Thursday, October 30, 2008

This week's links

If I link to Heidi MacDonald’s post about that creepy-looking Wonder Woman comic, that will give me an excuse to post a picture of Lindsay Price, right?: Right! Earlier in the week MacDonald had some links to various places dealing with Diane von Furstenberg’s Wonder Woman-inspired fashion designs and the comic book she co-created.

Why wasn’t this comic book on sale in my local comic shop on Wednesday? I don’t know. Shouldn’t DC be trying to get it into readers and critics’ hands? It can’t possibly be any worse than Jodi Picoult’s run, can it?

I’d definitely be interested in giving it a look. It seems to be quite gigantic, from that photo of Price holding a copy. Or else she is merely a tiny, tiny woman.

EDILW favorite Price, as you may know, is an actress currently enjoying some success with Lipstick Jungle, but she’ll always be Janet Sosna, one-third of the staff of altweekly The Beverley Beat, wife of Steve Sanders and mother of Maddy to me.

This is your chance, DC!: The subject of Marvel’s weird pricing—$3.99 for Max, Marvel Knights and now seemingly every miniseries, $2.99 for the rest of the line—came up in that “Cup O’Joe” column that used to be on Newsarama but is now on

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Marvel does push all their comics up to $3.99 in the near future, as I’ve suspected the gradually increasing number of $3.99 comics were trial balloons for that very effort.

The best selling comic book is currently Secret Invasion, issues #2 through #7 of which have all been $3.99 for just 22 pages. So, if I’m Marvel Comics, I see that Direct Market consumers are willing to pay $4 for a 22-page comic book, as long as it’s something they are either excited about or feel they have to read.

Of course, Secret Invasion seems like a pretty special case in that it’s a big crossover event which just about every Marvel Universe title ties into at some level, and which promises to affect the MU status quo the way Civil War did, so I imagine quite a few people are reading it in spite of the hefty price tag, people who wouldn’t be reading it if they didn’t feel it was a special occasion.

The Max books, on the other hand, all sell dismally, and they’re also $3.99 for 22 pages. Does the fact that these all seem to exist out of continuity, and thus have no impact on the Marvel Universe line.

If Marvel does make the jump soon, conventional wisdom holds that DC will follow shortly afterwards. They shouldn’t. If they can hold their comics at $2.99, that might finally give them the edge they need to close the gap with Marvel when it comes to market share.

I know I have about a half-dozen or so comics from both companies I’m considering dropping at the moment, and if some cost a dollar more than the others, well, that sure would make the decision of what to drop and what to keep getting a lot easier.

Ten cartoonist years is like 70 people years: This past Sunday marked the ten year anniversary of James Kochalka’s sketchbook diaries. That is an incredible accomplishment, made even more incredible by the fact that it’s not like that was the only thing Kochalka’s been up to these past ten years. He also found time to create a slew of comics, some children’s books, some music and even get married and have some kids.

So, congratulations James Kochalka.

To celebrate, Kochalka’s publisher Top Shelf is having a sale on many of his works and you guys seriously need to check it out—there are some crazy good deals.

I would personally recommend his Super F*ckers #1-4, the prices of which have been slashed from $7 and $5 down to $3, the price of your average Marvel or DC superhero book. These are, however, one million times better than your average Marvel or DC superhero book. SuperF*ckers is what The Legion of Super-Heroes would be if the LOSH were composed of real teenagers: Horrifying, yet hilarious from a safe distance.

The two Conversation books, in which Kochalka’s avatar carries on a conversation with Craig Thompson’s avatar (in #1) and Jeffrey Brown’s avatar (in #2) are kind of cool too. They can be a bit boring, as the cartoonists talk about their craft and the nature of the universe or whatever, but it’s a lot of fun to see such talents essentially working on a jam book where each draws part of each page. Plus, Kochalka and Brown get in a fight.

These are also only $3 a piece.

I’ll probably have at least one Kochalka review up in the next week or two, as my thoughts turn one more to all things Kochalkic.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas…: Hey, did you know that there are a whole bunch of mainstream comic books dealing with this year’s presidential election? Of course you did, because you’re reading a comics blog, and are all up on this kind of thing.

