it began selling at levels lower than the very worst selling issues of 52, and dropped down to just under 80,000 by the fourth issue (Which, while not as good as DC's last weekly series, is still a lot better than a bulk of their DCU line). I’m somewhat morbidly curious to see what happens in June, given that I think quite a few people—myself included—generously gave the title a few issues to improve after that disappointing first issue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Weekly Haul: June 27th

Amazons Attack! #3 (DC Comics) It takes an awful lot of suspension of disbelief to read some comic books, particularly DCU ones. This one, for example, has Superman in a supporting role, and centers around Wonder Woman and the Amazons, so even before you start reading, you’re accepting flying strongmen from space with laser eyes, the literal existence of everything in Greek myth, a woman made out of clay, and so on. The problem with Amazons Attack!, which has now officially passed the halfway point and might want to think about starting telling a story soon, is that it just asks for way, way too much in the suspension of disbelief area. There’s straining credulity, and then there’s breaking it, and the series has long since broken it, and is now jumping up and down on the shards of it.

For, in addition to all those amazing people with amazing superpowers that make up its cast, the plot is one that doesn’t quite make sense given its players. Never mind the fact that former Justice Leaguer, former JSA member, all-around nice lady Hippolyta is slaughtering innocents for no reason all of a sudden (presumably, Will Pfeiffer’s going to get around to explaining that eventually), or that her noble, heroic lieutenants are thinking that maybe they oughta do something to stop her instead of having stopped her before the first of the few thousand deaths were caused by their nonsensical invasion.

Let’s just think about the pitch for this series, okay? The Amazons, less than 2,000 strong, invaded Washington D.C. with only swords, spears, arrows and some monsters. It is now days later and, according to the cable news scrawl, the death toll is in the thousands.

Now, I’m no military expert, but I think it’s safe to say that even with our military strained to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, I don’t know, maybe Qurac in the DCU too), there are probably still enough soldiers and guns to take down a few thousand women whose military technology stopped developing before the Trojan War (These Amazons, oddly, don’t seem to have any super-science, which Batman even points out by saying they don’t even work with microchips. Hey World’s Greatest Detective, pick up a back issue sometime, huh? Purple Healing Ray? Invisible jet?).

But let’s imagine that the U.S. military, for the sake of argument, is completely incompetent, and have lost their guns or something. How is it that the Justice League is allowing this to go on for days, with thousands killed? Because Superman could seriously handle this all by himself. What’s that? Kansas is on fire? Well, let’s see, he moves at the speed of light, so putting Kansas out oughta take…what, five minutes, if he’s extra-thorough? Honestly, I have a hard time thinking of a less-intimidating threat that the Justice League has faced since they reorganized prior to the White Martian invasion. And so far, the combined efforts of the League, the JSA and a handful of other heroes hasn’t been able to defeat the Amazons…for days. My god. How can I take this series at all seriously?

Now I suppose it’s possible that I’m missing something, as I dropped the unreadable Wonder Woman and Teen Titans, both of which tie-in to this storyline, but somehow I doubt either explains why Superman, J’onn J’onnz, Power Girl, Supergirl, Mary Marvel, Jay Garrick, Wonder Woman or one of the five Green Lanterns operating from Earth hasn’t just swooped in at super-speed, scooped up Hippolyta and ended the war yet.

There’s something Countdown-ian in this book’s attempts to tie in characters and story threads from all over the DCU, but manage to get everything wrong. Like why all the heroes who know Hippolyta haven’t thought that “Hey, this really isn’t like Polly, is it?” Or that Oracle called Batman, the first time the two have spoken since the decided to stop working together in another story that made even less sense. Or the president’s response to round up women nationwide suspected of being in cahoots with the Amazons instead of, you know, just sending a few thousand guys with guns to fight back against the handful of women with bronze age weapondry. Or hell, this

What's wrong with this picture? Well, aside from the fact that almost a dozen of DC's superheroes, including some of their most powerful, seem to be having an awful lot of trouble defeating one three-headed dragon (and it's not even a fire-breathing dragon). I actually find the fact that these all-powerful characters are getting their asses kicked by a single monster kind of amusing. I mean, just look at Black Lightning there. What was exactly going through his head, huh? Forget my super-powerful lightning power! I'm taking this thing on...bare-handed!

No, what's wrong with this picture is the Captain Marvel in it. Who the fuck is that supposed to be? We know it's not the real Captain Marvel (Billy Batson), since he's turned into "Marvel", changed clothes and grew his hair out. And we know it's not Freddy Freeman, who's apparently being groomed to be Captain Marvel II, because Trials of Shazam! is still going. And we know that this story is set during Trials because both Amazons Attack! and Trials of Shazam are referenced in Countdown as occurring at the same time.

It's just a stupid art mistake, Woods could have just drawn Martian Manhunter or Robin or Odd Man or Plastic Man there instead, but it's exhibit L that the universal traffic copping at DC is at an all-time low, which is troubling considering that traffic between DCU titles is at an all-time high. I mean, is there nobody at DC whose job is simply to read all the scripts and look at all the pages and make sure everything is consistent? If not, maybe Countdown and having several other simultaneous crossover stories (Amazons Attack!, Sinestro Corps) all being published at the same time really isn't such a hot idea.

There is one thing I really liked about this issue though. It didn’t make sense either, but it was such an insane non sequitur of a moment that it was hilariously entertaining. Page 14, panel one. Batman is looking down at the prone and unconscious form of Nemesis, and says to him, “Of course, you’ve got bigger problems right now. An Amazon attack, a deadly bee weapon…Bees. My god.”

Yeah, um, what?! “A deadly bee weapon?” SERIOUSLY?!

Black Ghost Apple Factory (Top Shelf Productions) Thanks a lot, Jeremy Tinder. Now I’m never gonna want to eat another apple as long as I live.

