Thursday, June 30, 2011


Remember last week, when I said I wouldn't be contributing to anymore, but hoped to find a new home at a comics-focused site on the Internet for my online-writing-about-comics-that-I-don't-just-post-here?

Well guess what?

I did.

Head on over to Robot 6 at, and you'll find my first contribution, a piece about Ralph Cosentino's children's picture book (that is actually pretty much just a comic book in the format of a picture book), Wonder Woman: The Story of The Amazon Princess.

(The plan is contribute weekly-ish there, a much less demanding schedule which will hopefully allow for me to produce slightly longer and greatly improved pieces than those I was producing the last few weeks for Blog@, after the daily blogging schedule started to grind me down. )

And, when you're done reading that Robot 6 piece, you might also want to visit Las Vegas Weekly's home page, where you'll find a short review of Fantagraphics' new Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race To Death Valley . (Even shorter review? It's really, really good).


I reread Cosentino's Wonder Woman book with Niece #1 (now aged 7), and we took turns reading it to each other, each of us doing a page turn a piece, and then alternating back and forth.

She's not really into superheroes at all—she has an irrational hatred of Batman, which I may have mentioned at some point before—but she seemed to like it okay, going back to reread it quietly by herself after we read it together, and she lingered on some of the pictures.

I guess it shouldn't really be surprising that a 7-year-old girl might be mildly interested in a character who is a princess that talks to and befriends animals and beats up monsters and bad guys. There were an awful lot of words that were brand new to her in it, though, and she stumbled over a lot of pronunciation, including the word "Inuit" and a lot of Greek names, like Hippolyta, Heracles, Aphrodite and Circe.

This was her first exposure to Greek mythology, as far as I know.


Cosentino's Wonder Woman book, like his previous superhero storybook, Superman: The Story of The Man of Steel, had a cameo in it specific to his own body of work. Let's take a look at them, shall we?

On this page/in this panel, Wonder Woman narrates that part of her mission is "to teach peace and respect to all," and she's pictured hanging out with four people:The little boy on the left looks slightly out of place, doesn't he? Perhaps because he has dots for eyes, unlike the other characters in the scene. Or perhaps because he's Cosentino's Fun-Boy, from his book The Marvelous Misadventures of Fun-Boy.

In Superman: The Story of The Man of Steel, there's a page/panel devoted to the "Look, up in the sky!" routine, and the crowd seems to be full of more-detailed-than-usual characters, which makes me wonder how many of them are supposed to be modeled after real people. I definitely recognized the characters on this lady's shirt:It's Swella-Bow-Wow and Honk-Honk Ashoo, from Cosentino's The Story of Honk-Honk Ashoo & Swella-Bow-Wow!

That same scene also included this guy——who you may recognize from the cover of, like, every issue of Mad magazine ever.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some random thoughts on the Green Lantern movie, shared without any regard given to whether or not plot points might be spoiled:

—Ever since this film was given a release date and thus became more real than all of the other in-development movies the comics news sites cover so breathlessly, I've thought it was downright shocking that they were making a Green Lantern movie. I realize we're deep into a time when every comic book character seems to be eligible for adaptation, but it was still hard to imagine Warner Brothers really making a Green Lantern movie before they made one starring Wonder Woman, Flash or even Aquaman, all of whom are more widely popular and recognized characters, characters whose names alone pretty much suggest their powers and whole deals.

(The other day, for example, I overheard some folks at my new day job talking about the Green Lantern movie, and part of that conversation involved trying to figure out if he was "from somewhere," like a TV show or cartoon or comic book, or if he was original to the movie. Also, whether or not he was in someway related to the Green Hornet).

On the other hand, Green Lantern's super-power is that he wears a special effects factory and toy factory on his right hand, so I guess I should really have been surprised that they hadn't made a Green Lantern movie sooner.

—There is a very expensive, heavily promoted major motion picture that played in movie theaters all over the world featuring Kilowog, Tomar-Re and, of course, the former says “poozer” in it. That’s pretty amazing.

—It really seemed to me that there were at least two movies here, two different drafts or proposals that got smashed together. There was the earthbound story and conflicts, which involved the majority of the characters and time spent on the movie, and there was the space stuff, in which Hal is inducted into the Corps and trains and suchlike. I wonder if the movie would have been better served by picking one of those plots and sticking to it, devoting more attention to it, and saving the other for a sequel? Would it have been so bad to do all the Earth/superhero stuff in the first movie, and relegate all the space business to heavy foreshadowing and Sinestro-watching-from-afar or something…? Too little time seemed spent on the conflicts between Hammond and Jordan, who were often presented as the two sides of the same coin sort of hero/villain dynamic, but not consistently.

—The costume really, really bothered me when I first saw it. Like, really bothered me. Like, scared and upset me. In every promotional still or trailer or photo or poster I saw, the costume looked strange and upsetting, but it wasn’t so bad in the film at all. I guess I got used to it pretty quickly.

Except the mask. That looked strange and creepy at all time, but the rest of it looked quite all right to me.

—I couldn’t stop staring at Green Lantern’s collar though. Every time it was in the shot, I just sort of stared at it and thought about how much I hate the JLA redesigns Jim Lee did. Is it just a coincidence that the Green Lantern in the movie and in the upcoming DC comics have such similar collars? Or did Jim Lee like the way that collar looked so much in the movie that he used it as inspiration for redesigning the whole line?

—The movie seemed oddly small and cheap, which is a weird thing to think, given the fact that you could literally see the money leaking off of the characters and digital scenery throughout the movie. The action spans the galaxy, but the scale seemed tiny and fake. Oa, for example, lacked the sense of place or grandeur of pretty much any sci-fi movie (Like, say, that dumb-ass Vin Diesel one with the word "Chronicles" in the title, or even the first three Star Wars movies, which lacked the technology that made this movie). Oa looked like a painted backdrop, devoid of any life at all. I know there were several thousand aliens on it, but I guess they all just stood closely clustered together in an underground cavern all the time…?

—I think it was a much, much better film than Wanted, and not really any worse than Kick-Ass.

—Sinestro looked awesome. I agree with what Mike Sterling said regarding him and his role in the film, I think; it seemed like a shame that he had such a relatively small role in the film. Mark Strong was excellent, and the fact that he and the filmmakers were able to make that particular character design—elf-eared pink dude with pointy mustache and receding hairline—look both believable and cool is a real feat.

—I didn’t like Abin Sur’s design at all. It seemed really…cheap (There's that word again). Like something from a low-budget '80s film or a made-for-cable-TV movie. If he was just a pink dude, like a bald, paler Sinestro, he might have looked better.

—By the way, were they pronouncing it “Ab-in-SOOR” or “Ab-in-SEWER”…? I always thought it was pronounced “Ab-in SIR.”

—All of the actors were good. I have no complaint about any of the acting (Well, that kid who played Hal’s nephew wasn’t so hot, but otherwise…). I think the movie actually could have used more terrible actors acting terribly. I think that might have given it a more enjoyable, so-bad-it’s-awesome quality. But due to the complete competence of all of the actors, who ranged from pretty good to very good, it was a weird sort of movie in which it was clearly structurally fucked-up, and none of the actors’ faults. Hopefully it doesn’t therefore hurt the careers of any of these folks then.

—With his suit and white hair, Tim Robbins reminded me a lot of Glenn Beck. Especially during his death scene, where he was screaming in wide-eyed terror.

—I liked the fact that The Guardians looked like little blue Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Draculas.

—Not crazy about the Lady Guardian’s penciled eyebrows or the weird plastic hair pieces some of them seemed to wear, but I dug the long-cloaks-as-bodies look.

—I didn’t care for Kilowog’s design. He seemed too small, too real and not as…square and odd as he looked in the comics. Especially the old, pre-Ethan Van Sciver comics. His voice sounded bad too. Again, too realistic. I don’t know that I really had a Kilowog voice in my head that would have sounded more “right” to me, but this wasn’t it. Perhaps simply because Michael Clarke Duncan provided the voice, and his is such a distinct one that when I hear it I simply see him, rather than a square-headed, giant orange hippo man with crazy underbite.