But did you know I wrote a story rounding up various publishers’ attempts to react to/cash-in on the election? No? Well now you do, so you have no excuse not to click over to Las Vegas Weekly and read my article “Political Cartoons.”

You know, just in case EDILW isn’t quite meeting your Caleb-writing-about-comics needs.

Super-Endorsement Update: I had originally planned to do thirty-some of these, running them from October 1 to November 3, but ended up tossing a bunch of ideas out for not being at all funny (and considering some of the ones that did make the cut, you know that’s saying something) or, in a few cases, being too hard to draw in the time I have left.

I’ve got three, possibly four left, of some pretty minor characters—two villains, a monster hero, and possibly one more hero—and that should finish off the super-endorsements sketch blog, at which point I will return 100% of my focus to bitching about superheroes and writing tedious four thousand-word reviews of graphic novels.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weekly Haul: October 29th

Avengers: The Initiative #18 (Marvel Comics) I would have preferred a single art team for The Initiative’s Secret Invasion tie-in arc—this month’s Steve Kurth is the third penciler, so far—but the inconsistency of the imagery aside, this remains a pretty fun storyline, one that actually gives some scope and urgency to the Skrull invasion plot (In the main title, the Skrulls have just fought some scrubs in downtown New York City, the Avengers in the Savage Land, and now Bendis’ favorite characters in a field outside of NYC; here they’re all over the U.S., and that superhuman army born out of Civil War is getting plenty of panel-time). It also explains what the hell the Skrulls were up to at the end of last week’s Secret Invasion #7; there was more to it than The Wasp unleashing flesh-eating Kirby dots, apparently.

In addition to the Skrull Kill Krew and the more or less regular cast, this issue brings us a Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Super-Skrull, the Georgia and Kentucky Initiative teams, and a two-panel cameo of The Order (Remember them?)

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1 (DC) I went with the Red Lantern-projectile-vomitting-blood-while-Hal-Jordan-drowns-in-a-lake-of-blood cover, rather than the Green Lantern-executes-Sinestro-in-a-GL-branded-electric-chair cover, although it was honestly a pretty tough decision. I just couldn’t decide which was the more hilariously “mature” cover for such a “mature” book that it might as well have been called Green Lantern: Blood Puke.

This thirty-page special is so completely over-the-top when it comes to violence and gore that writer Geoff Johns seems to have embraced his reputation (fair or not) as the guy who tries to write a scene in which someone loses a limb into every story arc.

Sometimes Johns’ tendency toward the ultraviolent is a bad thing, but I think in the context of a space war involving a second-string hero like Hal “The Boring Green Lantern” Jordan that will ultimately sprawl across probably hundreds of dollars worth of books, it works just fine. It’s not like anyone other than the most hardcore DC geeks and Green Lantern fans are going to be even remotely interested in reading this right?

And it is so stupid. Not stupid in a “Why did I even bother spending time and money on this?” kind of way, but in a hilariously stupid kind of way. Johns delivery of goofy, schoolyard concepts—Raindow Lanterns! Fighting!—is totally deadpan; it’s an unembarrassed, even celebratory embrace of the stupid, making the whole thing into a kind of joke that isn’t necessarily funny on its own, but, when told with conviction, is funny precisely because it’s unfunny and yet the teller insists that it is, ironically or not.

That’s Rage of the Red Lanterns in a nutshell there. I giggled my way through at least half of the book.

The main Red Lantern is a pointy-toothed, red-skinned alien with the George Lucas-like name of Atrocitus, of space sector 666. He’s just so damned mad at Sinestro that a red ring and red lantern rise up out of a lake of blood and give him a Red Lantern uniform. He then vomits out all of his blood (the ring replaces his circulatory system, apparently), and he recites an extremely funny oath which rhymes red and dead and hate and fate.

I really can’t get over the blood puking; I’m still grinning about it as I type this. Later on in the story, there’s a whole two-page spread where the Red Lantern Corps all synchronize their blood puking, so you see like a half dozen crazy aliens all vomiting blood straight up into the air. I just wish Johns would have made sure someone lettered “Blaaag!” sound effects into these panels, to make them even more disgusting.

