Thursday, May 31, 2007

Weekly Haul: May 31st

Action Comics #850 (DC Comics) Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza and Geoff Johns join forces for an extra-length story featuring Superman, Supergirl and the Waid/Kitson version of the Legion that makes for a nice overview of them all. (Bonus points for writing a Supergirl I didn’t want to strangle, too). Lost in the future or whatever (not reading Supergirl or Supergirl and The Legion of Super-Heroes), Kara tests out Brainiac 5’s time window thingy and views Superman history, from birth through the near-future. There are some multiversal mentions in here that seem extremely screwy (Guys, guys, guys! If you’re going to have a multiverse, fine, but could someone maybe get around to explaining it to the readers within a story at some point? I’m getting awfully sick of seeing different Supermen and thinking, wait, what?! like, twice a week), but other than the check-in with the ballerina-slippered Superman of Earth-2 (…maybe…?), I found little or nothing to complain about herein (Well, there’s Superman’s “Justice League—Together!” battle cry…).

Pencil and color artist Renato Guedes is an incredible talent, one who’s mastered that photorealistic-esque style while still producing art that looks like it came out of a pencil instead of out of a computer full of photo reference, and his Supergirl is probably the best rendition of this version of the character I’ve seen. I especially liked his Baby Kal, who only had about 20 little black hairs on his tiny baby head, but they were already forming his little S-curl. Just darling.

Amazons Attack #2 (DC) Despite the fact that I hated the first issue of this series, I bought the second one because, well, there’s no other way around it—I’m a sucker for DCU superheroes, and I’m weak. The effort it takes to not buy an issue with that many of my favorite characters on the cover is just too much for me, so I caved, thinking, “Okay Amazons Attack, I’ll give you one more chance.”

Maybe I should have flipped through this thing a little more thoroughly in the shop though because all those heroes on the cover? Only three of ‘em actually appear inside, and though Batman’s one of ‘em, he doesn’t actually pick up a sword at any point.

Pete Woods’ artwork is just as incredible as it was in #1 (although he draws the wrong face on Red Tornado; Matt Idelson and Nachie Castro, let’s get this guy some art reference, huh? I know it kind of sucks and all, but JLoA is your top-selling comic and you guys should really be reading it, if only to make sure everyone’s head looks right).

Will Pfeifer’s scripting is mostly okay, and I have a hard time judging much of it due to the fact that I’m not reading Wonder Woman, which several events here refer back to, but it was easy enough to follow, and it seems that the Amazons themselves are questioning the brutality of their own attack.

Still, Pfeifer seems unable to transcend the feeling that this is all just the fleshing out of a memo full of plot points handed to him by editorial, which includes some tired concepts (Superman’s Kansas attacked—again?) and too much suspension of belief to take seriously. The most obvious example? Check out pages four and five, where we see an Amazon spear to death a wounded pilot, only to be knocked out by Black Canary’s canary cry, and then she makes a dramatic entrance quip, while the rest of the Justice League poses behind her.

Nice entrance and all, but couldn’t someone with super-speed or a magic ring have, you know, saved that woman’s life? Washington D.C. is in ruins, the Vice President is missing and the First Lady is in critical condition, and the League just kind of mills around, like they’re giving the Amazons a head start or something.

Countdown #48 (DC) Okay, we can add Perry White to the list of People Who Know Red Hood’s Secret Identity, and Donna Troy to the list of Heroes Who Aren’t Terribly Interested In Bringing Multiple Murderer Jason Todd To Justice. Like the previous issues, most of this reads kind of exciting in the broad strokes—Jimmy Olsen exhibiting mysterious superpowers! An incredible battle in the heavens sending a dying Lightray plummeting to Metropolis!—but the details all seem irritatingly wrong.

For example, Jason Todd’s not alive because of “that whole mess with Bizarro Lex Luthor;” he was resurrected before Infinite Crisis. In fact, years before. He’s alive because Superboy-Prime’s punches literally damaged the walls of DCU continuity, and Todd would have no way of knowing that. (Again, I understand that all of the Jason Todd stories have been shit, and I don’t blame Adam Beechen, Paul Dini and Mike Marts for not wanting to read them, but, if that’s the case, don’t base your story on them!) Likewise, Todd tells Donna Troy she doesn’t know her true origin, which similarly seems off, considering that the Return of Donna Troy miniseries explaining it to her (and us) that Phil Jimenez, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and George Perez was both really good and farily recent (two years ago, maybe?), and then there’s fact that Donna’s been made the new Harbinger, given that crazy little ball with the history of everything in it (Isn’t she, like, the one character in the entire DCU who shouldn’t be confused about her origins now?)

I know that’s just two panels in a whole comic book, but seeing as how the entire point of this series is to address the minutiae of DC continuity, then if they continually get the minutiae wrong, the story kind of crumbles. And if this story is the “backbone of the DCU” as DC editorial keeps claiming, then the whole universe (and publishing line) is in some serious trouble here.