Black Panther #28 (Marvel Comics) Wow, it’s a perfect storm of over-exposed Marvel characters you’re sure to be sick of seeing in a few more months! Reginald Hudlin manages to work both the Marvel Zombies and Skrulls into a single issue. If only he could have had Iron Man fly in and try to register the zombies and shoot the Hulk zombie into space. Ah well, maybe there’s the next chapter of this story. As for this story, the new FF have teleported onto the Skrull homeworld just as the Galactus-powered Marvel Zombies are dropping in to feed on it, as was seen at the end of Marvel Zombies (So, I guess they actually jumped over from the 616 into the Zombiverse, which is itself parallel to the Ultimate Universe, and I always thought that Joe Quesada said if they ever crossed the Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe, it would end the world…or defeat Gozer. Maybe it doesn’t apply if they use the Zombiverse for insulation though?). There’s really not much to this issue at all, other than the various groups exchanging blows and dialogue, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. I guess, in that respect, this is the very definition of mediocre superhero comics.

Fantastic Four #547 (Marvel) As you can see from the cover, this is the pulse-pounding, action-packed, mind-blowing issue in which Johnny Storm and his sister Susan stand around in a cloud of smoke. No actually, despite what the cover says, things do actually happen in this issue. Quite a lot of things. Many of them rather interesting and exciting and/or funny. Reed takes a vacation from his vacation to visit Earth and Hank Pym to crack a mysterious object he found in space, the Frightful Four attack Susan, Johnny tries to hit on T’Challa’s bodyguards, and Ben has a very interesting conversation with Storm, which lends the issue it’s title, “Never Ask Her If She’s Wearing Colored Contact Lenses.” Dwayne McDuffie continues to write the Fantastic Six as a sci-fi action sitcom, which is pretty much exactly what it should be, and his artistic collaborators Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar just get stronger and stronger each issue. It’s really too bad that their work is buried between what is by far the least imaginative, interesting and good-looking cover on the shelves. Seriously, this thing is tied with Greg Land’s Legion of Monsters cover for most aesthetically abominable thing I saw on the racks today.

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special #1 (DC) In a way, this comic book is really just your standard good Geoff Johns comic book. I know some people have very strong feelings about Johns, be they positive or negative, but I’ve never been able to just stuff all of his work into one category or the other. I think he’s done some fantastic superhero comics (most of which seem to be in JSA/JSoA, although dude also was one-fourth of the 52 team), a few that I’d go so far as to call brilliant, and he’s also done some shitty, shitty comics (most of them seem to have been in his Teen Titans run, for some reason). I’ve yet to read something of his that wasn’t just a superhero comic written for DC or Marvel, and so, as solid as he might be, I don’t think he’s done anything wholly original yet to distinguish himself as a great writer (In that respect, he’s clearly not in the same league as Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman, or even Garth Ennis or Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar). I hope he does take the time to do something not dependent on DCU characters and plotlines some day, but even if he never does, there are certainly worse things to be than one of the best superhero comics writers writing at least one monthly.

Anyway, on the Johns scale, this is definitely on the high end, and, paired with Ethan Van Sciver, this book really fulfills all the promise of the Green Lantern: Rebirth mini the two created (picking up on several plotlines from it), as well as the early issues of the current run of Green Lantern which, unfortunately, really got derailed by the “One Year Later” jump. All that the pair did in Rebirth to reinvent the Green Lantern mythos is back here, underlined and further explored in ways that no one, not even Johns himself in Green Lantern really did before.

With all the various spin-offs and chaos involving the four Earthling Corps members since RebirthGLC, Infinite Crisis, Ion, the JLA/JLoA line-up flux—I’d really forgotten what a great job Johns did of finding and defining unique character traits in the four, and playing them off one another. Under Johns, the idea of the Green Lantern franchise as a team book is enormously appealing. Not only does every fan win when their favorite Lantern is both a Lantern and in the spotlight, but all four of the characters work best in team situations, playing off one another, so why not play off each other? (This is the first decent Kyle Rayner story I’ve read since Rebirth and, before that? Joe Kelly’s first few JLA issues, maybe?).

Speaking of Kyle, something happens to him here that isn’t really that fresh an idea (it kinda sorta happened once or twice before), and is also something that the tea leaves of future solicits kind of hinted at, but it’s executed very well, and I’m cool with it as long as, like his Ion status, it’s temporary. As the first half of the book proves, Kyle belongs in the Corps, sitting around a table talking to his fellow Lanterns.

In addition to the strong character work, Johns really weaves DCU continuity confidently and with clarity; there are plot threads that stretch back to the ‘80s and ‘90s contained herein, but rather than out of left field, they’re integrated into the story naturally, almost as if they were first being mentioned here. Short of the last page reveal—perhaps the biggest exclamation point ending in Johns’ career of last-page reveals—this could pretty much be your first Green Lantern comic and it would all make plenty of sense. (As for that last page reveal? Bigger than anything in all of Infinite Crisis, that’s for sure…instead of just a crazy Superboy, you’ve got the heaviest heavies in DCU history all lined up there).

I think I was even more impressed with Johns this week in part because I’d just suffered through “The Lightning Saga” last week, which Johns is at least half responsible for. With the godawfulness of Brad Meltzer’s Johns-approved fan fiction still in my head, it was refreshing to see how much better Johns is. He uses several of the same techniques as Meltzer, including multiple narrators within the same issue, occasional panel-packed grids broken into more horizontal than vertical tiers, multiple threads of verbal information and pulling plot information from the past to buttress the present story, but Johns does it all right; here they’re tools used in telling a story, not simply tools a novice is using to play with some toys in front of an audience. The Meltzer/Johns comparison was practically begged by the inclusion of the JLoA early in the book, when we see them trying to help Hal round up the Reverse Flash for questioning. God, was it refreshing to hear “Lantern,” “Green Lantern” and “Lighting” instead of Hal and Jeff. I suppose it’s also worth nothing that between this and their appearance in “Wanted: Hal Jordan,” Johns has written more JLoA adventures with Meltzer’s line-up than Meltzer has in his first ten issues on the series.