—Tomar-Re looked a little too realistic to me, too. There’s something more disturbing and alien about his Silver Age, orb-headed lizard chicken man look that the movie Tomar-Re didn’t have.

—Nice job on Tom though, Movie!

That is, finding a way to include him, without it being horrible. (He seemed oddly absent from a few scenes though; like, he abandoned Hal at weird points. If you and your pal just discovered a UFO, alien body and a mysterious alien artifact, would you just take off and leave your friend alone to experiment with the artifacts by himself? Carol also left Hal at a strange point or two, I thought).

—The “full-grown” version of Parallax looked pretty cool to me, but I was confused as to why he looked so little and not-scary at first, especially since I knew the comic book version was revealed to be an capital-A Alien-like monster insect. His visualization makes sense later in the film, but I was put off by it’s not scariness at first.

—I thought that was some impressively weird, avant garde shit, finding a shitty soundtrack from a terrible 1982 action movie and repurposing it as the score of a 2011 Green Lantern movie. At least, I imagine that’s what they did—it’s the only way the music for this film makes any sense.

—I wondered about the inclusion of Amanda Waller’s character in the film. Was this part of Warner Bros/DC’s attempts to make more Marvel-like superhero movies? Like,Iron Man had an extra-franchiseical, African-American character from the comics to hint at a greater connectivity and suggest a shared universe beyond what's seen on the screen, so they had to use one too. Waller doesn't look like Waller from the comics, and her job description seems pretty different (here, she's a scientist/bureaucrat working for what seems like a black organization within the U.S. government), but her origin story seems awfully similar, and it's shown in a quick glimpse when Hector Hammond's mind-reading powers are being demonstrated.

—Also, there was a mid-credits tease for a future, possible sequel, not unlike the way the last few Marvel movies have been used to tease the next one.

—That tease, by the way, makes absolutely no sense at all. None. I mean, I know that Sinestro will eventually turn evil and wear a yellow ring, and you know that Sinestro will eventually turn evil and wear a yellow ring, but there’s nothing—nothing at all—in the movie to suggest why he might do that. In fact, the Sinestro in the movie doesn’t even slightly hint that he might eventually go bad. He’s sort of a jerk when he first meets Hal Jordan, but it’s pretty thoroughly explained why he doesn’t like Jordan, and, by the film’s end, Sinestro has come around. Based on the film itself, Kilowog, Tom Kalmaku, Carol’s dad, Hal’s brother seem just as likely to put on a yellow power ring and go evil as Sinestro.

—I can't help but admire the incredible silliness of certain aspects of the movie, like Hal’s big, giant fist construct, or that scene at the end where he creates two green jets to tow himself away from the sun with. That scene, by the way, was the only one that really achieved the awesome/stupid balance that I find so appealing in Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern comics.

—Fear is flammable?

—I kind of want to reread Johns’ “Secret Origin” story arc now, as it seems to be the story that most heavily influenced this film, but I remember the Hammond/Carol/Hal conflict seeming a lot more logical there, and Hal’s introduction to the Corps and the emergence of a conflict with Sinestro better hinted at there. In other words, I wonder if the movie was too faithful to certain aspects of the comics, and not faithful enough to others, if that makes sense.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trades I Waited For (Pt 3): Booster Gold: Past Imperfect

I’ve often wondered why the Booster Gold character is popular, if it was because of some element of creator Dan Jurgens’ inspirations for the character and his initial run on the 1986-launched, 25-issue-long series, or if it was because of Keith Giffen and DeMatteis’ re-creation of the character as a central part of their ensemble Justice League cast from the late eighties and early nineties.

Okay, “often” is overselling it. I’ve actually only wondered about it like once or twice, when DC handed the last volume of the series over to him after the Geoff Johns/Jeff Katz run that kicked off the new title, and returned it to him after the brief Giffen/DeMatteis run, the first half of which comprises the contents of Booster Gold: Past Imperfect.

(More often I’ve wondered why the hell the character is named “Booster Gold.” I still don’t know).

This trade seemed to offer an opportunity to at least examine the different takes, as it featured the writing team perhaps most popularly associated with the character scripting his adventures on what is essentially the Jurgens’ version of the character’s book (Remember, Jurgens runs bookend Giffen/DeMatteis’ here, and this is at least semi-serious Booster Gold as solo adventurer, not part of a wacky ensemble).

DC found a pretty perfect collaborator for the writing team with Chris Batista, who shares many of the same virtues and their most famous artistic collaborator, Kevin Maguire, without actually being Kevin Maguire, allowing him to strike a better balance between the Bw-ha-ha and straight Booster a bit better than Maguire might have been able too.

Not that Maguire is absent, of course; he provided the covers for the first five issues, including these two, which I really liked:Giffen and Maguire open with Booster doing the sort of thing he does now, visiting a point in DCU history in order to perform a task for Rip Hunter, Time Master (here he’s at the destruction of Daxam in the 30th Century…which is part of “The Great Darkness Saga” or some Legion thing I’ve never read, I think) where he battles the Emerald Empress and picks up an adorable orphaned moppet, who provides a verbal sparring partner for Rip.

From there, much of the book involves Booster’s efforts to prove to the world that the post-Brightest Day Maxwell Lord is actually an evil son of a bitch who wants to exterminate super-humanity, but, as in Justice League: Generation Lost, only he and a few old teammates remember Lord or his evil deeds.

So Booster goes back in time to the days of the JLI seeking proof, and ends up getting extremely sidetracked hanging out with his friends.

Unsurprisingly, Giffen and DeMatteis excel at these portions, and they continue to effortlessly write these characters and revisit old routines. Few characters and concepts are as well-suited to such blatant nostalgia as Booster Gold, a character whose current status quo is that he can travel back to the good old days at will.

Among the many running gags they fill the storyline with is that everyone immediately sees through Booster’s attempt to disguise himself as his own younger self in order to infiltrate the JLI, and while there’s a decent chunk of time spent featuring Booster bouncing around the embassy and revisiting the cast, a tangent adventure is quickly embarked upon, and Booster and the past era’s Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda visit an alien planet for an adventure, and Giffen and DeMatteis pull off a neat trick of giving the audience what we think we want, except one of the characters is now a chipmunk…?After the JLI storyline, Booster travels back to World War II in order to team up with another old JLI character, Captain America parody General Glory.

It’s all fast-paced, fun, funny stuff, and while I can see who Giffen and DeMatteis’ quirks might not be to everyone’s tastes (I don’t think all of their gags land, but they tell enough that it hardly matters whether even 75% of them are funny or not; rare is a whole page without a successful gag), it tasted fine to me.

I look forward to the next collection, which I imagine will finish up the remaining five issues of their run on the book.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Trades I Waited For (Pt 2): Wolverine: Weapon X: Tomorrow Dies Today

Nothing in comics is ever simple, is it? I pretty much live and breathe the damn things, and I still have to spend time on the Internet trying to figure out which trades to read in which order if I want to follow a particular character, storyline or creative team.

Take the Jason Aaron/Ron Garney team on Wolverine for example. Not Wolverine, the comic book series, which the Aaron at least now works on, but the character Wolverine. Aaron and Garney actually started a new Wolverine book called Wolverine: Weapon X in 2009, which was, at the time, the third Wolverine monthly. But after 16 issues of that, Marvel canceled the title and moved Aaron and Garney to plain old Wolverine.

So, naturally, if you wanted to read Aaron’s Wolverine comics, you have to look for volumes of two different series (so far!) with Aaron's byline on the spine, and maybe two sets of volume numbers.

God only knows how civilians ever figure this shit out, and why they bother to read “graphic novels” with double-colon titles like Wolverine: Weapon X: Tomorrow Dies Today.

Me? I read it because I read the similarly double-coloned Wolverine: Weapon X: The Adamantium Men, thought it was a blast and wanted to read more comics like it. (Looking to see if I wrote a review of that on EDILW or not, I stumbled upon a review for the Aaron/Garney Wolverine: Get Mystique trade instead. That was a story arc from Wolverine, so I guess to follow Aaron’s run you’d go one volume of a Wolverine trade, then three of Wolverine: Weapon X trades and then back to a plain old Wolverine series…?).