The Dan Jurgens “History of the Multiverse” back-up continues, this time summarizing some of the adventures collected in the early trades in the Crisis on Multiple Earths series. Sort of like a clip-show, where the action that isn’t clips is a bunch of Monitors calling each other “Brother” and “Sister” while commenting on the events. Ugh.

Green Lantern #20 (DC) Geoff Johns and Daneil Acuna wrap up there three-part tale of Hal Jordan versus the pink vagina crystal alien thing that wants to mate with him. The story’s an incredibly slight one, but I kind of dig what a cocky asshole Jordan is, and the scene where he defeated the Zamoran by making out with her and insulting her was fun (If this is Johns’ Hal, I shudder to think what his Guy Gardner would be like). Johns \ also follows through with the Zamoran/Star Sapphire corps-building idea he’d introduced in the previous issue, taking it to its logical (though zany) conclusion. Is the world ready for The Pink Lantern Corps? I know I am! Acuna’s art looks a little looser and a little stronger every time I see it, and by the end of the issue, when he was just drawing people sitting around a bar instead of superheroes in costume fighting, it sort of approached Kyle Baker’s early, more serious work. This is an artist I look forward to seeing grow from here. There’s another Johns/Dave Gibbons “Tales of Sinsetro Corps” back-up this month; it’s not as good as the previous ones, but that seems to be because it’s the one devoted to wrapping things up.

Justice Society of America #6 (DC) Welcome Dale Eaglesham, artist number four, to the five-part “Lightning Saga,” which oughta make for a wildly discordant trade collection in a few months’ time. Eaglesham is certainly the best of the artists to take a crack at the three teams running around this storyline, and he does his normal great job of differentiating and rendering the individual heroes, all while filling the backgrounds with details. With so many characters appearing, some get to do little more than cameo in the big two-page spread fight scene, but they all look great.

The plot consists of a visit to an abandoned set from Challenge of the Superfriends, the three teams uniting against an ancestor of Computo, two more Legionnaires appearing and a reveal of what exactly it is the team plans to do (My guess was resurrect Lightning Lad, but I was way off, since they say the plan was purposely kept from him; The Absorbascon has an interesting theory, which points to something so creatively bankrupt and backward looking that I can only assume it’s probably right).

My favorite part that had nothing to do with Eaglesham was probably Geo-Force’s response to a story Superman tells involving “Chameleon Boy’s shape-shifting pet, Proty.” Says Brion: “That is not only ridiculous, Superman, it is insane.” It’s such a perfect summation of the Legion, that DC should pullquote it to blurb their next volume of Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2.

“Not only ridiculous…it is insane”

—Prince Brion “Geo-Force” Markov

The New Avengers: Illuminati #3 (Marvel Comics) Okay, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in this issue. None at all. The sum total of everything I know of The Beyonder comes from Dave’s Long Box, which amounts to the fact that he’s a tool. Maybe if I’d been reading Marvel comics since Secret Wars I’d have a better grasp of what the fuck this comic book was about, but I kind of doubt it as, from what I’ve gathered over the years from stories like Beyond!, Brian Michael Bendis and Brian Reed seem to be weaving an “Everything You Know is Wrong!!!” story having to do with a character I actually didn’t know anything about before anyway (Well, aside from the fact that he was highly tooletic). But my confusion doesn’t stop there! I have no idea when this is happening, or why Tony Stark is missing, or what the Illuminati are trying to accomplish and why or what happens at the end. This thing might as well have been in Portuguese. The art was fine, but the only way it could have been good enough to make up for the story was if, I don’t know, Geoff Darrow was drawing it.

Shaolin Cowboy #7 (Burlyman Entertainment) And speaking of incomprehensible… I had only a tenuous grasp on what was going on in this title for the first three or four issues, but at this point, the meandering plot and months upon months between issues have combined with the dreamlike story logic and dense dialogue (everyone speaks exclusively in wordplay) that I’ve forgotten what little I knew—or what I thought I knew. It is the best looking book on the shelves though, and if Illuminati were one-fiftieth as gorgeous and one-one-hundreth as detailed as Shaolin Cowboy, I wouldn’t have been one-tenth as frustrated as I was. (God, that’s a lot of math for a one-paragraph comic review, isn’t it?)

May 31st's Meanwhile in Las Vegas...

This week’s Las Vegas Weekly column features reviews of David Petersen’s tale of daring (and darling) swordsmice Mouse Guard Volume One: Fall 1152 and Scott Morse and company’s AdHouse art book The Ancient Book of Myth and War.

(Confidential to Chris Pitzer and Nate Wragg: I’d totally buy a floppy comic book starring Pathetos and/or one chronicling he war between Yeti and Sasquatch.)