Hell, Johns even explained the way the DCU multiverse works now better than it’s been explained absolutely anywhere else before, although the explanation does raise a few questions outside of this particular book (What’s this business about the Source Wall simply being a barrier between this universe and the next? Seems a little…prosaic, doesn’t it? Is this the first mention of this, or was that the Source Wall as envisioned by Jack Kirby? And how come there are so many Monitors and only one…ah, I can’t bring myself to say it.)

Van Sciver likewise picks up where he left off with Rebirth, bringing a downright insane level of detail to the characters and finding interesting ways to put otherworldly grandeur into their every movement. The scene with the Reverse Flash, for example, with the skeletal afterimages trailing him, the strange aliens of the GLC, the baroque creature design that went into the Sinestro Corps, the wrinkles on every character’s face…this is just plain beautiful work, with almost every design, every line clearly thought out.

Note the “almost” up there. There is one single panel, where, one single part of one single panel where EVS screws up, which I was actually glad to see. Lets me know the dude’s at least human.

You see that picture of Black Canary? It straight up sucks! Ha ha! Nice job Van Sciver! Don't quit your day job! Your comic book is only 99.7% beautifully illustrated!

And Johns does write at least one line of totally perplexing dialogue (not counting the Sinestro oath, the last few lines of which I'm putting down to Sinestro just being a bad poet, rather than bad writing on Johns' part). Okay, so Guy Gardner flies into the big crazy red sun room where they're keeping Superboy-Prime imprisoned, and Guy has this to say to prisoner:

I don't get it. Really. I have no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean.

And as long as I've got Sinestro Corps in a scanner, I should probably point this out. It's not a mistake or a mystifying tidbit, it's just something I personally found interesting. You know that awesome two-page spread on pages 26 and 27, where we see the Sinestro Corps assembled in a canyon beneath a giant yellow power battery, listening to Sinestro's speech? The one with all those super cool, super scary looking aliens? I spent a long time lingering on that page, and returned later to really study some of the scary customers EVS filled it with. But what really caught my eye was that one guy.

You see the one I mean? In the lower righthand corner? The pretty ordinary looking guy with a beard and male pattern baldness? You see that the guys around bald, bearded guy include some crazy scary toothy claw guys, what looks to be some sort of zombie bat creature, something with a melty face right behind him, a gelatinous creature with human bones floating within it, a velociraptor and, my personal favorite, a big, blue monster man with a hunchback, his hump full of living babies!.

And among all these scary-ass monsters, there's just this guy:

Can you imagine what must be running through his head?

Marvel Adventures Avengers #14 (Marvel) Okay, so the plot is a rip-off…er, homage. At least it’s an homage to something so oft-homaged, and it gets a really fun Marvel twist. When a poor farming village finds itself terrorized by a small army of bandits, they look to seven strangers to protect them, promising payment in crops. The seven they find? The Avengers, naturally. There’s some great fun as the team tries to train their new recruits in fighting and strategy—I especially enjoyed Hulk’s lesson in smashing—and Parker really makes these characters work effortlessly together. Remember the hue and cry that went up in fandom when it was first announced that Wolverine would be joining the Avengers? Well, Parker makes it work here in a way that Brian Michael Bendis never did (in part because his team never seemed to all be in the same room at the same time), and the relationship he’s built up between Wolverine and Captain America seems true to both characters’ 616 iterations, and the character comedy who so often works into the lighthearted, old school action.

She-Hulk # 19 (Marvel) Yeah, you're probably gonna want to buy this one. It's the issue where Mallory Book tries to defend The Leader in court. But it's also the issue that contains this

and this

And, perhaps most importantly, it continues to address the question of whether or not Chuck Austen's X-Men stories were so bad they should not be regarded in continuity, whether Marvel published them as such or not, a question that is raised when Book gets Jen Walters on the witness stand:

X-Factor #20 (Marvel) The army of one thing is cool, as is pencil artist Khoi Pham’s version of Rahne all werewolfed out, but this issue, like this storyline, left me pretty cold. Having not really understood House of M and having not read any of the follow-ups that this story deals with, I don’t really get what’s up with Quicksilver and the Inhumans crystals and what’s going on with the mutant powers he’s handing out and taking away again. Or whatever. Also, this issue reminded me that Marrow, Fatale and Abyss all exist, and that’s something I could definitely have done without.

You know who else should do Wonder Woman? Paul Pope

If that pin-up from 1997's JLA Gallery doesn't convince you, for further evidence, please see everything else Paul Pope has ever done.

Wonder Woman Wednesdays: A Complete History of the Amazon Peoples

(Above: Or you could just read this, which features extensive back-up features written and illustrated by Phil Jimenez which condenses all of Wonder Woman's post-Crisis history into a few nice looking pages. Most of the character images near the end of the post are Jimenez's.)

Yesterday ran a version of my Complete History of the Amazon Peoples (post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, post-Infinite Crisis/52). But in the off-chance that it just wasn’t wordy and/or nerdy enough for you, I’ve decide to present a previous, longer, more detailed version here, complete with some additional thoughts that just occurred to me in the last day or so, for the most masochistic among you. (Plus, it’s Wonder Woman Wednesday here at EDILW, so Amazon history seems especially apropos). Enjoy!

A Complete History of the Amazon Peoples

The history of the Amazons began over 30,000 years ago, but don’t worry, I’ll be sticking to the highlights only here. Not much happened those first 27,000 years of interest anyway.