This is the third and final arc of the short-lived Aaron/Garney Weapon X: Wolverine series; I skipped the second one (Insane in the Brain) after a quick flip-through, because Wolverine in an off-brand Arkham Asylum (I believe Aaron even called it the Dunwich Sanatorium) wasn’t really of interest.

The title story is five issues long, and comprises the bulk of this volume. It’s a strange story in that it’s not really a Wolverine story, although it begins with him and he plays a fairly big role in the conclusion; it’s actually a Deathlok story.

Actually, it’s a Terminator story, only Marvelized to use the publisher’s cyborg from the future instead of the ones from the successful film franchise.

I was kind of shocked at how Terminator-like the actual proceedings really were, as it seemed to go far beyond simple homage or even an extensive parody; it’s simply a riff on a conceit from a very famous and very popular movie that I assume everyone who reads this trade will be quite familiar with, and have a hard time not thinking about constantly.

Here’s the basic plot: Deathloks from the future time-travel back to the present in order to wipe out their enemies before they can become a threat, this includes snuffing out a silly superhero on his first night on the job, taking down various Marvel characters and killing a woman who will eventually help lead the resistance, before she even knows she will. Wolverine will play a role fighting against the Deathloks in the future, after he’s lost both hands and thus is no longer able to shave himself or change clothes, forcing him to grow a silly beard spend the rest of his unnaturally long life wearing his yellow X-Men costume.Therefore, a woman who is having voices form the future beamed back to her seeks out the younger, two-handed Wolverine to warn him that Deathloks are killing folks, and he’ll need the help of The (New, I think) Avengers to fight them.

So that happens for a whole lot of issues, and Aaron offers up some drama regarding the main Deathlok’s struggle against his own programming and some fun or funny scenes(I kinda liked the one where Spider-Man teases The Thing for a panel) but it’s mostly just Deathlok-fighting. Cool Deathlok fighting, to be sure, but Deathlok fighting nonetheless. (Man, I sure have typed the world “Deathlok” an awful lot today).

There are two more stories included in the volume. One is a nicely done done-in-one by Aaron and guest artist Davide Gianfelice, in which Wolverine reflects on the death of his friend Nightcrawler, whom we know was Wolverine’s friend (even if we know fuck-all about the X-Men) because he appeared in the first issue collected here.

It’s a pretty good story; tightly constructed, no scene, panel or dialogue wasted, and the character learns a lesson or two throughout the proceedings.

It’s also really funny, and I assume much of the humor was intentional.

I’m not sure about this bit here though:The contrast between “giving people hope” and having a four-fingered Alien hand sticking out of your chest is just too loud for me to do anything other than snort at (Presumably if one reads the actual comic in which Nightcrawler dies, there’s a little more gravity to it).

Just as Wolverine is asking God for a sign, and angel appears to him–but it’s not an angel, it’s just his pal, Angel, who looks like an angel. He tells Wolvie about the reading of Nightcrawler’s will, and how Nightcrawler left a special task for Wolverine to complete in the event of his death—he was to deliver a big, heavy, expensive grand piano to a virtually impossible to reach church on top of a tall mountain in the middle of an impenetarable jungle.

I thought Wolverine was sort of cheating at the beginning,but eventually his cheating little hover-thingees malfunciton and he’s doing this to get up the mountain:Which, okay, whatever, that’s pretty funny. Does Wolverine have super-strength now? I didn’t think so, but I’ve heard it argued on the Internet that he must in order to cut through steel doors and brick walls and such with his claws, since he would need to be able to generate the force to push his claws through all that material, no matter how sharp they were.

At any rate, the ability to tow pianos while climbing a sheer cliff wall isn’t one I normally associate with the character as much as I might, say, the aforementioned Thing or Spider-Man.

The task gives Wolvie a lot of time to think, and he does; mostly about Nightcrawler and the conversations about God and faith and Wolvie’s habit of totally killing people all the time that they’ve had over the years.

Gianfelice’s artwork is a sharp departure from Garney’s, but it’s a fine art, and even a welcome departure, as it so strongly designates a shift in story and tone. It’s fill-in art used well too, this being a one-issue story and all. His Wolverine is smaller and thinner than Garney’s, but the artist has as chunkier, bolder line, and he imbues his figures with strong emotions, not only in their facial expressions, but also in the posture and the strength with which he draws the lines they’re made out of.

I liked it a lot.

Finally, the volume also includes the one-shot Dark Reign: The List—Wolverine #1, which seems remarkably out of place. I suppose it belongs somewhere in Marvel’s collection of Aaron’s Wolverine comics, as he did indeed write it, but the story occurs well before the events of “Tomorrow Dies Today,” and it just seems tacked on (A character in "Tomorrow" apparently first appeared in The List one-shot, and briefly refers to the events in it).

It was also kind of weird to see in here simply because I had already read a trade collecting it, The List.

I liked it the first time I read it, in The List trade, and I liked it upon this second reading as well although, as I said, it seemed a strange place to find it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trades I Waited For (Part 1): Superboy: The Boy of Steel

Here’s a pretty good example of what, precisely, is so scary about DC Comics’ plan to relaunch their entire line of comics later this year, a plan that involves an ambitious digital strategy, an increase in production of titles, redesigns of all of their characters and a reboot of their fictional history.

As a whole, the publisher hasn’t been very good at planning very far ahead (Grant Morrison’s Batman comics and Geoff Johns’ five-year Green Lantern run aside), and over the past half decade or so has shown an increasing tendency to change its collective mind quickly, and often change direction suddenly.

The comics collected in the trade Superboy: The Boy of Steel were originally produced and published in 2009 and 2010, which might conceivably seem like a long time ago to someone who deals with superhero comics as monthly serials (and I think that’s fine for DC to focus on that side of their business over trade readers, honestly), the trade was just published in May of this year. A month and a few days ago.

Since the first of these Superboy comics from Adventure Comics was published, the $3.99/32 page title changed it’s numbering and focus, losing the Superboy feature and Legion of Super-Heroes back-up to become a secondary Legion book, a back up-less $2.99/22 page book.

Since the first of these Superboy comics was published, DC launched a new Superboy title with the same premise (Superman’s resurrected teenage clone moves in with his namesake’s recently widowed mother and super dog in Smallville in order to learn the lessons the original Superman did), but an entirely new creative team of Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo. And they announced that same new title’s cancellation (with August’s #11) and a new Superboy title with another new creative team and a (seemingly) radical new direction.

And, finally, since the first of these Superboy comics was published, their creative team Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul moved on to an entirely different title—another volume of The Flash—which has, of course, also been canceled and set to relaunch with a slightly different creative team (Johns is leaving, Manapul is staying and getting anew partner).

When I originally finished reading this collection a few weeks ago and was thinking of whether it was something to blog about or not, I was planning on at least asking readers for advice on what to read next. See, I really enjoyed this and knew DC had continued to publish more stories about these characters by different combinations of creators, but I wasn’t sure what came next (There was some Blackest Night stuff in Adventure Comics which I assume got trade-collected somewhere, and then the Lemire Superboy).

Now reading more seems like a somewhat quixotic venture. There isn’t really any more just like this, and what little there is similar to this has been scrapped by its publishers as something not worth pursuing, comics brush that needs cleared in order to plant something new and better.

That’s a shame. I really rather liked this book.

It gets off to a perhaps needlessly rocky start. There’s a one-page prose summary of Superboy’s biography—his debut, the discovery of his retconned origins, his death and his resurrection—followed by the “Origins & Omens” back-up from 2009’s Adventure Comics #0. Do you remember those? I had honestly forgotten them until I saw this one.