And while I’m posting links…

—Attention Ed Brubaker fans: This movie isn’t a biopic about the comic book writer. Unfortunately.

—Hey, I know! Let’s talk more about that Heroes For Hire cover, huh?

In this week’s belated Lying in the Gutters column, Rich Johnston dipped deep into his nerd knowledge to point out something I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention…not the dumb-ass Marvel fans who don’t see what the problem is or Quesada himself, who was sure to promise that no actual rape occurred in the book or was being alluded to in the cover image:

Joe Quesada, on Friday, amply justified it by saying "First, I think people are reading way too much into that cover than was ever intended. I heard terms such as 'tentacle rape' being thrown around when that in no way is what's happening, nor does it happen in the book. Those tentacles are the arms of the Brood who appears in the issue and is a major story point, the Brood have tentacles, sorry about that."

You can read the rest in the interview, but as I recall, the tentacles of the Brood, along with their stingers, are used to implant other races with their eggs, their stolen-from-Alien method of reproduction. The eggs then hatch and take over the host organism. Needless to say without the host's consent.

So, quite literally, the Brood do indeed rape their victims with their tentacles.

(Above: The Brood, apparently attempting to rape the X-Men)

Johnston also interviews C.B. Cebulksi, who was apparently the go-between who hooked artist Sana Takeda and Marvel up for the cover. It’s interesting to hear his reaction, but isn’t anyone going to ask Quesada, the book’s editors or Takeda herself about it? (And by “ask about it,” I mean do more than say “Hey, how about that controversy over the cover, huh?” and leave it at that*).

Cebulski seems to take the position that the comics blogosphere it beating up on Takeda, which, honestly, I haven’t seen any of (Of course, maybe I’m just not reading the same blogs that Cebulski is). Everything I’ve read has been directed at Marvel editorial; the few negative things directed toward Takeda that I’ve seen have been along the lines of “I’m not a fan of manga art” or “That’s not how black women’s hair works” or “Way to contribute to the Western-only comics audience’s stereotypes that manga is nothing but scantily clad women with big eyes being groped by tentacles.”

And for the last word on “Heroes For Hentai” (at least for today), let’s go to Steven Grant:

Marvel hasn't responded that I know of to the groundswell of criticism, but the litany is by this time familiar: the complainers don't know the characters, don't get the context, they're not the intended audience, and they're reading too much into the cover.

This may be true. As Freud once said, sometimes a long, stiff flesh tube threateningly approaching helplessly bound, abused and goo-spattered women as sinister hordes of eager eyes watch excitedly in the background is just a long, stiff flesh tube threateningly approaching helplessly bound, abused and goo-spattered women as sinister hordes of eager eyes watch excitedly in the background.

As someone who’s spent time making fun of how terrible everything about DC’s current Supergirl is, I think I’m actually going to feel a little guilty if I don’t buy the book when the new writer and new artist take it in a new direction, a direction that includes an art style and skill level that seems to be devoted to portraying a real girl wearing real clothes. Renato Guedes’ “concept art” is remarkable (to me) in that he does nothing to alter this Supergirl’s costume (short of lengthening the skirt a bit); he simply draws it like it’s composed out of cloth and fits the girl wearing it. And it’s a vast, vast improvement.

I’m probably still not going to buy Supergirl (Mainly because I try to avoid pointless reboots whenever possible so as not to encourage DC to keep up their bad habit, and this particular one was one of the worst, as it occurred before the universe-wide continuity reboot).

But I will definitely make fun of Supergirl less.


—It occurs to me that it has been days since I’ve said anything derisive about Michael Turner. So I guess it’s a good thing that Marvel gave a look at Turner’s cover for World War Hulk #1.

Click on over if you’re dying to see a not very good drawing of much of the Marvel Universe’s biggest characters, and, if you do click there, do note that the entire image seems to be composed around the principle of not drawing feet.

In that respect, this may be the greatest Turner cover ever.

We get a big shot of the Hulk from the shins up or so, with small, background renditions of over twenty different Marvels positioned behind the Hulk’s body, fanning out with their feet hidden behind Hulk.

There’s almost 25 characters there, which amounts to almost 50 individual feet, and I applaud Turner’s ability to solve the problem. He gets away with having to draw but one, partial foot—Spider-Man’s left one (It’s hard to tell due to her size in the photo, but I think Wasp’s feet are hidden behind Punisher’s bicep).

Any way you look at it, it takes a lot of skill, imagination and guts to draw that many characters in a single image and find a way to avoid drawing so many feet.

—Note: I suck at drawing feet too, and find superhero boots and/or leotard-ed feet much more challenging than drawing bare feet or feet wearing shoes. (I intentional cut these guys off at the shins so as not to have to deal with their weird superhero footwear in this picture, and did a piss-poor job of Dinah and Diana’s feet in this one.