The Amazons’ story begins with a pregnant woman killed by her mate. Gaea, goddess of the Earth, took pity on the slain woman, and placed the victim’s soul in a well, known as the Well of Souls. Because it was a well in which souls were kept, you see. Over the millennia, Gaea would place the souls of all women unjustly killed by men into the well.

In 1200 B.C., the Olympian goddesses Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter and Hestia pooled their powers to create the Amazons, their very own, all-female race of human beings, each reincarnated from one of the souls from Gaea’s well.

Three thousand women strong, the Amazons founded the city-state Themyscria in Asia Minor, and looked to sister-queens Hippolyta and Antiope for leadership. The Olympian war god Ares sent Heracles and an army of men to Themyscria, where he proceeded to seduce Hippolyta, and, in short order, ransack the city and enslave it’s populace.

The defeat split the Amazons into two factions. Antiope lead the Amazons bent on vengeance into Greece after Heracles, while Hippolyta and her followers fled across the Atlantic, rebuilding Themyscira on an island in the Bermuda Triangle that was concealed by storm clouds. (It was a pretty nice place, and would later gain the nickname “Paradise Island”).

There, hidden form the rest of the outside world, Hippolyta’s Amazons were granted immortality by the goddesses and were charged with the sacred task of guarding “Doom’s Doorway,” which lead to Pandora’s Box, buried beneath the island. The Amazons took to wearing bracelets, symbols of their defeat and enslavement at the hands of men, and spent centuries in seclusion, with no man setting foot on the island.

Antiope’s faction, meanwhile, settled in Egypt, founding their own city-state of Bana-Mighdall, hidden from the outside world by sandstorms. They remained mortal, and devoted themselves to the arts of war and killing, renting themselves out as assassins and mercenaries.

A few millennia later, the Amazons started getting occasional visitors, perhaps the most notable one being U.S. pilot Diana Trevor, who crash-landed there, and joining the community, eventually giving her life in a battle against monsters from the island’s box. In honor of her, her uniform and medals were turned into a coat-of-arms (And that’s why Wonder Woman’s costume looks like the U.S. flag, got it?).

World relations took a giant leap forward when Ares launched a plot to destroy the world. Hippolyta decreed a contest to choose the single greatest warrior to send to so-called “Patriarch’s World” to challenge Ares. Her own daughter Diana, magically created out of clay and gifted by the goddesses and the god Mercury with life and super-powers, entered the contest in disguise and won.

She became known as “Wonder Woman,” fighting against Ares, joining the Justice League of America, and gradually becoming not only a superhero, but also an ambassador of the Amazonian way of life and, eventually, a political diplomat representing Themyscria in the United Nations. (For more on the contest, struggle against Ares and Diana’s debut in the U.S., see trade paperbacks Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals and Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Gods by George Perez and various; and keep in mind Infinite Crisis knocked large swathes of these stories, out of continuity, and we’re not supposed to mentally rewrite them while rereading so that they’re set about a decade earlier than they are in the actual books. Or something).

Gradually the shores of Themyscira were opened up to the outside world, and Hippolyta and other Amazons journeyed into the United States, and the goddess Circe started causing no end of trouble, initiating a “War of the Gods,” reuniting the Antiope’s descendants with the Themysciran Amazons (which leads to a civil war), and sending the whole island into another dimension for a time—ten years for those in the dimension, about one year time for those not in that dimension).

She wasn’t the only evil divinity to cause problems on Paradise Island. Apokoliptian dictator and self-proclaimed dark god Darkseid invaded Themyscira with his armies, killing over a thousand Amazons (To witness the conflict firsthand, check out Wonder Woman: Second Genesis by John Byrne).

Not long after, the Amazons went to war again, this time in another civil war between the Bana-Midghdall faction and those who have lived on the island for centuries. The conflict was settled only when Hippolyta and Diana decided to end the monarchy, renouncing their queenship and princessship (um, is that even a word?) for a more demoractic form of government. Hippolyta’s longtime friend and confidant Phillipus becomes the island’s leader, under the title of Chancellor (This round of Amazonian strife can be read about in Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost and Wonder Woman: Paradise Found by Phil Jimenez and various others).

But wait, there’s more war yet to come! The Amazons joined force with the unlikely alliance of President Lex Luthor’s United States, Superman and heroes of earth, and Darkseid’s Apokolips in a battle against Imperiex in a sort of war of the worlds (That’s Our Worlds at War to us readers here on Earth-Prime; recently re-collected from two fat trades into one giant, fat Complete Edition). Many of them lost their lives, including Hippolyta.

Afterwards, Themyscria was once again transformed, this time into a sort of university devoted to cultural exchange and learning, open to men, women and intelligent creatures from all of existence. The architecture remained Greco-Roman, but had a bit of a sci-fi twist, accentuated by the fact that the island included an archipelago of smaller islands which floated in the air. Now rather than a single Wonder Woman attempting to spread peace and Amazon ideals throughout the world, the world could come to Themyscira, and the Amazons could promote peace through open engagement, their most open engagement since they’d left Europe millennia before.

This didn’t last long either. The floating islands were destroyed in a fight between Hera and Zeus, and the Amazons again began to draw inward, just as the U.S.A. was parking battleships nearby and contemplating invasion. They were beat to it by the armies of OMAC cyborgs, lead by the hidden, artificially intelligent Brother Eye, which sent them to Themyscira to destroy Wonder Woman, revenge for her killing of Brother Eye’s boss, Maxwell Lord who (Superboy punch!) it turns out was actually an evil scumbag bent on the eradication of metahumans and world domination by his own Checkmate organization all along, and not the slick but noble leader who legitimized the Justice League as a world power with official status years ago (These stories are collected in trade, but I can’t in good conscience recommend anything past the point in which Diana regains her eyesight because, come on? OMACs? Max is a villain? Pfft).