They were short six-page stories that ran in the back of all of DC’s super-comics just before the launch of Blackest Night. They were all essentially the same story. Evil, scarred Guardian of the Universe Scar looks in The Book of The Black, a giant black book in a framing sequence, and then the focus shifts to a recounting of an origin story, with some ominous hints about the near future sprinkled in. Here it’s Lex Luthor’s origin and then-current status quo—captured by Lois Lane’s dad in order to build Kryptonian genocide machines for a war with New Krypton—with the hint being the imminent return to life of the then-dead Superboy.

I can understand why they stuck it in here, for completeness’ sake, but it seems needlessly confusing, as it only serves to bring up something from the Green Lantern books and Superman books that have nothing to do with the contents of the trade. Like, if someone wanted to know a good Superboy comic and asked me for a recommendation, I’d probably pick this—but I could see them giving up after six pages. (Including everything, even the unimportant stuff, by the way, seems to cater to the trade audience instead of the monthly audience, which, as I stated before, is often DC’s focus; it doesn’t hurt to create content exclusively for your monthlies to help incentivize readers buying it…even if that content is, like these six pages, kinda lame).

Not that I have much room to talk about a reader un-friendly beginnings. I did just spend the first 800 words or so on what was intended to be a review of Superboy: The Boy of Steel on a tangent of sorts.

Anyway, after the clunky first few pages, Boy of Steel is smooth sailing all the way through: It’s pretty great super-comics, and despite the fact that they were culled from parts of Adventure Comics and at least one Superman special, despite the references to past Teen Titans stories and at least one scene that goes nowhere (I know it actually goes to the Legion back-up, but since those aren’t part of this collection, it seems to go nowhere) it actually holds together and forms a structurally sound, completely pleasingly complete story with a beginning, middle and end.

The Geoff Johns who shows up here is the gentle, good-humored, character-focused Geoff Johns whose work is often over-shadowed by the more popular Geoff Johns. This is the Geoff Johns who co-wrote Booster Gold, Stars and STRIPE and the occasional, quieter “downtime” issues of JSA and Teen Titans.

The story he’s telling is remarkably accessible, with a sturdy enough, hooky structure to hand a graphic novel on. Superboy, cloned from DNA taken from the worlds’ greatest superhero and the world’s greatest villain (Lex Luthor, if you don’t follow these things as closely as most of us here), is worried he might end up taking after his bad dad instead of his good one. So he keeps a little journal checklist, to compare his behavior to, checking off all of the Superman things he does (“Went to Smallville High,” “Joined a team of super-heroes) and all of the Luthor things he does (“Lied to Superman.”)

While working his way through the list, Superboy acclimates himself to his new life and picks up a new supporting cast (with a particularly prominent role given to Krypto The Super-Dog) while reuniting with his closest friends, in big scenes that were intended to serve as fan service (in the Western comics sense). So Superboy and his best friend Robin-turned-Red Robin share a moment, and Superboy and his ex-girlfriend Wonder Girl share a few moments and, at the climax, he gathers together with his little super-clique. Along the way, he crosses paths with both of his genetic fathers, and Johns gives Luthor a particularly nice—if nasty—character defining scene in the issue with perhaps the most fun cover.

I’m curious about how effective Johns’ scripting might have been were he not working with Manapul and colorist collaborator Brian Buccellato.

Manapul is quite skilled at evoking the youth of the main character and the many teens in the series, which has long been one of the greatest and most obvious deficiencies among many of the artists who have drawn these Teen Titans, as they usually look, dress and “act” like adults.

Because of Manapul’s smooth but effectively expressive art, and Buccellato’s colors, the entire book has an extremely painterly feel to it, and most of the scenes—particularly the many in Smallville—seem to be occurring either at night, dawn or dusk. This is a very moody comic, unusually moody for a mainstream superhero comic, actually, but the mood isn’t a dark or brooding one, it’s nostalgic, elegiac.

I can’t say enough good things about Manapul’s work as seen in this book, and particularly his Krypto. I’ve always been a fan of the super-dog, so perhaps I was a particularly easy sell, but Manapul’s Krypto is maybe the best one I’ve seen this side of Crisis On Infinite Earths, and I love the way he depicts the dog’s emotions and that Geoff Johns (who often seems like the avatar of superhero decadence), gave him such a sweet, important and realistic role in the book.

DC makes a lot of strange decisions, and changes their minds about those decisions frequently and without warning, but this, at least, is one comic strip they got quite right.


Let’s look at some art, okay?

Here’s about half half of a double-page spread, from the first full story in the book: The other half is a cornfield stretching diagonally back into the horizon. That’s really a hell of a splash page, and a rare one in which the space isn’t wasted and actually serves the story.

Manapul’s Krypto often reminded me of Jill Thompson’s Beast of Burden work, particularly in the scene where Superboy investigates Luthor’s old Smallville home and he and Krypto find Superman.

This was my first favorite panel featuring Krypto, though: Finally, here’s a nice image of Tim Drake:There’s a scene where Superboy asks Tim to take off his Red Robin cowl, and it was pretty amazing how vastly his visual appearance seemed to improve without the cowl on (Although, as noted before, Manapul drew him like an actual teenager, so Manapul’s Red Robin looked superior to a lot of other artists’ version of the character).

I think if they would have ditched the cowl for a little red or black domino mask and maybe tweaked the Hawkman-like harness, Tim might actually look cool as Red Robin. Instead they went with this.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blog@ Contributor No More!

Hi there loyal Every Day Is Like Wednesday reader. Have you noticed the content on this supposedly daily comics blog has been decidedly less daily than usual the last week or two? Have you also noticed that you haven't seen my byline on any posts at (which I assume it's safe to assume that you're in the habit of visiting Monday through Friday for bonus, EDILW-like, Caleb-written content) in a while?

You have? My, but you're observant. Have you wondered why that might be? You have? Observant and inquisitive; you'll go far in life!

Well I've been feeling a bit ground down by the, um, grind of producing at least twelve posts about comics each and every week, seven of which I do for the sheer pleasure of hearing myself talk about comics, the other five of which I was doing for actual money (albeit a relatively small amount of money).

I honestly loved doing both, but changes in my professional life over the past year or so have eaten up a lot of my writing-about-comics-for-no-to-little-pay time. When I started this blog in 2006, I was 100% unemployed; when I started contributing to Blog@ in...whenever that was (2008? 2009? I honestly can't remember; it was a December, I know that much), I was working 20 hours a week at a job that allowed me to write while on the clock (which was pretty much the best job I've ever had, and was mighty disappointed to lose it). That hasn't been the case over the last seven months or so, and I just got a new-new day job, an event which seemed like a good time to make a change in my, uh, night job as well.

Because I am dumb and bad with money, I decided to quit doing the writing-online-about-comics gig for which I got paid, but to continue doing the one for which I do not. That is, I'm no longer going to be contributing to Blog@, but will continue writing here as per usual—and hopefully with renewed enthusiasm resulting in sharper, better content.

I could have probably continued doing both for a while longer, but it was increasingly apparent to me that I was phoning work for both venues in a little too often, and what I was giving Blog@ lately wasn't my best. While a little extra money to blow on comics each month is always welcome, I was beginning to feel a little bad about not giving them my best, and having my name attached to work I knew wasn't my best.

Additionally, if I had to choose between the two, and I sort of felt I did, I wanted to continue doing the one that was all mine, that I had the most control over (unless blogger or Google gets hacked or decides to eat my blog or something, I guess, since I'm still on a blogger blogspot blog because, again, I am dumb).

And that's pretty much all there is to it. I don't have any bad feelings about any of the folks I worked for or with there, and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that Matt Brady, Troy Brownfield, Lucas Siegel and Mike Doran have given me over the years, which amounted to essentially doing whatever I wanted, so long as I did it once a day Monday through Friday, and then giving me some money for doing what I'd do for free anyway. The bosses at Blog@ couldn't really have been more hands-off, and I generally only heard form t hem when I had a question. I wish them all the best of success at Newsarama and/or whatever they all decide to do next (Brady, as you know, moved on a while ago).

I'll continue to read Blog@ just as I did before I started contributing, and I hope you will to (To be honest, I think it's gotten even better in the past few weeks once Graeme McMillan started contributing again and, a little before that, when Jill Pantozzi started contributing and Alan Kistler started talking about superhero costumes.