That’s not the only blood in the comic though. Ho ho, far from it!

Apparently, the Red Lanterns can vomit blood that burns like napalm, even in the vacuum of space! And there’s a big three-way Lantern fight between the Green, Yellow and Red Lanterns, in which one GL’s head just cold explodes and another is torn in half, Black Adam-style!

There’s some plot in here too, about how Hal feels about the death penalty, the machinations of the Guardians and the formation of other colored Corps (some big, bald aliens who look like Watchers talk about an Orange Lantern, a Blue Lantern with a ridiculous name shows up in the last panel, etc.).

But mostly it’s just a big, over-sized splash of super-gore and silliness.

The best part? It’s not the Red Lantern oath, or even the part where John Stewart asks Hal Joran if he’s sitting down and John says “No” even though he is (Why are you lying to your partner about whether your sitting down or not, Hal?), but the fact that one of the Red Lanterns is a simple housecat. He has his own little uniform, he has his own little red ring on his tail, and he creeps up on his enemies all cute and purring, and then vomits burning space-napalm blood on them and melts their heads.

I do hope he and G’Nort do battle at some point in the near future.

Now, what does this have to do with Final Crisis? Nothing. Well, it has the words Final Crisis in the title, there’s a note saying it takes place between FC #1 and #2, and a sentence of narration referring to the “deicide” in FC #1, but that’s it.

Superman #681 (DC) While it the DC Universe bears some resemblance to our own world, it is a fantastic, magical world that is quite distinct from what we think of as “the real world.” Not only does it have super-people and aliens and androids all over the place, it also has all kinds of extra cities and countries and, perhaps best of all, George W. Bush was never the president there.

Remember, in 2000 third party candidate Lex Luthor won election on a campaign promise of sharing futuristic technology with America (hence the name of his party, The Tomorrow Party). When he went nuts trying to understand the scripts for Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman, his vice president Pete Ross took over.

And then things get a little confusing. I think there was someone named Knight and maybe a robot being president or running for president in that terrible Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters series, and then there was someone named Horne as president during Amazons Attack, and now there’s an election going on in DCU Decisions, right?

So what the hell’s George W. Bush doing being president in Superman #681, complaining about how Supergirl destroyed his plane in Amazons Attack? (I guess DCU: Decisions #4 came out today; maybe Bush wins the 2008 election in the DC Universe…?)

That was the main question this issue of Superman, the second chapter of the “New Krypton” storyline which heradls the return of the old triangle numbers and everything, left me pondering. But there were two others:

1). Why is it that Perry White is all smoking a cigar in his newsroom like it’s 1973? Doesn’t Metropolis have anti-smoking ordinances like New York City?

2.) Where is Superman’s penis? If Alex Ross is going to paint Superman flying taint-first at the reader on the cover, shouldn’t we see at least a little bulge in there somewhere?

Trinity #22 (DC) Working for a newspaper in Gotham City must be the most exciting job in the world. Where else would “Cat-People Attack City” be the sub-head and “Crime Wave Swamps Gotham” be the headline?

I was really impressed with this particular issue, as the scale of the story keeps getting bigger and bigger, without anything ever feeling like its disconnecting from the plot.

We see more of Alfred Pennyworth, man of action, flash back to ancient Egypt to hang out with Prince Khufu before he ever became Hawkman, and then flash forward to the new, messed-up version of the present, in which minor characters like Gehenna and Tomorrow Woman get some spotlight.

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 (Marvel) Like the rest of the books in Marvel’s Ultimate line, this bears a “March On Ultimatum” banner along the top of the cover, although I’m fairly certain it doesn’t actually have anything to do with Ultimatum, a sort of Crisis-style crossover masterminded by Loeb. Unless the sex life of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson has something to do with Magneto’s attempt to destroy Earth-Ultimate.

Yes, this is an issue dealing with an issue, particularly the sex life of Peter and MJ. Have you wondered how far they’ve gone beyond making out? What are you, some kind of pervert? Well, Brian Michael Bendis is her to play to your perversions!