While the Amazons fought back against the OMACs with machine guns, swords and their own ultimate weapon, the Purple Death Ray, Wonder Woman brought an end to hostilities when she realized there were innocent people trapped inside the OMACs. She left the island, while Themyscria (and everyone on it) disappeared for over a year, a year in which Wonder Woman herself would be little seen.

Some Amazon heroines of note include:

HIPPOLYTA: Queen of the Amazons, mother of Diana and, in a time travel paradox the likes of which could only occur in the DCU, she became both her daughter’s successor and predecessor in the role of Wonder Woman. When Diana temporarily died and ascended to Olympus to become the Goddess of Truth, a death Hippolyta sought to avoid by stripping Diana of the title of Wonder Woman, Hippolyta donned a star-spangled skirt and golden eagle bustier to become the second Wonder Woman, serving a brief stint with the Justice League. She also traveled back in time to the year 1942, retroactively becoming the first heroine to go by the name Wonder Woman, when she helped the Justice Society of America in their battles against the Axis Powers. Known as “Polly” to her friends like Wildcat, Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, she fought battles against Stalker in the ‘40s (The Justice Society Returns! by David S. Goyer, James Robinson, Geoff Johns and about 40 other writers and artists), and fifth-dimensional invaders in the present (JLA: Justice For All by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, et al).

When the JSA reformed at Sand Hawkins’ urging, Polly became a reserve member, helping out in their first battle against the dark lord Mordru (JSA: Justice Be Done). She died while leading the Amazons into the battle during the Imperiex War. She was next spotted in Jodi Picoult’s unreadable Wonder Woman and Amazons Attack, apparently brought back to life by Circe, totally insane and once again the queen of the Amazons.

ARTEMIS: A member of the mortal, Bana-Mighdall Amazons descended from Antiope, Artemis participated in wars against Hippolyta’s Amazons before her people settled their own part of Themyscria. When Hippolyta conceived of a second contest to see if Diana was still fit to be Wonder Woman (part of her plan to avoid Diana’s death in battle, which was prophesied to her), Artemis claimed the prize, and she journeyed to America to serve as the new Wonder Woman (Yes, this was about the time Kyle Rayner became Green Lantern, Connor Hawke became Green Arrow, John-Paul Valley became Batman and four dudes became Superman, why do you ask?), while Diana changed into a weird biker shorts, bra and jacket combo to lead her faction of the then-splintered Justice League, going as just plain old “Diana.”

Artemis, who lacked Diana’s super-powers and possessed a hot head and thirst for violence that no previous Wonder Woman was saddled with, died in a battle against the White Magician (Much of this era’s important stories are collected in Wonder Woman: The Contest by William Messner-Loebs and Mike Deodato). She was later rescued from Hades and returned to life. Since then she served as her people’s representative in Amazon government and as Themyscira’s Minister of Defense. She disappeared with Themyscira during the last crisis with a capital C, and has recently been seen in Amazons Attack, exchanging glances with Phillipus behind Hippolyte’s back and presumably, holding her finger to her ear and making the coo-coo sign whenever her queen wasn’t looking).

DONNA TROY: You know what, I don’t have any idea. And I don’t think anyone else does either, which has become a plot point in Countdown. Donna Troy’s existence was originally forced because Wonder Girl was appearing in Teen Titans along with sidekicks like Robin and Aqualad (Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 1, although Wonder Girl wasn’t actually Wonder Woman’s sidekick; rather, she was like the pre-Crisis Superboy, the star of Wonder Woman stories from when she was a girl. Oops. It’s a mistake DC has been fixing and re-fixing pretty much ever since, the last attempt being the Infinite Crisis lead-in DC Presents: The Return of Donna Troy (although, again, Countdown implies that wasn’t the last we’ve heard of Donna’s origins, perhaps for reasons discussed below)

At any rate, I think she’s still a magical twin of Diana, created to be her playmate, but captured by Dark Angel (recently seen in Supergirl) and forced to live a series of alternate lives, each full of tragedy. She was rescued by the Titans of Myth, who gave her powers and training before returning her to Earth, where she founded the Teen Titans as Wonder Girl, changed her codename and costume repeatedly (From Wonder Girl to Troia to Darkstar back to Troia to Wonder Woman for about a week and then back to Troia again), married, had a child, divorced, lost her son and ex-husband in a car crash, rejoined the Titans, was murdered by a Superman Robot, came back to life in deep space thinking herself one of the Titans of myth, lead a group of heroes to fight Alexander Luthor’s giant fingers in the middle of the universe, hung out in her swanky new space-faring base New Cronus talking to the late Harbinger’s continuity ball, took the name Wonder Woman for a few weeks around the time Black Adam was killing civilians by the millions, and she was last seen in the company of Jason Todd in Washington D.C. (New Teen Titans: Who Is Donna Troy?, Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Death and Return of Donna Troy and Infinite Crisis contain most of the pertinent parts of that complicated history, or at least readable recaps).