I'm sure—like, 100% positive—that I'll be contributing to another comics-focused site on the Internet in the very near future, although it will be on a more limited basis, which will allow me to focus on quality instead of quantity. Daily blogging is a lot of freaking work, even the extremely easy, low-thought sorts of posts I was doing (link-blogging, examinations of the weekly releases, straight reviews), that took me an awful lot of time, if not always a lot of creative thinking. And, ultimately, time spent reading every comics blog I could find for link fodder was time I wasn't spending doing my best work here, or reviewing comics at better-paying gigs, or, perhaps most importantly, making my own comics. (And if you've read that first one I made, then you probably know they need all the work they can get).

So that's that. I'll be sure to update you on any future developments regarding me-writing-about-comics-on-the-Interent. In the mean time, I've been recharging my batteries a bit, reading things that aren't comic books, and spending time with my friends:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Part monkey. Part truck. All deeply disturbing.

That is not an easy cover to resist, is it? There's something vaguely horrifying about the character on it—Is it a truck shaped like a monkey? A monkey shaped like a truck? Is it made of metal, or flesh and fur?!—and something disarmingly obvious yet mysterious about the title, brought about by the juxtaposition of two words that clearly don't belong together in most contexts (And yet both words are ones a lot of little kids like, which puts this title at least somewhere in the general vicinity of the marketing super-genius of Chris Gall's Dinotrux).

As repellent as I found the idea of a, um, monkey truck, I had to find out what exactly it was, and so borrowed this from the library I was in when I saw the cover.

It gets scarier immediately, as it turns out that Monkey Truck is not, in fact, a truck shaped like a monkey, made of the usual metal and mechanical truck parts merely shaped to resemble a monkey, but he is, instead, a living, breathing, eating, excreting, biological, flesh and blood organism...albeit one with four wheels (plus arms! Giving it six limbs! Unheard of for mammal, and, indeed much of the non-bug portions of the animal kingdom!).

Monkey Truck is also about the size of an actual monkey, as the first page reveals, when it shows him speeding beneath a trio of monkeys in a tree. I suppose that fact should make him less scary to me, but, for some reason, a tiny mammal in the shape of a truck nauseates me all the more. Here we see Monkey Truck posed with several other animals of the jungle, so you can get a pretty good idea of how big this unnatural horror is:Here you can see his underside, complete with a view of the axle that holds his wheels to his body: Oh, here's a perhaps slightly less disturbing reading of Monkey Truck—perhaps he is some sort of half-monkey, half-truck, cyborg-liked fused organism? Like, a monkey with mechanical parts bolted to it? I think I'd find that a lost less disturbing than the idea of a monkey-like creature with a hollowed out back-cavity serving as the bed of his pick-up truck-like shape.

Well, whatever Monkey Truck is, who is he, and how did he come to be? Michael Slack doesn't really get into his origins, but Monkey Truck is a sort of hero of the jungle. The rhyming prose of the picture book begins:
When there's trouble in the jungle, Monkey Truck knows what to do.

Here he comes racing to the rescue!
The first rescue he performs is speeding to snatch a chameleon out from under the giant foot of an elephant, which was about to unknowingly trample the poor creature.

Then we get a montage of some of his services, including rescuing a butterfly from a venus fly trap and untangling a pair of angry snakes: Soon after, we get a big action sequence, which serves as the climax of the book. The hippos get stuck in the mud just as the water is rising, and Monkey Truck pulls them out, puts them in his back and speeds away from the water. It turns out there's a tsunami, and Monkey Truck must outrun it, all the while grabbing various jungle animals with his monkey arms and tossing them onto his back, so he can haul them to safety before the wave crashes on him.

It's pretty exciting, actually, and I'm sure would be an awful lot of fun to read to or with a little kid, especially a room full of them, as the narration shouts monkey noises "OO! EEE! OOO!" and extolls Monkey Truck to "Go! Monkey Truck, go!"

Slack draws great jungle animals—his bizarrely upsetting-to-me-personally central character design aside—the designs are big, bold and and vaguely toy-like. The characters exist among fun, compelling plants and scenery that makes for a playground of a jungle. The tone and texture of the book is thus an enjoyable, engaging one, and it's a book I enjoyed spending time in. Even if there's a pretty good chance I'll wake up screaming "Aaaaaaaaaa! Monkey Truck!" in the middle of the night.

For a better idea of what the book looks like than what my rather poor scans provide, you can check out some pages from Monkey Truck in Slack's "Kids Books" gallery. I'd recommend spending some time clicking around Slack's site, as there's a lot of great stuff on there, particularly in the"Monsters" and "Character Development" galleries.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Comics shop comics: June 1-15

The All-New Batman: The Brave and The Bold #8 (DC Comics) Batman and boisterous, bearded Aquaman team-up to take on The Fisherman, and then quest for the amulet of Arion of Atlantis in order to break the curse of the ghost of pirate Captain Fear, but in order to do so they must first survive a gauntlet of undersea challenges and face the fearsome, bad-ass BnB version of Black Manta and oh my God I love this comic it is the best thing ever!

Batgirl #22 (DC) Given DC’s announcement that they will be canceling this series and launching a new volume of Batgirl, starring Barbara Gordon instead of Stephanie Brown, this is one of what I imagine are quite a few DC super-comics that seem sort of… meaningless now. (Well, you know, more meaningless than usual). It actually seems like an artifact of a different era, what with its promise to be continued in Batman Incorporated, and the talk of Batgirl coming into her own as a hero, and a letters page that makes no mention of The Great Rebootening.

I’m not a regular reader of this series, as I don’t really care for the title character, and her costume sort of hurts my eyes, but picked this one up because it co-starred Squire, from the Knight and Squire team.

Writer Bryan Q. Miller sends Stephanie “Batgirl III” Brown to London, and, quite cleverly, seems to send her into an issue of Paul Cornel and Jimmy Broxton’s Knight and Squire series. Like the issues of that series, this is a done in one, and feverishly fastpaced and silly, with villains based on British culture and a maguffin that’s literalized expression.

In other words, Batgirl and Squire team up to stop The Orphan and his Urchins from stealing The Greenwich Mean, which stops time for everyone but he and our heroines.

I’d recommend it, particularly as an additional installment of Knight and Squire, or as a nice introduction to Miller’s Batgirl, but, again, it all seems sort of futile at this point.

15 Love #1 (Marvel Entertainment) This is perhaps the most mysterious book on the stands this month.

Why did Marvel commission it in the first place? (Was it, perhaps, to be part of the short-lived, resurrected Epic imprint? Or a manga/YA line that ended up being the confused, abandoned during its own launch Tsunami line? Did someone hear Prince of Tennis was popular and think, I bet we could do that, in the Mighty Marvel Manner!…?)

Why did they then decide not to publish it, and, instead, keep it in a drawer for years?

And then why did they decide to publish it now?

And why are they publishing it in this format, instead of, say, an original graphic novel?

I don’t have any answers, and reading it didn’t really provide any—it’s a decent read in all respects, and perhaps even a pretty good one given its Western YA sports comic genre (Heck, it might be the best example of that genre, but only because I’m afraid I can’t think of any others at the moment).

But it’s hardly a great comic (which might have explained the delay), and there’s nothing in here that seems to demand that the world see it. It’s basically like one of those drawer-clearing From The Marvel Vault exercises, only different.

This is a $4.99, 44-page, ad-light (I counted only only four, including the inside and back covers!) comic, the first in a three-issue series. It’s written by Andi Watson, an amazing cartoonist whose work as writer/artist general far exceeds his work as just writer (Compare Clubbing to most of his work, for example). It’s drawn by Tommy Ohtsuka, whose character designs look heavily manga-inspired, although the comic itself is structured, works and reads like a traditional Western comic.

Teenage heroine Mill, who hates being called Millie (Ah ha! Maybe this was intended to be a Millie the Model relaunch, only know she would be Millie the Tennis Champ…?), has the heart of a champ, but seems to lack the confidence and skills to be a winner, and is in danger of being kicked out of her fancy tennis academy.