So don’t feel bad, Michael Turner. You’re in good company in your dislike of drawing feet. Well, you’re not alone, anyway. (I believe Gary Trudeau and Rob Liefeld also have an aversion to foot-drawing).

*Not that I blame Matt Brady for not busting Quesada’s balls about it in “New Joe Fridays.” is not a site for that sort of reporting in general, and that particular column is simply a place for Quesada to hype Marvel and for Newsaramites to enjoy mediated interaction with Quesada. I’m sure Brady can only push so hard on these sorts of issues for fear of jeopardizing the site’s relationship with Marvel. Which, if ended, would reduce the content the site puts up that visitors are interested in by, oh, 50% or so.

Given all that though, I still don’t understand why Quesada took the question at all. I imagine if he was like, “Look Matt, I can’t really talk about that right now, can we just skip that question?” Brady would have complied and just not posted the exchange at all. It’s not like Quesada’s doing live, televised interviews with the comics press corps in these things.

Nor do I understand why Quesada gave such a poor answer to the question; he really sounds a little clueless about manga, Marvel alien species, comics audiences, geek culture, online comics culture and Marvel’s self-imposed ratings system. And I don’t mean to imply that he is clueless; just that he
sounds clueless, and that was therefore a terrible answer. Not only did he whiff on a softball, he seems to have taken the ball right in the groin.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wonder Woman Wednesdays: Diana's Decathalon...of Doom!

The cover of Wonder Woman #148 teases "a contest the fearless Amazon cannot possibly win!...Olympics of Doom!"

Pfft. That just goes to show what the cover blurb writer knows.

Wonder Woman not only survived the Olympics of Doom but she thrives on the Olympics of Doom, helping the Themysciran team earn more than twice as many gold metals as their closest competitors, Atlantis (The Atlantean team generally dominates the swimming events, but can't hang with the surface-worlders in most other events, particularly in the Winter Olympics of Doom).

Diana's best event? The decathalon, which, in the Olympics of Doom, consists of ten very different sports than the decatholon you've seen in the plain old Olympics (the ones which have nothing to do with doom).










and, of course, her personal favorite,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Greatest Superman Vs. Darkseid Fight Ever

Superman and Darkseid sure seem to fight one another a lot, don't they? I wonder why that is, exactly.

I mean, yeah, sure, Superman is the ultimate hero in the DC Universe, and Darkseid is the ultimate villain, so it makes a certain amount of sense that the two would cross paths at some point, but, on the other hand, they belong to two very different franchises, each with their own fairly rich settings and casts.

In fact, if Jack Kirby didn't end up working on Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen at the same time he was creating his Fourth World saga because he lost a bet or took a dare or whatever, the delicate connective tissue between the two characters would be severed.

If I had to offer a theory as to why the two clash so often, I would guess that it's because Superman doesn't have any really great villains that can go toe-to-toe with him (or, more accurately, Superman's writers traditionally don't really like to write any of his really great villains that can go toe-to-toe with him, and/or create new ones that could). And that while Orion and Lighray are cool and all, Darkseid doens't really have a hero with a Q-rating equivalent to his own within the DCU.

The thing I dislike about Superman and Darkseid conflicts is that too often they devolve into fisticuffs, and seeing Darkseid getting smacked around by Superman just really seems to suck all the coolness out of the character for me. I'm a fan of the godlike Superman who can fly faster than light, keep pace with the Flash, hurl planets and do just about anything, but even if it's conceivable that he could kick Darkseid's ass, I don't like to see it happening, because as godlike as Superman may be, he's still a mortal, and Darkseid isn't just godlike, he is an actual freaking god (or ancient alien entity that thinks it's a god. Whatever) and should thus either be able to whomp on Supes or, better still, never lower himself to exchanging blows with him.

My favorite portrayal of Darkseid is probably the one in JLA arc "Rock of Ages," in which he is a stone giant whose Omega Beams were inescapable and would end you if they touched you. I mean, what's the point of calling your eye beams "Omega Beams" if they just knock a dude down? The Darkseid/Superman conflicts I like to see are the ones in which the Apokaliptian tyrant is sort of like a cosmic Lex Luthor, manipulating Superman and watching as Big Blue brawls with his underlings like Kaliback and company because while he could take him down with his neat little zig-zaggy eyebeams at any moment, he tells us Supeman just doesn't deserve to die by Darkseid's hand (Or eye. Whatever).

When Superman and Darkseid go at each other man on man, with Supes shrugging off Omega Beams just as easily as Darkseid shrugs off heat-vision, it reduces Darkseid to just another Superman-level bruiser, akin to a Mongul or Zod or Bizzarro instead of what he is, the universe's ultimate bad guy.

Plus, every story I've ever read in which Darkseid and Superman fought each other has pretty much been terrible (Even those that weren't written by Jeph Loeb).