The interesting thing about poor Donna's origin is that, aside from needing to think up an origin to explain her existence in the first place, all of her complications as a character stemmed from Crisis on Infinite Earths, which reset Wonder Woman's timeline, so that she didn't appear until several years after the new "heroic age" had begun (that is, several years after Superman and Batman started their careers, and the Justice League was about to move into it's JLI incarnation). All the magical twin, abducted by Titans business was in reaction to the fact that Wonder Girl predated Wonder Woman (to solve all that, DC could have just rebooted Donna and the Titans alongside Wonder Woman back in the aftermath of COIE. One of the many rejiggerings of Infinite Crisis was that Wonder Woman was now a founder of the Justice League again, which meant she arrived in Man's World around the time Superman and Batman were debuting now. I didn't think much of it at the time, being so confused as to why DC was bumping all of their post-Crisis Wonder Woman/JLA stories out of continuity to replace them with all their older, worse stuff (I don't care how much anyone likes the Satellite Era, you can't honestly tell me the stories were better written than those of the JLI or Watchtower Eras). But if Wonder Woman was active during the first year or so of DC's second "heroic age," then that means she does indeed predate Donna Troy's Wonder Girl again, and we don't need any of that Titans of Myth/Dark Angel stuff anymore. DC can just revert back to their original origin for her. But...they haven't, have they? Or, if they have, nobody's mentioned it or did a story for it. In fact, the last Donna Troy origin story was the miniseries preceding Infinite Crisis, the awkwardly titled DC Presents: The Return of Donna Troy, but Phil Jiminez, Jose Garcia-Lopez and George freaking Perez, released just months before the continuity within it was going to maybe be altered, knocking it out of canon. Why on earth would you hire those three titanic talents to craft an excellent series (um, by Donna Troy standars, anyway), and then knock it out of canon immediately afteward? If it is out of canon. Like I said, there's been no indication that Donna's reverted to her pre-Crisis(On Infinite Earths) origin know that Wonder Woman's arrival was shunted backwards down the DC timeline, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to have Donna become Wonder Girl and not be inspired by Diana now that Diana was around as Wonder Woman at the same time she became Wonder Girl does it?

FURY: Helena Kosmatos’s father was killed during the Italian invasion of Greece during World War II, and seeking vengeance, she became possessed of the power of the mythological furies. Taking the name Fury, she donned a suit of golden mail to fight against fascism and the Nazis as part of the Young All-Stars, the probationary, youth faction of the war-time All-Star Squadron. Helena had super strength and the ability to fly thanks to the spirit of the Fury Tisiphone. The downside? The spirit would occasionally transform her, turning Helena into a winged, hooved monster. That big gray, bat-winged monster you see in Amazon battle scenes now and then? That’s Helena. While not an Amazon by birth, she's been living on the island for quite a while now. (None of these stories are available in trade because there is no God; that’s the only explanation for why All-Star Squadron is not available in trade that I can think of).

WONDER GIRL: Cassandra Sandsmark, daughter of Gateway City-based archaeologist Helena Sandsmark, assumed the role of Wonder Girl after swiping the Sandals of Hermes and Gauntlet of Atlas to help Diana take on a clone of Doomsday (Wonder Woman: Lifelines). Upon meeting Zeus in person, she asked for powers of her own, a request the god complied with, giving her superstrength and the ability to fly. After years of wondering who her real father was, it was eventually revealed why Zeus was so generous with the powers—he’s her father.

A former leader of the now-defunct group Young Justice, Cassie is currently a member of the Teen Titans. Though technically an American citizen and a demigod (an Olympian-American?), Wonder Girl was trained by Artemis and given the blessing to use the “Wonder” name by both Diana and Donna, making her something of an honorary Amazon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Batman Beatdown #3

You can't win 'em all, even if you're Batman, and you therefore win about 99-percent of 'em.

In our ongoing efforts to chronicle the best ass-kickings that Batman, one of comicdom's premier assk-kickers, has endured, we've previously seen Deathstroke totally take him apart, and watched Etrigan, The Demon beat the hell out of him. Clearly Batman has a little more trouble dealing with metahumans and supernatural beings than your plain old regular joes.

There is one regular joe who has suceeded in taking Batman down, however—one Joe Dredd.

It happened in this comic book,

1991's Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham, which was written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and fully-painted by Simon Bisley.

This is Fourteen-Year-Old Caleb's favortie comic book, and even Thirty-Year-Old Caleb still sees a lot to like about. It's significant for several reasons. Personally, it was my fourth Batman comic and my first Judge Dredd comic. Less personally, it was the first of the three prestige-format comic book meetings between Batman and Dredd, and the only good one.

The plot involves Mean Machine Angel coming to Gotham City via somekind of teleporting maguffin machine. Judge Death follows him, and meets up with the Scarecrow, and it takes the combined forces of Batman, Dredd and Judge Anderson to settle the villains' collective hash.

But first, Dredd and Batman meet, when the latter is accidentally teleported to the future or alternate dimension or alternate dimension's future or whereever it is exactly that Mega City One is located in relation to Gotham City.

They come into conflict immediately, and, unlike 'Stroke and Etrigan, Dredd drops Batman without even exerting himself at all.

Let's watch:

(Click to mega-size it)

Oh my God! Did you see that?! One hit! He knocked Batman out with just one hit! From conscious to unconscious and unmasked in the space of just three-panels!

Now, Dredd may be as human as Batman, but he's no slouch when it comes to beating people up. While he doesn't have any superpowers or robot parts in him, he was born and bred specifically to beat up lawbreakers. Still, taking Batman out in one panel? Pretty damn amazing.

Now to be fair to Batman, this did occur at a point in his career when he was quite used to working with law enforcement officials, so chances are he had his guard down and wasn't expecting that nightstick to the head.

Later in the same book, he does punch Dredd in the face and knock him on his ass, and even has a sweet moment where Dredd's like, "Assaulting a judge, that's ten years!" and Batman responds curtly, "Make it twenty" while kicking Dredd.

Of course, while Batman does knock Dredd down with one hit, he doesn't knock him out. And it was something of a sucker punch, since Dredd was arguing with another character when Batman hit him. So we may never know whom could take whom in a fair fight (Unless that's settled in one of the two sequels to this story, whcih I've completely forgotten the contents of, on account of them not being very good).

But for now, let the record show that Judge Dredd once totally beat down Batman.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Don't Look Now, Judd Winick!