That’s when a slobbish stranger enters her life and asks to be her coach. Over her friend’s objections, and out of sheer desperation, she accepts, and finds his methods are untraditional!

And, um, that’s the plot.

I enjoyed it, but then I love comics and teen melodrama, so I might not be the typical potential audience member for this. Honestly, I have no idea who the intended audience for this is. I think a trade will do well in libraries, but other than that, I don’t know how or if Marvel sells this in the direct market at all.

Which is really too bad, because if this charts 9,000 copies or so, it really looks like an argument that the Big Two shouldn’t mess around outside their superhero comfort zone, when there are so many other factors to explain the fact that it didn’t click with the direct market.

Flashpoint #2 (DC) With the second issue, we’ve lost our narrator and switched to a third-person omniscient one—is the fact that comics do this within the same story so often just something that bugs me? Is it a personal problem?

Anyway, this issue seemed like a super fast read compared to the first one, perhaps due to—Hey, wait a minute…

…18, 19, 20, 21…Son of a bitch!I’m afraid DC Comics gets a yellow flag for this. The publisher that ran an entire advertising campaign around the fact that they were “drawing the line at $2.99” for their regular, 22-page sized comics (and dropping the page count to 20 in order to do so) just went ahead and published a 22-page comic book and charged $3.99 for it!

In order to help disguise their misdeed, DC fills up the back of the book with seven pages of filler, including that map you’ve probably already seen that said Africa was controlled by monkeys, and five character sketches with some notes by Adam Kubert. The sketch material may be of interest to some, but makes for better bonus material at the back of a trade then something you charge readers an extra buck for after making a big deal about how you’d never charge $3.99 for 22-pages of comics like those monsters at Marvel.

As for those story pages, this is still a pretty quick read, as there are only three scenes, and three things happen within this issue.

First, the dread pirate Slade has his ship boarded by Aquaman and his brother Ocean Master (I was curious what this scene would look like to someone not steeped in DCU trivia, as it mostly involves a bunch of names being thrown around, and the sonar bit is probably kind of weird if you didn’t know there was an old villain named Sonar, who had sonar powers, and that his costume was the same colors as Superman’s, as he kinda looks like Superman in this issue).

Second, Barry Allen convinces Batman Thomas Wayne to help him, and the latter does so, resulting in a scene which is maybe the funniest thing Geoff Johns has ever written, and I wish there was some way to determine if it was meant to be a joker, or not.

Third, Wonder Woman ties her Noose of Truth around Steve Trevor’s neck, and instrangulates him. Alternate Earth Steve Trevor has a goatee; man, they should have given everyone goatees in the world of Flashpoint. Even Wonder Woman. No, especially Wonder Woman.

And that’s it. Four bucks, please.

(An aside: I wonder if it will be revealed at some point that Thomas Wayne drinks bottled Lazarus Pit, or if Andy Kubert just decided to draw Batman’s dad to look like the same age as Batman and Barry Allen, despite the fact that he would have to be at least 25 years older. Also, I kind of wish he had a mustache. Thomas Wayne is usually depicted with a mustache, but the Dr. Wayne of Flashpoint is clean shaven. I bet Batman would look extra-crazy, and thus extra-scary, if he had a bit, bushy mustache visible beneath the pointy triangle nose of his cowl. I can’t stop thinking a bout facial hair in the world of Flashpoint is basically what I’m saying).

Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #1 (DC) First things first, that Green Lantern movie ad isn’t doing this comic book cover any favors. Look at this stack of clashing logos:And then there’s a little stack of visual information on the right as well, with the nonsensical little Batman logo at the bottom, like an exclamation point (The Bat-symbol’s actually not as bad as some of these symbols, like the goofy Frankenstein one).

This is the inessential Flashpoint tie-in miniseries with produced by the cream of the the Flashpoint creative team crop—writer Briazn Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, who, yes, did 100 Bullets, but are also responsible for the excellent Batman strip in Wednesday Comics and the “Broken City” arc of Batman, which was completely overshadowed by what came before (Loeb and Lee’s “Hush”) and what came after (Oh look, Jason Todd never died after all!).

This particular creative team handling this particular character is probably more than enough incentive to give this a look (at least so long as you have a passing interest in Batman…and who doesn’t?!), although it doesn’t seem to have a whole hell of a lot to do with the main Flashpoint series at this point (I suspect most of these are more about exploring corners of a different, darker DCU then about feeding into a mega-story anyway) and even if it’s a pretty straightforward, even generically typical Batman story.

A darker, deadlier, grumpier Batman makes everyone around him question his sanity (in addition to making them uncomfortable), and at one point he investigates a string of murders and fights Killer Croc in a sewer. Also, the Joker’s in it.

But because it’s illustrated by Risso, it’s gorgeous stuff, and even if you’ve seen Batman fight Killer Croc in a sewer seven or seventeen times already, it looks a bit different here. Sure, it’s easy to give yourself over to this and enjoy it for what it is, but it’s even easier to enjoy on a pure craft level.

Unlike Kubert in the main series, Risso has gone out of his way to make his version of this Batman look quite different from the familiar Bruce Wayne one. Risso’s Thomas Wayne is a gigantic, brick wall of a man, with a scowl etched into his face that makes the expression of the Batman cowl look more friendly and expressive by comparison.

Risso’s Thomas Wayne and Batman look an awful lot like Frank Miller’s original Dark Knight Bruce Wayne and Batman, which is awfully appropriate, although Risso has a more delicate line and is a bit more subtle at staging…even when staging things like a machete going into a monster’s forehead.

And the lay-outs…I love the lay-outs in this issue. I could marry the lay-outs in this issue.

If you read only one comic with an both ad for Green Lantern (the movie) and the word Flashpoint on the cover this month, make sure it’s Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance#1!

Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #1 (DC) I had initially ordered this one based on the fact that it was written and drawn by Flashpoint writer Geoff Johns’ longtime collaborator Scott Kolins and its title character was presumably one of their favorites, so it seemed to be one of the series most likely to tie into the main series strongly.

It doesn’t really.

In fact, it’s sort of weird how little the character seems to differ from the regular DCU version. Here he’s publicly seen as a hero (if a brutal, anti-hero type of hero) and goes by the name Citizen Cold instead of Captain Cold (Is it just me, or does the latter actually sound more heroic?). His design, costume and little purlple ray gun all look the exact same and, if it’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal, he’s not actually all that good a guy—the superhero thing is sort of a scam.

It’s okay, I suppose, although I suppose it’s most likely to appeal to Flash Rogue fans. I really like Kolins’ art.

Flashpoint: Frankenstein and The Creatures of the Unknown #1 (DC) This is one of the Flashpoint series that seems to have taken parts of different DC trademarks at random and rearranged them: Here’s it’s the Challengers of The Unknown and the Creature Commandos, with the Grant Morrison/Dough Mahnke Seven Soldiers version of Frankenstein’s monster in for the Lucky Taylor version of the monster (and a fish-creature in for the Myrra Rhodes/Medusa).

In addition to being a Flashpoint tie-in—although, to be honest, it didn’t seem to have much of anything to do with Flashpoint so far, with most of this issue occurring during World War II—it should also function as a bit of a preview for the upcoming Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE series DC recently announced for September, as this is being written by Jeff Lemire, who will also be handling that series (Similarly, Secret Seven, featuring Shade, The Changing Man and some magic characters, is being written by Peter Milligan, who is writing September’s Justice League Dark, which will star Shade and some magic characters).

Sadly, Lemire is only writing this series, and isn’t drawing. The art chores are done by Ibraim Roberson, in a bland 21st Century Super Comic House Style that’s half-buried below the air-brushed looking colors of Pete Pantazis.

I liked Morrison and Mahnke’s Frankenstein character a whole lot. I liked his neat coat. And his cool train/bat revolver. And how he quoted and Byron. And how he had crazy adventures, riding a Martian bug-horse on Mars.

This Frankenstein seems a lot more…generic, really, missing every thing above (including Mahnke’s art, save for on the cover), and doesn’t raise my hopes for Lemire’s upcoming monthly (Although that should have much more interesting artwork on it).

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #1 (DC) So titled because Flashpoint: Shade, The Changing Man didn’t sound quite as mysterious or marketable.

This is written by Peter Milligan, re-creator of Shade and writer of a 70-issue long Vertigo series based on the character (actual creator Steve Ditko’s 1977 series featuring the character was considerably shorter). I’m not entirely sure if this is the Vertigo version of the character, the DCU version of the character wearing the Vertigo’s version’s coat, or if they were always the same version anyway (there’s a bit of exposition in here that mentions Shade’s ability to exist in more than one reality simultaneously).

Of course, I never entirely understood Milligan’s Shade series in the first place which, frankly, was one of its great charms.

So: Rac Shade, extra-dimensional alien with a super-powered super-vest sent to earth to hunt down insane criminals, is on the run, fleeing from the weird, alien masters of his home dimension, an unseen enemy that seems to have killed a team he once lead (The Secret Seven) and being hunted by The Enchantress, the DC sorceress who began her fictive existence as a cute witch and naturally involved into a scantily clad crazy lady.

Who’s a good artist to draw a crazy Ditko character popularized by a 1990s Vertigo series by the likes of Chris Bachalo? Well, George Perez probably didn’t leap to the forefront of many readers’ minds when pondering that question, which is, in part, what makes him an inspired choice for illustrating this series.

Highly detailed, realistic-looking, representational art drawn without the use of computers and Google Image photoreference is exactly what makes wild fantasy work so well.

For example, here’s Shade’s hometown:Imagine what most any other artist working for the Big Two might have done with that scene.

Yeah, this is a good comic.

SpongeBob Comics #3 (United Plankton Pictures) Editor Chris Duffy is, and I don’t use this word lightly, a genius. In addition to the the normal stellar line-up of creators in this anthology of gag comics featuring the SpongeBob cast, he gets classic Aquaman artist Ramona Fradon to illustrate the comic book adventures of the Aquaman-inspired superhero Mermaid Man, which are embedded into a story drawn by Gregg Schigiel, in which SpongeBob reads Squidward one of his comics:

Static Shock Special #1 (DC) This was a pretty curious project, and its initial announcement was not without controversy, but it turned out to be a pretty good comic, and I was even surprised to find myself getting a little choked up here and there.

The lead story is a 20-page one, written by Felicia D. Henderson, who was as recently as February was going to be writing an upcoming Static ongoing, although now it seems that Scott McDaniel and John Rozum will actually be writing the series (What happened there, exactly, I wonder…?). It’s drawn by Static co-creator Denys Cowan, who seems to have made a leap in his already impressive abilities, based on the last few times I’ve seen his artwork (Strange Adventures, Black Panther/Captain America: Flags of Our Fathers), and a trio of different inkers, who were all faithful enough to Cowan’s pencils that I didn’t even notice how many of them there were until I looked it up.

This story is basically a gentle reintroduction to the character of Virgil Hawkins and Static, assuming a certain level of familiarity to him and his cast, but not demanding it.

This story was perhaps originally intended to be the first issue of Henderson’s series, or perhaps a script she wrote as a pitch, but after Static creator Dwayne McDuffie’s untimely, much-mourned death earlier this year, it transformed into something of a tribute issue.

So the Henderson/Cowan story, which, coincidentally or not, deals with Virgin mourning the loss of an older family member and trying to do right by his memory, is followed by a touching two-pager by Matt Wayne and John Paul Leon, in which a silent McDuffie meets first Virgil and then Rocket in a comic shop, a pair of prose pieces from McDuffie's Milestone Media co-founders Derek Dingle and Michael Davis and pin-ups from Keron Grant, Derec Donovan, Jamal Igle, Eric Battle, and this one by John Rozum that I just gotta show you at least part of:Man, could you imagine a whole comic like that? How great would that be?

The weird thing is, this comic really convinced me to pick up Henderson’s Static monthly and give it a chance…of course, it’s never going to exist at all now, so, um…I don’t know. Nice one-shot though, and while Henderson and Cowan’s work was pretty great, that two-pager is a real knock-out punch.

Tiny Titans #41 (DC) This is a Flash-focused issue, presumably kinda sorta meant to capitalize on Flashpoint interest, with one scene specifically written just to get Kid Flash in position to say the words “Flash point” (Not really as funny as the “Finals Crisis” or “Battle For The Cow” gags, I’m afraid).

The, uh, running gag of the issue is that Kid Flash and the other Tiny speedsters (Mas y Menos, Inertia, Peekaboo and introducing Tiny Jesse Quick) are having a race to determine who is the fastest, but I liked the Blue Beetle bits best:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So I probably shouldn't bother with the trade at this point, huh?

In May of last year, DC finally shipped the first issue of DC Universe Legacies, a long-promised ten-issue series retelling the history of the superheroes of the DC Universe, from their late-thirties beginning, through World War II and all the way up until the present day.

It was written by Len Wein, and while it would presumably tell a unified story of some sort, it would essentially be retelling parts of pieces of scores of series DC Comics published throughout their history, there were still two really strong selling points to the series.

First, there were some pretty stellar contributors handling portions of the art, including the legendary Joe Kubert (working with his son Andy), Jose Garcia-Lopez, George Perez, Walt Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Brian Bolland, Frank Quitely, Bill Sienkiewicz and Dave Gibbons, as well as J.H. Williams III, Keith Giffen, Al Milgrom, Dan Jurgens, J.G. Jones, Scott Kolins, Gary Frank, Tom Derenick and Jesus Saiz. That's an awful lot of super-comics masters drawing piece of any one book.

Secondly, it was pitched as the definitive account of the history of the DC Universe after the 2006-2008 era stories fiddling around with the consistency and continuity of that university, and the death, rebirth and remixing of various alternate universes (This would include the changes brought about by Superboy Prime's battering the walls of fiction to escape his "heaven dimension," the creation of "New Earth" in Infinite Crisis, the revelation of and recreation of the 52 parallel Earths in 52, the changes wrought by Darkseid's deicide of Orion in Final Crisis and the subsequent de- and re-creation of existence).

While both points made it a series I was really looking forward to reading—especially the prospect of Joe Kubert drawing Golden Age heroes!—Legacies was being released just as I was moving to a comic shop-free city, and deciding that I'd start buying new series I was interested in only in trade collections moving forward.

The tenth and final issue of Legacies shipped this past March...a mere three months before DC announced that they would be rebooting their entire universe and thus its history/continuity yet again. The hardcover collection ships in August of this year; one month before it's likely made at least somewhat irrelevant by DC's September relaunch.

Obviously the first selling point (all that art by all those great artists) won't disappear from the collection or anything, but the second one sure seems awfully irrelevant now. This particular project is also one more piece of evidence that this September relaunch, as big and ambitious as it is, couldn't really have been in the works all that long. After all, why bother making and publishing this comic if you knew you were going to change the history it covered anyway in about a year? Why not wait until October 2011 to start publishing it, so it could reflect the new state of that history?

I'm not going to see Green Lantern on opening weekend—does that make me a bad comic book fan?

As curious as I am about it, and as much as I want to do my part as a player for Team Comics, I think I'm going to have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to see the long-awaited Green Lantern movie. Of the two movie theaters within 25 minutes of my house, one isn't showing it at all, and the other is only showing it in 3D, and the special effects and sickly green lighting of all the previews has made me dread the prospect of trying to see it in 3D. Maybe next week I'll have time to take a longer road trip to a bigger city with a theater boasting the 2D option.

So you'll get no thoughts on the film from me for days yet, I'm afraid. In the mean time, feel free to discuss the hell out of it in the comments, spoilers and all. All the reviews I've seen have been middling to bad; is it better than the nation's film critics would leave a reader to believe?

(The above image, by the way, is from this post of mine, "Hal Jordan, explained in just five panels", and was originally taken from 2010's Batman: The Brave and The Bold #21 by Landry Walker and Eric Jones).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Marvel's September's previews reviewed

It's easy to forget, given how much attention has been spent on DC's plans for September by me and, um, seemingly everyone else who pays attention to Big Two super-comics, but Marvel is still in the comics-publishing business as well. What are they up to this September? Well, nothing as radical/ambitious/totally insane as DC's plans.

You can see their full solicitations here, and read my thoughts below.

Written by DAVID LISS
With Manhattan—and the world—overrun by chaos, a brutal battle for the soul of the city is waged by the reborn Hate-Monger and the American Panther!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Have Hawkeye and the Hate-Monger ever met? Was it awkward, since they both wear purple cowls with large H’s over their foreheads?

I like this cover. It's for September's issue of Dokken: Dark Wolverine. I mean Daken: Dark Wolverine. (Damn, I'm going to remember the correct name of that guy one of these days).

FEAR ITSELF #6 (of 7)
Variant Cover by STUART IMMONEN
Variant Cover by MIKE McKONE
Marvel Architects Variant also available
Marvel Architects Sketch Variant also available
The penultimate chapter of the apocalypse is here! Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man scramble to make Earth's last stand against the relentless Serpent and his army of world-shattering avatars--all while amongst unbelievable chaos and destruction, Spider-Man makes the choice of a lifetime! Dark Asgard has risen and all of Earth's forces converge on the World Tree as the globe shudders in the shadow of FEAR ITSELF!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Oh really? Spider-Man makes the choice of a lifetime? Whose lifetime? His? Because it's kind of hard to imagine him having to make a bigger choice than that one time he had to decide whether to sell his marriage and a chunk of personal history and memory to the devil in order to save his elderly aunt’s life...

Written by CULLEN BUNN
Pencils & Cover by LEE GARBETT
Namor, Doctor Strange, She-Hulk & The Silver Surfer giant have battled barbarian hordes, giant monsters, and demonically-_possessed sea creatures. They’ve faced Tyrak the Terrible, Aradnea the Sorceress, and the hideously-mutated Tiger Shark. But their greatest threat still awaits—the Worthy who has already beaten the Sub-Mariner and single-handedly ravaged New Atlantis. Would-be conqueror Attuma has become_Nerkkod, Breaker of Oceans, and he intends to drown the_entire world in a wave of fear! Even if Namor’s courage and resolve return to him, he’s no match for the fury of the_Serpent’s chosen!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Nerkkod is a funny name.

And what’s this about The Silver Surfer giant? Is that a typo? I hope it's not a typo, because a Silver Surfer giant sounds kinda cool.

I never would have thought that a big, beefy, bearded Spider-Man would have been the coolest looking thing ever, but then I saw these covers to Herc tying into that weird Spider Island event/crossover thing Marvel's doing this summer and fall.

Okay, it’s been a whole month, and I still can’t get used to the idea of a skeleton with breasts. Sorry.

Based on the Novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Adaptation by Roger Langridge
Art by Filipe Andrade
Cover by Skottie Young
Variant Cover by Filipe Andrade
Captain John Carter finds himself on a strange new world where he must fight for his very life - and for the heart of a princess! Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary novels come to life in this actionpacked, all-new re-envisioned adventure! Meet the Tharks, terrible warrior race of Mars! See Woola, the scariest guard dog you'll ever lay eyes upon! Gasp as John Carter battles the great white apes of Barsoom! And hold your breath as he first lays eyes_upon the woman who will change his life forever - the proud_and beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium!
32 PGS./All Ages ...$2.99

Well "John Carter" is a weird name for a princess, no matter what planet she's from...

Art & Cover by JUAN DOE
Meet Marvel’s newest star! Spinning out of IRON MAN 2.0 and FEAR ITSELF! Discover the history of Sun Wukong – Thief! Trickster! Hero! Great Sage, Equal of Heaven! – and witness as he takes his place at the forefront of Marvel’s ranks, the legendary Handsome Monkey King
32 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+ ...$2.99

I’m intrigued of the idea of a Marvel character inspired by the mythological Chinese hero, but it’s Juan Doe’s presence that seals the deal—I’ll buy anything that cat draws. September looks like a good month for writer Fialkov; his I, Vampire debuts from DC as well.

Written by VARIOUS
Penciled by VARIOUS
Cover by GIL KANE
Ghosts of heroes and villains alike gather in this set of sinister stories! Legacies of two World Wars haunt Captain America and Ghost Rider! Evil travels through time and space to plague the Silver Surfer and the West Coast Avengers! Hellstorm, Prince of Lies, and Dracula, Lord of Vampires, confront ghosts almost as fearsome as they are! Plus: the eerie odyssey of John Kowalski, spirit at large! Guest-starring DEATH! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #326, GHOST RIDER (1973) #12, HELLSTORM (1993) #6, SILVER SURFER (1968) #8-9, TOMB OF DRACULA (1972) #23, WAR IS HELL #9 and WEST COAST AVENGERS (1985) #41.
176 PGS./Rated A ...$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5609-3
Trim size = 5-3/4 x 8-7/8

Interestingly, DC's solicitations included one for Showcase Presents: Ghosts Vol. 1.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils & Cover by NEAL ADAMS
An Avengers chapter so special, Marvel had to go to legendary Avengers artist Neal Adams to bring the fire! It’s THE RETURN OF NORMAN OSBORN! H.A.M.M.E.R. is becoming a force to be reckoned with and the followers of Osborn are ready. The New Avengers/H.A.M.M.E.R. showdown is one for the record books and is the first chapter in the blistering new storyline that will herald the return of the Dark Avengers!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Can Iron Fist fly now? And what’s up with Gobby’s hat?

Written by GREG RUCKA
Award winning novelist GREG RUCKA continues his violent and visionary return to Marvel.
Even 10,000 feet above New York, no one escapes the_Punisher. As Frank trails the criminal underbelly of the city, he encounters the deadly, mob created villain: THE VULTURE for a brutal battle against death and gravity. Meanwhile as NYPD detectives get closer to understanding Frank Castle’s new relationship, one of New York’s finest is struggling keep his own_Punisher association untraceable.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$2.99

I don't care for that Vulture's costume or design. And I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like something that should be able to fly. Maybe it's just decorative, and he flies through some other means.

Written by Paul Tobin
Penciled by Pepe Larraz
Cover by Patrick Zircher
As the Society of the Wasps mobilizes an army to put a permanent end to ALL spiders, Spider-Girl to fight side-by-side with the Kingpin! But if Spider-Girl is Kingpin’s enforcer, where does that leave the Hobgoblin, and will he prove the deadliest threat of all? Paul Tobin (SPIDER-GIRL) and Pepe Larraz (WEB OF SPIDER-MAN) bring the battle of the bugs!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Spoke too soon. Better than a beefy, bearded Spider-Man? A gigantic fat Spider-Man with the head of an angry baby wearing a suit. These covers are really making me interested in this Spider Island business...I have no idea how I'll go about reading it in trade though, as I imagine the main story arc will be collected in one place, and then each mini and/or story arc from an existing title (like Herc) will get its own trade...?

I like Mr. Hyde’s new costume. I assume that’s Mr. Hyde on the cover of that Thunderbolts cover. I’m gonna get caught up on that series in trade one of these days, I swear.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by Sara Pichelli
Covers by Kaare Andrews
(Issue #1 Cover will be POLYBAGGED)
Issue #1 Variant Cover by Sara Pichelli
32 PGS. (each)/Rated T+ ...$3.99 (each)

So all Marvel’s willing to reveal about the first issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Vol. 2 is its creative team and that it will be polybagged?

Uh, that’s not really much of a pitch, I’m afraid.

Written by Nick Spencer
Penciled by Paco Medina
Variant Cover by Paco Medina
The biggest mutant cover-up has gone public as the true history of_the x-gene is revealed. As an identity crisis rocks the mutant world,_the mistrust between man and x-man gets deeper. But a bigger_question remains: who are the X-Men? Nick Spencer and Paco_Medina make their thunderous Ultimate debut in one of the most_anticipated series yet!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Oh come now; that last sentence is a damn lie.

I like this cover, for X-23.