Actually, this is a pretty tame exploration of their sex lives, essentially just making it clear that they don’t actually have a sex life (and good for them! They’re fifteen-year-olds after all, and it’s nice to see them being positive role models for any kids who accidentally read this comic; not like those libertines in Teen Titans).

Bendis’ script is actually pretty tame and reserved—there’s no discussion of bases, to use the old baseball analogy, or what exactly constitutes “all the way” (because, kids, you can go awfully far without going “all the way”), and he avoids being too preachy, by not having them go so far as to say they’re waiting for marriage, although marriage does come up in their conversation.

Other than the sex stuff, which Bendis stratches out into a really rather suspenseful story, a good half of this over-sized issue is devoted to the introduction of Ultimate Mysterio.

This being an annual, the art chores are handled by someone other than the monthly art team. The previous two annual were drawn by Mark Brooks, who here provides the cover, while this time David Lafuente does the honors.

Lafuente’s the artist on Patsy Walker: Hellcat, and he’s got some serious chops. He’s actually a perfect Ultimate Spider-Man artist, as he excels at drawing cute teenage girls, cute teenage boys, and big-headed, still-a-kid Spidey (If you haven’t already, click on his name in the previous paragraph to see his blog, including a couple of pages of the annual). I hope Lafuente becomes the new Guy Other Than The Regular Artist Who Draws Ultimate Spidey, and that Marvel finds a regular, high profile gig for him somewhere.

Wolverine: First Class #8 (Marvel) Part two of a story pitting Wolverine versus Soviet super-soldiers like Ursa Major, while Colossus and Kitty team-up to help rescue some crazy-looking mutant with a bunch of faces floating behind its head. It’s pretty standard superhero fare this time around, perhaps in large part because Kitty and Wolvie are separated from one another for most of the issue, but I loved the shonen-like last panel.

This issue includes a one-page advertisement for Age of The Sentry disguised as an ad for “Marvel Fruit Pies,” and a two-page gag strip featuring Kitty and Wolvie by series writer Fred Van Lente and Ms. Colleen Coover. Honestly, every Marvel comic should end with a two-page gag strip drawn by Coover.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #7

Marvel’s Secret Invasion has entered its seventh month, which means it’s time to look back on DC’s twenty-year-old version of the story.

While this is the penultimate issue of the series, it is in actuality the climax of the story. This is the issue in which the forces of good (the DC superheroes) and the forces of evil (the space android cult) resolve their conflict though a big fight, while the eighth and final issue of Millennium is reserved for the most excruciatingly embarrassing twenty-two pages in DC Comics history, setting up a brand-new super-team composed of brand-new superheroes who will all be ignored and forgotten in a matter of months.

But that’s next issues; let’s look at Millennium #7, once again written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Joe Staton and Ian Gibson, who managed to draw a whole comic book miniseries all by themselves, without needing guest-artists, teams of emergency inkers, or shipping delays. And remember, it was a weekly! They sure knew how to work ahead at DC back in the ‘80s…

The action starts out in outer space, where the Manhunter Kill Krew composed of Superman, Martian Manhunter, The Hawks, a handful of Green Lanterns and the rest are giving Dr. Fate shit for his inability to magically teleport them all back to Earth. The last time we saw this squad, they were almost all dead, their souls being stored within Superman and Hal Jordan, so apparently their situation improved in one of the tie-ins.

The most worried of the heroes is Harbinger, who feels that Earth is still under threat form the Manhunters, even though they had destroyed the Manhunter home world. In an act of desperation, she teleports away, causing Hal Jordan’s teenage girlfriend Arisia to remark, “You never told me she could do that, Hal!”

Dr. Fate, who is not Hal, responds anyway: “The Millennium is a time of evolution for many.”

I know from experience that Dr. Fate speaks the truth. It was between 1999 and 2000 that my hair evolved from thinning to straight-up bald, and it was also around that time that I evolved wisdom teeth.

As it turns out, Harbinger is right! Earth is still in danger from the Manhunters, as the rest of the heroes decided last issue that perhaps the Manhunters have a base in the center of the earth.