From Deadman: Dead Again #2 by Steve Vance, Jim Aparo and Rich Burchett (DC Comics; 2001)

Monday Morning Man vs. Cephalopod Moment

Just click on the images to enlarge, and thus better enjoy the best swordfight with an octopus you're likely to see today.

From Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics; 2007)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Attention, Burglars:

Blows to the head only mildly irritate Popeye.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Long, Slow Death of Bart Allen

In Wednesday’s The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, the title character was killed in what turned out to be the last book of the recently relaunched series; the previous of the four Flashes will be returning to star in the now un-cancelled previous volume of the series.

For those who haven’t been reading Flash or at least, like me, picking it up and flipping through it once a month while sadly shaking your head and placing it back on your local comic book shop’s shelf, the dead Flash isn’t Wally West, but his replacement, Bart Allen, a.k.a. Flash IV, previously known as Kid Flash and, prior to that, Impulse.

How did he die? Nothing so dramatic as saving the whole universe, as his grandfather Barry Allen did, or even saving the whole world, as Ice did. Rather, he was killed by his archenemy Inertia and a motley crew of perennial Flash villains like Captain Cold, Heatwave, Mirror Master II and the like. In the actual comic, it took a committee of bad guys to kill Bart Allen, and in real life, it likewise took a committee of people to kill him off.

See, the truth of the matter is that DC has been killing Bart Allen for a long time now. Geoff Johns actually started the process a few years back, putting Bart on a path that could really only lead to Bart’s death.

It probably began around the time that Johns assumed the reigns of the Flash monthly (with 2000’s #164). I know Johns’ run was a very popular one, but my initial impression was pretty negative. I tried out the first story arc, solely on the strength of the fantastic Brian Bolland covers and curiosity about what the writer of Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. would be able to do with the Flash characters, and six issues later, decided it just wasn’t for me—dull, mediocre and unimaginative, it was just another superhero comic, which I didn’t need any more of. I’ve since gone back and read Johns’ entire run in trade (and actually started picking it up monthly when Howard Porter joined the art team), and now have a much higher opinion of it. I guess Johns just took a few stories to really find his footing on the title (and/or I needed a few months to get used to the change in style form the imaginative Morrison/Millar run to the more straightforward Johns one).

The run was most notable, I think, for the way Johns essentially Batman-ized the Flash, giving his rogues gallery a darker, more murderous and/or psychotic edge (Rather than colorful bank robbers with silly sci-fi gimmicks, they all had tics, like pyromania and cocaine addiction), giving them an Arkham equivalent warehouse to keep escaping from and be returned to at the end of each adventure, and giving Keystone City a personality so that the setting itself began to become something of a cast member, in much the same way Gotham City is a character unto itself in Batman stories.

Johns’ impulse to make the Flash franchise darker, grittier and more realistic had unfortunate consequences for Impulse. Johns wrote a perfectly fun and funny Impulse in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., an Impulse fill-in and some JSA appearances. He really seemed to get the character as Mark Waid and company had originally conceived him—a little kid superhero whose adventures were played for laughs over thrills or melodrama.

But the kid with big hair, bigger feet and pictogram thought clouds didn’t really fit into Johns’ darker, grittier Flash (not that he needed too; Impulse was a member of Flash’s extended family, but wasn’t a sidekick or partner. With a title of his own, and a slot in first Young Justice and then Teen Titans, Johns could have gotten away with ignoring Impulse completely). So Johns changed Impulse into Kid Flash II, giving him a modified version of Wally’s old red-and-yellow costume. It was a move that felt forced and false to me, but that may have been simply because the very first time I met Impulse was in the pages of Zero Hour, when he introduced himself to Superman by saying, “Call me Kid Flash-- --and get your big 'S’ handed to you!”

Accompanying the name and costume change was a change in attitude. Johns wrote Bart as a teenager instead of a preteen (Odd that Bart aged more or less in real time, while his DCU peers like Robin and Superboy remained forever sixteen-ish). And after Judd Winick and Johns teamed up to decimate Young Justice and the then flailing Titans monthlies in Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, reorganizing the teams into the new Teen Titans and the new Outsiders, Johns got the new Titans title, which by that point, was Bart Allen’s only regular title.

Though he was now writing all of the popular Young Justice characters, Johns quickly focused on the angstier aspects of them, and for Bart that meant having Deathstroke kneecap him, a traumatic event that forced Bart to grow up, unveiling a new power (unlike the other Flashes, he could remember everything he read) that turned him into a bit of a know-it-all, a 180-degree turn from the traditionally naïve, oblivious Impulse.

By that point, Johns had changed his codename, costume and characterization, wasn’t Bart already dead?

I think, for all intents and purposes, he was, even if the character was technically still alive. Then Infinite Crisis occurred, and DC made one of the several incredibly bad moves associated with IC and it’s “One Year Later” jump. Wally West disappeared into the timestream or Speed Force or wherever with his new family, Bart and Jay Garrick in tow. When Bart returned, he was aged into young adulthood (another change, pushing him father from conception), and was now the Flash, given his own book to star in, The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, with a rather unexpected (and certainly untested) writing team at the helm, Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, newcomers to comics whose credentials included the 1990 live action Flash TV series, which lasted only 21 episodes.

Why exactly DC thought a pair of writers from a sixteen-year-old cancelled TV series would be enough to sell fans on a brand-new Flash remains a mystery. I know that, for my part, I didn’t buy a single issue of the new Flash: The Fastest Man Alive simply because of the change in lead characters, having zero interest reading about a twenty-something former Kid Flash struggling to live up to the legacy of The Flash, who had just disappeared during a Crisis. I mean, I had already read that story 20 years or so ago. (If DC really had to lose Wally temporarily, the only Flash I personally probably would have been interested in starring in a monthly was Jay Garrick; farthere away on a conceptual level, Bart becoming Flash didn’t make any sense anyway, with Jay still running around. I could see a character feeling the need to be the Flash if there was no other Flash, like when Wally assumed Barry’s mantle, but Bart’s new role was simply to be The Other Flash).