Which brings us to the subject of this post, The Greatest Superman vs. Darkseid Fight Ever.

It occurred during Cosmic Odyssey. To set the thing up for those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of this fantastic story (full of great Mike Mignola pencil art), basically Highfather has summoned a group of Earth heroes to New Genesis to discuss a threat, and Supes turns a corner and walks smack into Darkseid.

Their brief fight—two blows exchanged?—manages to make both of them look super-powerful, without actually showing us what exactly happened, so we don't have to look at and contemplate the two of them acting like kids on a school yard. We simply see Superman fly at Darkseid, get knocked down, and then get back up to go at him again, and think "Woah, Superman's hardcore! He flew right at Darkseid like he was nothing! And even after getting totally pwned, he's back on his feet!" And, because Superman got thrown back, we also think, "Woah! Darkseid must be pretty damn powerful! He totally sent Superman flying!"

And because others break the fight up, we don't see any resolution to the question of who's more powerful, and thus neither character is diminished by having his ass totally kicked by the other. (By contrast, after Loeb had Superman beat up Darkseid in Superman/Batman arc "Supergirl," imprisoning him in the Promethean Wall by hand, it was hard to take the big D. seriously as a scary evil god. When we see him in the beginning of Countdown, he seems like just another supervillain. How threatening is the site of him playing with Heroclix now? I mean, if worse comes to worst, we know Superman or Supergirl or Powergirl or Wonder Woman or Martian Manhunter of Captain Marvel could just travel to Apokalips and shove those toys down his throat, right?).

But what really makes this the greatest fight between the two ever?

It's not just the subtle way Starlin and Mignola characterize the combatants, nor the amusing choreography—it's Darkseid's facial expressions. Seriously, look at the grin he gives Supes over Highfather's shoulder, or the boastful "That's right!" glare he gives Superman when no one else is looking.

Man, that's why Mignola is a master of comic book drawing, right there. It's just two throwaway panels, and he does more to characterize Darkseid than just about any of Starlin's words do.

Those panels tell you everything you need to know about the villain: He's an asshole.

(As always, click to enlarge. Sorry about the crappy scans; I erred on the side of not-breaking-the-spine-of-my-trade. The dialogue isn't important to the fight).

Cultural sensitivity with Wonder Woman

You know, I'd say that Princess Diana is engaging in a gross, unfair and completely erroneous stereotype here (and, as someone who's 25% Italian, I might even take personal offense), but I'll be damned if things don't go down exactly as she predicted:

(Click to enlarge, and better enjoy the work of the greatest Wonder Woman artist of all time)

Of course, maybe it wasn't the music so much as the between-the-panels come ons from the Holliday Girls that got the Italians-disguised-as-Mexican-stereotypes to open the jail cells. After all, what red-blooded Axis agent could resist an all-American college girl in a cute little band outfit like that?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Satellite Era Spotlight: Justice League of America #142

Current Justice League writer Brad Meltzer and current writer of one-third of all DC books Geoff Johns have made it pretty obvious that they absolutely adore the Satellite Era of Justice League history, that time in the seventies and early eighties when the World's Greatest Heroes all hung out in a clubhouse 22,3000 miles above the planet earth, going over their charter, having meetings and electing chairpeople.

For those of us on the other side of 35, it can be hard to understand what was so great about red-and-black costume Elongated Manor why today's JLoA should resemble that era more closely than the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI Era or Grant Morrison Watchtower Era. In an effort to better understand the greatness of the Satellite Era, EDILW is going to spend some quality time with all of the JLoA comics of the preriod we could get our hands on—um, about a half-dozen a friend's boyfriend wanted to clean out of his closet—which leads into our newest feature: "Satellite Era Spotlight."

Up first, 1977's Justice League of America #142, "Return From Forever!", by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin.

Dateline: The Atlantic Ocean, 80 miles off the coast of Georgia.

Aquaman has invited Elongated Man and The Atom to hangout and relax with him. The Atom’s awfully grumpy, about his superhero career…and his powers.

Yeah, Aquaman. It sure would suck to be like Batman or Green Arrow. Whichh reminds me, how are sales on your monthly going? Oh, what's that? You've been killed off and replaced in your own title?

Suddenly, they spot two dog-fighting space ships, and when one downs the other, Aquaman goes to investiage, and finds a telepathic alien by the name of Willow there.

“A woman--!” he exclaims. Oh yeah? What were your first two clues, Atlantean Ace?

It turns out that the other ship was piloted by a minion of The Construct, and the woman named Willow urges the heroes to take her to Atlantis, since the Construct rules the airwaves. They comply; meanwhile the ‘struct tells his origin to the minion that shot Willow down, apparently as punishment for his failure to finish her off. (I'm not sure what we did to deserve such a punishing amount of exposition).

In Atlantis, Aquaman greets then-king Vulko, who’s clearly in the best shape of his life at the moment.

But the (rather stupid-looking) Construct can find them even in Atlantis, and demands they give up the girl. Aquaman tells him where to go, and the Construct is surprised at the language. Is that really a strong epithet for an Atlantean? Actually, is that even an epithet? I don't think it qualifies, since he didn't actually call the Construct a name, but hurled a rude imperative sentence at him.

Willow breaks them up into groups, requesting the Atom act as her bodyguard. Aquaman’s a little surprised…and Atom's Napoleon complex kicks in.

(This isn't actually all that out of character for the Atom. He has quite a big chip on his tiny little shoulder. For example, his first impulse upon meeting a new recruit to the League is to stab them in the eye with a pencil.)

Say what Ralph? Aquaman, are you going to let that stand?

Attacked by the Construct's henchmen known as "Cannons," Willow reveals herself as “a Mistress of the Martial Arts,” which further hurts Ray’s feelings of inferiority. “I thought I was supposed to be protecting you, but t seems I was wrong! You chose me to go with you because you don’t need any protection!”

Meanwhile in Miami, Aquaman and Elongated Man find the city threatened by a death ray-emitting device, called the “Thanatron.” To deactivate it, Elongated man must first survive a barrage of strange sound effects…

Meanwhile, on the Justice League Satellite, Superman brags about his stamina, tells the others to sit this one out and rest up their poor little human bodies and even gives Wonder Woman a backhanded compliment:

Then Green Arrow calls him aside to talk about Wonder Woman:

Worried about this internal strife, Superman thinks about what it may mean for the future of the League as he and Wonder Woman speed toward Earth:

Well, perhaps you could quit being such a dick. Bossing her around, giving her the patronizing "Yeah, but you get to sit down" speech...

I really like this panel, where those sensitive souls Superman and Oliver Queen try to figure out what's wrong with Wonder Woman these days:

Supes' first thought is that it must be man trouble. I guess that's better than saying what surely must be his second thought, if that was his first: "Perhaps it's just her time of the month, G.A.! She'll be okay in a few days, I'm sure." And Green Arrow's just like, "Whatever; I think she' s just a total bitch." (The word "witch" being comic book code for "bitch." )

Meanwhile again, Willow and the Atom get attacked by the Construct himself, who has beamed his mind into the island they're on, building himself a body "composed of metallic ores rather than machine parts!".

The Atom simply shrinks to the size of a real Atom, too small for the Construct to attack him mentally, and jumps into his body. Inside the Construct's new body, he suddenly grows, which destroys the Construct for some reason:

“Bar-soom?” Isn’t that the name of a Star Wars character or planet? No, I’m not joking. Seriously. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Anyway, it all ends happily, with the Atom getting over his short man's complex and scoring a kiss from Willow:

Eww. I don't know what it is exactly, but something about that image just grosses me the hell out. Trying to see it from Willow's perspective, kissing a tiny little member of the opposite sex—no matter how sexy—seems a little gross, as I'd be afraid to kiss their frail little head right off. And from the Atom's perspective, can you imagine those gigantic lips, as wide across as your own shoulders, wrapping themselves around your skull and coating your mask in a layer of saliva? Bleah!

The end.

Next up: The incredibly topical JLoA #147

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Batman Beatdown #1

It's been said that the Internet is like high school, and, if that's true, that means this is like my second time in high school. And this time, I want to be popular, damn it! And if that means doing what all the cool kids are doing, up to but not including jumping off bridges, well then, look out bandwagon, because I'm jumping on!

For eleven weeks now Bahlactus has been ordering comics bloggers to fight one another for his amusement. If you've been to any comics blog beyond EDILW, you've seen some of these epic throwdowns before, and know that they're known as Friday Night Fights.

Well, this Friday night, the EDILW is ready to join the battle. Because no one kicks ass quite like Batman, that means that any fight in which Batman gets his ass kicked is pretty much a guaranteed awesome fight, right? Which is why our first foray into the fray will be a Batman beatdown, provided by none other than Slade Wilson, the hard-ass with the dumb-ass handle of "Deathstroke, The Terminator."

Now, 'stroke has been dying of over-exposure lately, popping up in somewhere beteen six and ninety-one different comic books every single week between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. During that time, Geoff Johns, Judd Winick and others have reduced Wilson to just another supervillain, a weirdo with weird motivations working with other villains like those in Alexander Luthor-pretending-to-be-Lex-Luthor's "Society."

Familiarity has bred ineptness in Wilson, and these days he's likely to be deafeated one-on-one by Oliver Queen (Ha! Like that would ever happen!) or engage in The Worst Plan In The History of The Supervillainy in Teen Titans (Say you buy the motivation for his machinations in "Titans East;" did he really need to brainwash Batgirl, find and recruit Match, Inertia and the rest, build an evil version of Titans Tower and fill it with statues commemorating past Titans' greatest defeats?)

There was a time when Wilson was just a mercenary with a dumb codename and an awful costume. When he wasn't a bad guy, just a bad man with a bad job. He wouldn't go out of his way to kneecap Kid Flash, he'd just do what he was hired to do. He was even something of a hero—well, an anti-hero—coming to the aid of Superman and the other heroes during world-threatenting crises and getting along famously with the likes of Hawkman.

He didn't hit it off so well with Batman though, at least not at first, which lead to them fighting. Now, everybody knows that Batman could beat up just about any normal person in the DCU (excepting Lady Shiva, Batgirl and, I don't know, maybe Richard Dragon and Connor Hawke). Not only is he a huge man, a great fighter and a complete lunatic, not only is he a dirty fighter, but he's loaded with high-tech gadgets and weapons designed to hurt you from the bat-shaped treads on his boots to the tips of his pointy ears.

But he's still just a man. Wilson is pumped full of a super-soldier serum which makes him a Captain America-level physical specimen, complete with a healing factor that has even brought him back from the dead. In a fair fight, he could mop the floor with even the best fighters in the world, because in addition to being a swell-fighter himself, dude's metahuman.

This is the first time I ever saw he and Batman go toe to toe, and I think it's their definitive fight. Sure, neither is really into it. Bats just wants to talk to Wilson, and Wilson just wants to escape, but they still hand one another one hell of a holy beating. The fight spills over a five-page sequence in Marv Wolfman, Steve Erwin and Will Blyberg's story "City of Assasins" (Deathstroke: The Terminator #6-#9).

It was pretty strange reading today. Not only because of how different this Deathstroke is from the one I was just reading a few weeks ago in Teen Titans, but because of how good the story is. The fight is only five pages long, but there are dozens of panel. The fight is full of blows thrown, taken, dodged, parried, blocked and countered. The flow of the action is natural, with one move flowing into the next (Sure, they get off a little more dialogue than is realistically possible during various actions, but that's a convention of comic book time passage that tends to improve rather than detract from action scenes, as it forces you to spend more time in the panel, as The Absorbascon pointed out when declaring decompression it's mortal foe). And good God, just look at that architecture!

And no, "City of Assassins" is not collected in trade. And yes, you should seek out the back issues. Click on the pages to make them bigger, and don't lean in too close, or you may get some Batman blood in your eye.


Ding ding ding!

Hey, how come 'stroke never uses that little gun/quarter-staff combo thingy anymore? I used to love that Fwoom!-making thing.

This is the point in the fight where Batman apparently decides he's not going to get anywhere talking to Wilson. It's almost like he flicks a mental switch from "Reasonable But Forceful Empathy and Persuasive Rhetoric" to "Sarcastic Remarks Accompaned By Kicks in the Face."

I think Deathstroke really hates being kicked in the face, because here's where he starts to lose his shit a little and, if he wasn't a decent and honorable man (and Batman not such a valuable character property) he might have killed Batman right then and there.

No one, but no one gets a second wind like Batman does. One minute he's unconscious and being pulped, the next he's on his feet, swinging through the air and kicking dudes through windows.

It was all for naught though, since one final kick from Deathstroke was all it took to KO Batman.


Comics Controversy Calvaclade Update: Quesada on that statuette and that cover

Props to's Matt Brady asking Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada about the two biggest Marvel stories of the past two weeks. You'll have to slog through some goofy Marvel hypsterism to get there, but after their weird-o online video show (I'm just glad they didn't call it In Da House), Brady asks Quesada about Comiquette-gate and Heroes For Hentai-gate.

Regarding Comiquette-gate, Quesada quite diplomatically responds,

When fans saw the statue was exactly the same time I was made aware of it, I have no involvement in that stuff and haven't kept up with the brouhaha. It kind of floors me in a way because Adam Hughes is brilliant and is known for his amazingly sexy portrayal of strong women, so I'm not quite sure what people are up in arms about? Seriously, fill me in because I've literally been out of town and out of the loop.

He's right on the fact that Hughes is generally one of the last artist one would expect to cause this sort of reaction. Sure, he draws sexy super-women exploding out of their costumes pretty much exclusively these days, but he draws them the way real women actually look. He's a great artist, who knows anatomy, lighting, design and drapery. He certainly doesn't belong in the same category as Michael Turner and Greg Land, who I'm frankly shocked that both Marvel and DC continue to give money.

Hughes didn't do himself any favors in his Newsarama interview about the statue, but anyway you look at it, this is a nice piece of art:

And it's not really Hughes’ fault that the sculptors drained all of the humanity, sexiness and spirit out of his design. But then, that's what happens when you're making a plastic statuette based on a drawing.

I was incredibly disappointed (and, frankly, extremely shocked) to hear Quesada's response to the Heroes For Hire cover, however:

First, I think people are reading way too much into that cover than was ever intended. I heard terms such as "tentacle rape" being thrown around when that in no way is what's happening, nor does it happen in the book. Those tentacles are the arms of the Brood who appears in the issue and is a major story point, the Brood have tentacles, sorry about that.

Secondly, the concept for that cover, soup to nuts came from a female artist. Thirdly, not being a deep follower of manga, I have no idea what recurring theme people are referring to or concerned with. While I appreciate the sentiment and the feelings that some may have about this, I honestly feel that there is way too much being read into this cover.

Also, HFH is a book that features two strong, lead female protagonist who kick major ass; somehow folks have forgotten to focus on that.

I've actually already heard all of these arguments torn apart in the same posts in which people originally began reacting to the cover image. No, it's not technically a picture of women being raped by tentacles, and yes, we're not all retarded, we can see that's not what's actually happening on the's what's about to happen.

Whether that scene as depicted occurs within the book or not is irrelevant to the discussion of whether the cover itself is reprehensible, particularly on a Marvel superhero comic book. Although, if nothing like it occurs in the book, why on Earth is it on the cover at all?


Quesada points out that the image came from a female artist. Um, so what? That doesn't make it any less repulsive an image, nor does it exempt Marvel from getting to share in the criticism of it. Are we to believe they were just like, "Hey, give us an image of the Heroes For Hire team fighting the Brood," got this
back, and were like, "Awesome! Let’s just slap this on the cover now, okay?”

They didn't see any sketches first, or talk to the artist in detail about what they wanted? And they have no power to reject an image, or ask for alterations to it? How hard would it be, with the powers of computers, to at least clean that up a bit? (They were certainly able to alter the image of Peter Parkers genitals that slipped into Reign or the nip slip in Iron Man once they were discovered/noticed, without having to have someone redraw an entire page).

Quesada acts like Marvel is completely powerless over what their cover artists do, and have no choice but to run what a freelancer turns in. Why do I get the feeling that if Misty Knight was smoking a cigarette in that image, it would have gotten rejected? (It may be worth noting that Marvel voluntarily rates it’s comic books, betraying a belief, as the smoking ban and the confused comments about gay title heroes did previously, that Marvel believes there are kids who might be reading their books. HFH is rated “T+,” which I assume meant is for older teens, but their site says actually means is for “9+ years old [readers]… Appropriate for most readers, parents are advised they may want to read before or with younger children.” So, that cover is cool for a ten-year-old to look at? Because I wouldn’t even look at it at work).

Quesada’s comment on the fact that HFH has " two strong, lead female protagonist [sic] who kick major ass" is also weird. That's part of the problem, as has been pointed out by Tamora Pierce, who has written for Marvel:

It's not right that we have these powerful women. Let's humiliate them publicly, on the cover. Let's strip them of their power, wit, and rage, and show them off to everyone who walks by, to show what powerful women can expect, even when we've showed them being powerful. This is what happens when women strut along, kicking butt. This is what they can expect. Savor and learn!

Beyond the fact that Quesada doesn't see a problem with the cover (A state of affairs I had imagined and found perhaps just as bad if not worse than an intentional use of the imagery to stoke it's most negative and perversely sexual connotations), I was surprised to hear him say publicly that he's not a "deep follower" of manga.

Um, should you really be the Editor-in-Chief of one of the biggest American comic book publishers and not be "deep into" the most rapid-growing and widely-read type of sequential art storytelling? Admittedly, it does explain why Marvel's dozen or so attempts to attract the manga audience have all fallen flat (with a few vestiges of such initiatives seemingly succeeding despite Marvel's efforts, like Runaways surviving the doomed "Tsunami" line or Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane lasting as long as it has and racking up rave reviews), but, Jesus, if I was Quesada I'd have copies of Fruits Basket and Naruto under microscopes in a big Marvel lab somewhere, with Marvel staff scientists studying the things around the clock and I'd be calling once a day to ask if they've managed to identify and reverse engineer whatever it is that makes kids love those things so much.

I hate to sound all doom-y and gloom-y here, but I'm 30; I'm going to be dead in 50-60 years (if I'm lucky), along with just about everyone else who reads Marvel Comics. The comic book consumers who are going to replace me are currently a bunch of little kids and teenagers who read manga.

I thought that was common knowledge, but I guess not.

As depressing as Quesada's response to the HFH controversy, it's nowhere near as depressing as reading the comments posters left in response. Read them at your own peril.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24th's Meanwhile in Las Vegas...

This week's Las Vegas Weekly comics column contains reviews of John Porcellino's King-Cat Classix, Walt Holcombe's Things Just Get Away From You and Eric Powell's Satan's Sodomy Baby.