They’ve assembled into some kinda crazy bathysphere ship that looks like a giant mine to get there:
The plan is to use this experimental craft of Blue Beetle’s to descend underwater into the Mariana Trench, then into a volcano, then through the bottom of the volcano (Is this geologically sound comic book-scripting?) and then storm the Manhunter HQ.

Blue Beetle and Mr. Miracle banter about whether or not the ship can survive the stresses, which is why it seems so weird to me that Bones is smoking:
I don’t know if it’s outright dangerous to smoke in an experimental submersible craft or not, but, at the very least, it’s gotta be rude, right?

The craft hold together, and our heroes find themselves in some sort of artificial atmosphere, right above a hidden base. Harbinger appears before the heroes, to be given a stupid nickname by Brainwave:
And while they storm Manhunter base, the immortals are teaching their chosen ones tai chi, and they themselves are suddenly aging quite rapidly.

Note Nuklon up there in the upper right corner. JSA fans know that he changed his name to Atom-Smasher and started wearing a full face-mask, presumably to honor his ancestor, The Atom. This is not true at all. He actually changed his name because “Nuklon” is a pretty stupid name, and he covers his face out of shame, for having gone out in public like this for so long:
Tom Kalamaku being one of the chosen has caused quite a rift in his relationship with his family. Over his shoulder, he catches his wife watching him do tai chi and crying, leading to this dramatic exchange:
Back underground, John Stewart shushes his comrades,
and prepares to subtly, stealthily, scope out the situation
by conjuring up a giant, glowing green ear.

What does he hear? Only that the Manhunters have a doomsday device that they’re prepared to detonate as a last resort! If they can’t own the earth, they’ll destroy it completely!

Just then, the heroes are discovered by Manhunter guards, and a battle ensues, sending them crashing through the roof and into the thick of the Manhunters.

Here’s Batman, wearing his special white android ass-kicking left boot:
Among the Manhunter androids are some of their allies, like Booster Gold, who betrayed the heroes, and the android Pan, who had infiltrated the Greek pantheon.

Capturing Pan is Wonder Woman’s assigned task, and she opens with a flying scissor lock:
When Pan tries to bolt, she lassos him with her unbreakable lariat and hangs on tight as he tries to running away, and
she cuts himself in half!

Hardcore, Wonder Woman.

Here’s a whole page of the fight. Note the exciting jumble of panel shapes:
Englehart and company try giving us little snapshots of the characters in each of these panels.

The Mike Grell Green Arrow is kind of ashamed of being a superhero instead of a realistic urban vigilante, but he still finds shooting arrows at robots thrilling, Mr. Miracle is colorful, Aquaman can’t shut up about what percentage of the earth is his own personal property (This is the second time in this very issue he’s noted that), and so on.

On doomsday device guarding duty is Booster Gold, and he and his Manhunter allies face off against some Leaguers and Infinitors, which is what people actually called the member of Infinity Inc.:
Man. How many times has the “out of your league” joke been made in DC comics, in reference to Justice Leaguers, do you think? 250 times? 500?

As the tide seems to turn against the Manhunters, one of them reaches to detonate the doomsday device, only to find that—the traitor Booster Gold is now betraying them?!
That last panel, by the way, is probably my favorite of the entire series.

I love the fact that Jade says. “Want to check?” for no real reason, and the Manhunter responds by screaming “YES!

What? It’s so random. He wants to check if they’re all humans…? He wants to search them for louses…?

And so the day is saved, and a terrible adjective is coined by Booster Gold,
although his fellow superheroes don’t believe he was a double agent all along just yet.

The conquering heroes, whom Nadia says “have covered themselves in glory,” meet the immortals, the chosen and the returning space heroes outside Hal Jordan’s condo, for the big ceremony that these past seven issues have been building up to.

But we’ll get to that next month, when Millennium ends…not with a bang, but a whimper.

In the meantime, does anyone know if they still make these Striped Chips Ahoy cookies?
These ads are making me crave them, but I can’t remember the last time I saw them in a grocery store…

The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #1
The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #2
The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #3
The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #4
The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #5
The Other Secret Invasion: Millennium #6