Sales on the new title were abysmal, plunging from over 120,000 to less than 47,000 in the space of eleven issues, and fan sentiment was even more negative. Soon Bilson and DeMeo were off the title, replaced by Mark Guggenheim. I thought about checking out his first issue, which promised guest appearances by both the JLoA and the Teen Titans, and picked it up in the store to give it a looksee. I got all the way to the first panel before noticing a big, huge, stupid mistake—Robin was in the wrong costume—before setting it back down.

Then the mysterious hyping began.

DC was promising big, big things with #13, and that issue and the next two were made returnable, which took some of the risk from retailers if they were unable to sell extra copies, indicating DC had confidence that this was an issue everyone would want to read. Vibe-obsessed blog The Absorbascon offered an interesting theory about who the JLoA/JSoA crossover was intending to resurrect, which seemed pretty damn plausible (Personally, I thought the return of Barry Allen would be a terrible, terrible idea, but if DC resurrected Jason Todd, then clearly there’s no idea that’s too terrible for them to try now).

Well, if you’ve read last week’s Flash, then you know what the big surprise was, and you might have been surprised at the lack of surprise (The teaser image spoiled the fact that Bart would be dying as soon as it was released, didn’t it?).

(Above: Ah, nothing like some light escapism...)

Actually, there was a big surprise to Flash #13; it wasn’t Bart’s death, it was that there was no return or resurrection of any other Flashes in it. The only thing that happened was the foregone conclusion, that Bart died (The return happened in JLoA, and it was Wally…the Flash who wasn’t really dead, and whom no one thought was dead. Except maybe Brad Meltzer, who brought the still-living Wally back to life. Or something. I don’t know, JLoA #10 doesn’t make a damn bit of sense).

The fact that DC felt the need to kill Bart Allen, essentially putting the character out of his misery after years of progressively fucking him up, moving him farther and farther away from his original conception (and not because he was growing or evolving, but because one by one the things that made him unique in the DCU were being stripped from him) is highly unfortunate, and seems to shows a lack of imagination (As well as an odd lack of understanding about how to manage a fictional universe full of character properties; there’s always more potential in a living character shunted off into off-panel limbo than a dead one rotting in a fictional graveyard, who will need a resurrection story to be used again some day… which further makes death meaningless in your universe).

There seem to be three predominant stories at DC now: Characters are either being killed, being brought back to life after having been killed, or the multiverse/continuity is being screwed with. There are exceptions aplenty, of course, but the very fact that death, resurrection and continuity tweaking are trends in the line is profoundly disturbing (I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again—How fucked up is it that DC has managed to make stories about death itself completely uninteresting?).

(Above: At least the last time Bart Allen died, it was funny)

That the character they killed was Bart Allen is even more disturbing, given that the character once embodied all that was fun and young-at-heart within the DCU. As I said, that character has been dead for a while now, and dying for even longer, and, personally I don’t see this as any kind of concerted effort to kill off all of DC’s fun or funny characters. I honestly think that the number of JLI characters (and now Young Justice characters, I guess) that are being done in is simply a matter of coincidence. The same thing that opened characters like Blue Beetle, The Dibnys, Booster Gold and Bart Allen up to being played for laughs—their expendability—is the same thing that makes them candidates for killing off.

Put another way, Batman and Superman have lines of books to sell, not to mention movies, cartoons and merchandise. They wouldn’t fit in a JLI or Young Justice-style comic book because it erodes their brand too much, just as killing them off would.

Nobody’s making a Ted Kord movie any time soon, and he couldn’t keep one book going as a serious character, let alone two or three. He can be turned into a goofball comedian then without worry. He can also be shot through the head without losing any monthly comic book sales. Bart Allen was in the same boat; his book was long since cancelled and he had gradually been turned into Wally West 2.0. Killing him off has no adverse effects for the company; the only ones who might miss him are his fans, but DC wasn’t selling them any books anyway at the moment.

And maybe not even Bart’s fans.

I mean, I read Impulse and Young Justice, and always really dug the character, but I’m not the least bit broken up about Bart’s death, because Bart hasn’t been Bart in years anyway, so it’s not like I’ll miss him anymore now that I did last week or last year.

In fact, his death might actually be a good thing for fans.

Okay, yes, having good guys Piper and Trickster I involved in murdering him was silly, and only going to cause problems for the poor bastards trying to write something coherent with them in Countdown, and, yeah, killing yet another character only makes the DCU that much darker and drearier and death-obsessed, but Bart, like Booster Gold, is a character who only exists in the present day DCU due to time travel. Bart dead? Hell, Bart’s not even born yet. He can come running out of the timestream at any moment, whenever anyone has a hankering to write him. And better yet, he can come back at the point he left the DCU in IC (i.e. as the teenaged Kid Flash), or, even better still, at some point before Johns started de-Impulsifying him, so that a pre-teen, big-haired, big-footed Imp can appear back in the DCU at any moment to stare blank faced at adversaries while Owly-esque thought clouds appear above him.

I don’t expect him too, of course, at least not for a while. But the only thing DC seems to be as interested in as killing their characters these days is resurrecting the characters their predecessors had killed, so I’d put odds of an Impulse return somewhere around…oh, let’s say…100%.

And that’s just considering Bart as a character in the fourth-dimension of New Earth; there are possibly 51 other Bart Allen’s out there.

RELATED: For those who have only known Bart Allen as Flash or Kid Flash, here are some excellent low-threshold-of-previous-knowledge-required introductions to the character back when he was still awesome, ones that also happen to be really entertaining standalone stories. Actually, pretty much any issue of Impulse is pretty reader-friendly, but these are among the most so: