Showing posts with label comic reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comic reviews. Show all posts

Monday, October 05, 2009

Guest Post: Simon talks Irredeemable on the iPhone

Brief break from the hiatus as Simon has taken up the recent challenge to download an issue of Mark Waid's comic, "Irredeemable", to the iPhone.

Readers may know, I do not have an iPhone. And as such, I can't check out some of the attempts to bring comics to everyone's favorite brick of technology.

I very much like the idea of electronic comics, and so like to see what's going on in different formats. The ideal reading format is the Kindle, Sony Reader or much-rumored Apple tablet. Actually, the Apple tablet seems hard to beat, if they can sort it out.

In the meantime, I'm glad companies like Boom! are looking at the possibilities for eComics instead of what DC is doing and experimenting with motion comics, which isn't reading and isn't really a cartoon, and so satisfies nobody.

Issue #7 of Irredeemable is coming out on Wednesday, and its a series I'm enjoying quite a bit.

Anyway, this is Simon's show, and as he was good enough to step away from the coffee pot long enough to type this up, I will hand over the reigns to him:


I took you up on the iPhone nerd challenge. I've wanted to check out Irredeemable for a bit now and I was planning on downloading them when I saw they were released on comiXology.

My first thought is that $1.99 is too much for a digital comic. I'd prefer my digital downloads to be a the $0.99 price point. That way I don't feel like I've wasted so much money when the eventual trade rolls around. Now the dollar amount is set by the publisher so maybe BOOM! Studios will come around on this point.

Story wise the two issues I read were very good. Although I don't find it as earth shattering as it was made out to be as I feel we've seen this kinds of thing before with Black Adam and Marvelman. Mind you I'm not complaining as the plotting and dialog was done very well but I expect that out of Mark Waid.

One could tell the art was good. Even shrunk down to the iPhone size. The biggest downside I found was the constant switching between portrait and landscape modes. I had to do this as it was hard to read the text in some situations. That took me out of the flow of the book. I think this is something that comic book creators will have to keep in mind in the future. I'd suggest that they try to keep a high percentage of the panels in landscape mode like Atomic Robo or portrait mode like Elephantmen.

Something I wish they would add to the books are the letters page. Mind you not a static letters page but I link to the on-line forum discussing the particular issue you are reading. I should probably go add that feature request.

The convenience factor was great! If your local comic shop is anything like mine they are bringing in less and less store copies. They only way I'd get to pick up and issue of a book I haven't pre-ordered is through a service like this. The ability to shop on-line for books is a real winner.

My verdict on Irredeemable is that I'm going to wait for the trade. The sole reason is price. I don't want to pay $12 for six issues only to turn around and get the dead tree version for $17. This is in contrast to Atomic Robo which I continued getting at the $0.99 price point and Elephantmen where I grabbed both hard covers at the Windy City Con.


Thanks, Simon! Your reimbursement is en route, which... you know, I wasn't sure what currency you guys use in Canada, so I'm sending you some shiny rocks and a Coke bottle I found in a parking lot. You can still put stuff in it if you don't turn the bottle over.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Comic Suggestion: The Stuff of Legend

On Wednesday I picked up a comic I'd never heard of, which was debuting from a company I'd not yet heard of, and found the start of what I think is going to be an engaging read.

The Stuff of Legend seems, at first, to be a rehashing of Pixar's "Toy Story" series (with a tiny dash of "Monsters, Inc."), but that illusion is quickly dispelled. While I hesitate to say what this comic will be about, in the end, the opening chapter is about toys who see the boy who owns them kidnapped by the Boogeyman. A small handful of toys and the boy's puppy enter "The Dark" (ie: the closet) to find and return the boy, and in The Dark, the toys become realizations of what they represent, be it bear, duck, tin soldier, Indian Princess, etc...

There's something intensely creepy about the comic and the world the writers and artist have created. Discarded toys seem to have joined forces with the Boogeyman, children plucked from their bed in the night, weak-willed toys, etc... It's also all a bit heartbreaking in the manner of "Toy Story II", or "The Brave Little Toaster".

I am, nonetheless, in for the ride. Issue #1 was good stuff, and I will most definitely be picking up issue #2.

Not having kids, I am unsure if this would scare the smaller Leaguers. Much of the stuff in the comic is not necessarily "cute", and it more or less plays on the fears kids may have of their own closets (or create some new fears). But, you know, there's always kids at the Rated-R stuff I see at the Westgate Cinema, so what the hell do I know about what's going to turn your kid into a schizoid? Go nuts.

The format of the comic is in the same square shape that you've seen with "Mouse Guard" and maybe "Superf*ckers" (yes, there is a comic called "Superf*ckers", and it is funny.). A bit unweildy for bagging and boarding, but I assume that when this is released as a hardbound book, it'll fit quite neatly on the shelf. And part of me already knows I'm going to want the hardbound book if the book retains its quality.

I don't want to oversell the comic. It's just a first issue, but for a comic I picked up on a whim, it's something I hope keeps up a good production schedule and makes a splash. It would be a shame to see this sort of offering disappear for lack of interest.

I'm recommending for fans of Mouse Guard, Bone, and those who don't mind a slow build in their imaginative fiction. (Ed. addition: I kept trying to remember what it reminded me of in spirit, and I think the answer is the DC/ Zuda project: Bayou. I've also been meaning to mention Bayou in these pages, so there you go.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So, Final Crisis: Legion of 3-Worlds #5




Ohhhh.... mercy!

Man. Geoff Johns. That was great. That's going to go down as one of my favorite comics/ uses of medium/ use of the DCU/ weird-good/ character returns/ whatever-the-hell-that-was in quite a while.

I heart you, DCU.

Bonus Comic Stuff:

Green Lantern and Tales of the Corps... both good reads this week.

I don't really get the faux-exasperated comments I've seen online about people can't believe that there's, basically, bad stuff happening that our heroes will have to problem-solve.

Getting bent out of shape about the budget-busting spin-offs? Sure. Accusations of Zombie-ism? Okay (maybe. I mean, its obvious, right?). And, yeah, there's some nasty, bad stuff... but they are inhuman-alien-space-fascists bent on the annihilation of living things. So... you know. I don't expect them to just rob banks or make giant robots to stomp through town.

So far so good on Blackest Night.

Anyhow, I'm thinking about how this project was managed, versus how other events have been handled, and it sort of hurts one's brain to ponder Countdown as a lead in to Final Crisis as event and how badly mismanaged that one was.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rollerderby flick, Wednesday Comics, Vaycay, Facebook Fans, Dance Show, Wolfman

Rollerderby on the Silver Screen

So League-Pal, Shauna C., has a movie scheduled to arrive in October. Shauna wrote the original novel "Derby Girl", and the screenplay for 'Whip It!". The cast on the movie is sort of amazing, with folks like Ellen Page and Marcia Gay Harden signed on.

I should also point out that my current favorite of the SNL cast, Kristen Wiig, plays a major role as Maggie Mayhem. Maggie Mayhem was, not coincidentally, Shauna's nom-de-derby when she wore her quad-skates. Alas, I think Shauna was pregnant when the movie was being shot, so don't expect to see her on skates in a cameo.

Story in USA Today.

Here's an article/ images at slashfilm about the feature.

I sincerely hope The Alamo has the foresight to team up with TXRD to make an event out of the film's Austin debut.

It all makes me miss AZRD's Surly Girlies.

Wednesday Comics

I was looking forward to DC's newest venture, Wednesday Comics, for quite some time. Not only did the comic not disappoint, but it surpassed my elevated expectations.

Generally I shudder at the idea of the art winding up as the focus of a comics from American superhero comics, as this tends to lead to temporary fan-favorite artists relating tedious stories while pouring their all into work that simply doesn't deserve it (see Image comics circa 1994 - ignoring The Maxx, which was actually sort of interesting).

Wednesday Comics managed to avoid becoming an exercise in artistic overindulgence. I'll attribute the success to a limited scope and story, told one page per week over 12 weeks, which tends to make one use the economy of haiku. Some pages were written and drawn by the same person, most were not. By and large, the writers were wise in their limited use of narration and dialog, and got out of the way so that art, page layout, etc... could tell the tale.

The format, by the way, is a full newspaper-sized page, printed on newsprint, suggesting that the comic in an oddly temporary thing. In a writer-driven environment that the superhero market has become, its great to see the craft of the comic page take over and be celebrated for itself. While I deeply enjoy the gestalt of something like Rucka/ Williams III on Detective, and would love to see Williams III get a chance to play in such a massive environment (I have the Promethea posters, but Jamie has not allocated space for them), there's something unique about this project that people will be discussing for a while.

There's an oversized "Little Nemo" book I've always wanted that collects Winsor McCay's sprawling, page wide cartooning, which was quite the deal about 80 years ago. That sort of cartooning has become a lost artform. Here's a sample at Google books.

As much as I love my pamphlet comics, its always fun when something new/old comes along/returns to shake things up.

If You're Going to San Francisco

you may just run into Jamie and myself, July 15-19. We're going out to visit The Doug and K. and get into an exciting car chase. So expect The League to go dark for a few days next week.

Also, if you have suggestion for activities (not just places to eat), let me know.

They tell me I am not allowed to saddle a sea lion and ride it around the bay. I say they just lack imagination and the right hat.

To prepare, I sort of want to watch Bullit and Vertigo. What's another San Fran/ Berkeley-based movie I should catch? (I just watched Milk, so that's kind of out...)

Be a Fan (at least on Facebook)!

So, I've updated the left menu bar of the site proper to include a Facebook badge that will alert you to some of our "fans" and make it easy to become a "fan" of LoM on Facebook.

If you haven't joined Facebook, well, get with the program. But if you are on Facebook, and haven't become a Facebook Fan, now is the time.

I've set up the Fan Page so you can set up your own discussions, load your own content, etc... You will also receive LoM messages via Facebook, be it a status update or a special Facebook update. You'd also get posts sent straight to facebook, so if you're already in there...

The Hard Sell on this is coming from my desire to secure a unique Facebook user name, which I can't do until I have 100 "fans". So why not go ahead and become a Fan?

So. You Think You Can Dance.

I always wonder what these gameshows would be like if anyone displayed legitimate cynicism. Not Simon Cowell's manufactured jerkiness and disregard for humanity, but sort of suggested that maybe the whole enterprise were a waste of time.

However, the fans of these programs follow them with religious fervor. Even if they can admit that "judge" Mary Murphy is a ridiculous, mindless air raid siren of a human being, they can forgive it in order to see the dancing happen.

It seems so obvious. How did we not put dancing on TV before?

While I'd never watch the show on my own (despite host Cat Deeley, who is a pretty good idea), at least the contestants are on their way to professional status. It's less likely that the votes will have an oddball result based upon things that won't translate well in the actual industry (see: Taylor Kicks and American Idol).

Anyhow, I've been watching this show again, like it or not, and so if you want to talk "So You Think You Can Dance?", I'm your huckleberry.


When the hell is that Benicio Del Toro Wolfman movie coming out? Isn't dumping it into November sort of a bad sign?

I had hopes, but Joe Johnston as director always sounded very iffy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The League Talks Comics - Batwoman, GL and Superman

Editor's Note: Leaguers, I'm going to go back to occasionally talking comics around here. Feel free to ignore these posts, friends and family who don't care!

I'm also going to mostly focus on suggestions for stuff I liked. It'll save us all a lot of time.

Detective Comics #854
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by JH Williams and Cully Hamner; Cover by JH Williams : Variant Cover by JG Jones

We're on issue #854 of Detective Comics, where Batman made his first appearance in 1939ish in issue #29. So, this is the first issue in quite sometime given over to someone other than Batman, or people standing around talking about/ thinking about Batman.

Instead, after 3 years of getting our chain yanked by DC with its sporadic appearances of the "all new" Batwoman (That's Batwoman, not Batgirl), DC finally committed to the character and gave her a chance to make it on her own. Apparently DC is also trying to make amends with novelist/ comic scribe Greg Rucka, with whom it seems things got crosswise during the "52" event of 06' - 07', by giving him "Detective" and then, just to be extra nice, assigning artist JH Williams III (of Batman and Promethea fame) to the storyline.

With karate she'll kick your ass, from here, to right over there...

Longtime readers will know I'm a fan of Rucka's work on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, OMAC, and I spent a lot of time in Costa Rica reading his "Queen & Country" comics. Rucka does fetishize a certain type of female character, as evidenced by his similar treatment of Renee Montoya from Gotham Central/ The Question, Queen and Country and now Batwoman. Highly competent, jaded, and a personal life in shambles. And maybe he needs to shake that off a bit, which he's forced to do when he's handling characters he didn't manage from scratch (and which he handles quite well).

There's nothing wrong with the narrative here, and, in fact, Rucka does an amazing job of setting the stage for who Kathy Kane is and where we're headed. But Detective Comics just jumped page count and increased its price by 25% with a Question back-up feature by Rucka, that will probably remind readers a bit too much of how similar the two characters actually are.

I'm counting on the back-up feature intersecting with the main feature at some point. We'll see. But both characters have been tied up with Rucka's ongoing "Religion of Crime" storylines at different times.

I'd be remiss in discussing the new Batwoman as character if I didn't point out, like everyone else has, that she is part of DC's efforts at representing the world "as is", in that Kathy Kane has been established as a lesbian. It's not an overarching part of the plot, but its not hard to see that DC was trying to spread its wings a bit with the character intended to be part of its mainstream offerings. Which, I just realized, means that Detective Comics #854 features not one, but two gay heroes.

The art: Is phenomenal. I really don't know what else to say about JH Williams, other than that the man is one of the most wickedly talented people working in the comics business. His style is vastly different from, say, Frank Quitely, but I feel he's in the same category, and it'd be nice if he were a bit better recognized/ had greater influence on the comic art community. I suggest going here and then clicking "view preview" to see his stuff.

Green Lantern #42
Written by Geoff Johns: Art and Cover by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion; Variant Cover by Rodolfo Migliari

This is more an endorsement of Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi's work on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, two books I enjoy immensely. Johns and Tomasi have both been using the serial and ongoing nature of the books to lead to an event in "Blackest Night", which is hitting at the end of the summer. (And if you're reading GL but not GLC, you are crazy. Seriously.)

Johns and Tomasi have managed to greatly expand the conceits of the GL books of decades past, and have introduced a spectrum of colors and their varying allegiances, roles, etc... And its been a fascinating read.

The last few issues of GL have focused upon the Guardians' attempts to negotiate with Larfleeze, a being who seized the Orange Lantern (think Gollum, but with the power of a thousand GL's) millions of years ago.

As a single issue, it would be incredibly difficult to walk into GL #42, so The League recommends picking up with the Sinestro Corps stuff in trade paperback.

Every once in a while when you're reading a comic, it just clicks, and it becomes abundantly clear that the comic you're reading is going to be remembered and become essential reading for decades. It may eventually spawn movies, etc... And, most certainly, that's the case right now with Green Lantern, provided the whole ending for Blackest Night doesn't crater.

Superman #689

Written by James Robinson; Art by Renato Guedes and José Wilson Magalhães; Cover by Andrew Robinson

Like Batman disappearing from the pages of Detective, Superman hasn't actually appeared in "Superman" for the past few months as the "World of Krypton" mega-story has taken over the Superman wing of the DCU. Clark Kent/ Kal-El is off planet at the moment (a move I confess to thinking was nuts when I first heard it), and has left Metropolis in the hands of a fellow alien, Mon-El. Meanwhile, Action Comics is now featuring an all-new Flamebird and Nightwing, a Kandorian super-team hunting down Phantom Zone criminals.

Mon-El has appeared in the Superman-related comics since the early 1960's, first in Superboy, and then in the Legion of Super-Heroes. From the planet Daxam (and actually named Lar Gand, but given a Kryptonian name by a young Superboy) Mon-El has similar abilities to a Kryptonian. However, unlike Kryptonians, Daxamites are affected by the simple element of lead the way Superman might be affected by Kryptonite. In today's continuity, he was found by a young Clark Kent who was forced to place him into the Phantom Zone to save his life.

Freed from the Zone and given a temporary cure, he's taken Superman's place in protecting not just Metropolis, but, as this issue explores, Earth. Its a great story, showing how this very human alien relates to the planet and is trying to make the most of his time.

I'm not as enamored by Robinson's writing as some, and some scenes, such as The Guardian's defense of Mon-El to Morgan Edge feel simply rushed. Like Robinson had an item he felt he wanted to check off his list of narrative moments, but didn't quite know how to frame it, and so a fairly simple speech cleared up an entire storyline. It seemed almost quaint in this era of televised punditry. It also felt oddly like a call back to Superman's defense of Krypto circa issue 680.

But the issue is an overall enjoyable read, and a great beat in this ever-expanding storyline of World of Krypton, as it runs through the Superman titles.

Sure, its odd that DC has decided that Clark Kent himself isn't the star of his self-titled comic at the moment, but I'm enjoying the feeling of a broad, epic vision for the Superman comics at this moment. Superman's displacement doesn't feel artificial as it did in "Superman: Exile", and I feel that Robinson's stewardship on the title is sound.

Plus, I like the artwork.

That's it for the moment. I doubt this will be a weekly thing, but doing some comic-related writing felt like a good idea today.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Batman and Robin #1

Believe it or not, there has not previously been a comic entitled "Batman and Robin". Batman, Detective, Batman Confidential, Legends of the Dark Knight, Brave and the Bold, Robin.... sure. All of those. But on Wednesday, DC Comics released the first issue of "Batman and Robin".

the all-new dynamic duo!

Generally, for established talent, I prefer commenting on a storyline as it wraps rather than issue by issue, especially at the beginning. There's simply too much unknown in the early issues of a comic. Its not that you can't form an opinion (and a valid one at that), but in many ways its sort of like reviewing an album based on one or two songs, or running out of a movie after the first fifteen minutes and writing a review.

Grant Morrison took over the title "Batman" in late 2006 and proceeded to take two years to spin out what became clear was just part of a multi-year effort. He wrapped his run into DC's mega-event "Final Crisis" (in itself a 7-issue series with multiple tie-ins), culminating in the disappearance/ seeming death of Bruce Wayne.

Morrison then took a break to make room for what I'd consider to be some serious filler material in the way of the "Battle for the Cowl" storyline. Hey, at least I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's two-part stand in with "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?".

Morrison is also the author of such highly recommended works as "Invisibles", "We3", "Vinamarama", "New X-Men", "JLA", "Animal Man" and the most defining work on the character in a generation, "All Star Superman".

Art is penciled by the amazing Frank Quitely, whose work with Morrison elevates both talents. He's probably now most famous for "All Star Superman", but his "New X-Men" run is pretty stellar. My personal favorite of his work is still "We3", but he made his real mark with "Flex Mentallo" with Morrison. The work has never been collected due to a law suit from the Charles Atlas company.

The first issue begins with the new status quo of former Robin, Dick Grayson, in the Batsuit. Those unfamiliar to recent events in the comics will be surprised to learn that Batman's bastard son (both literal and figurative), Damian, takes on the mantle of Robin. There's enough exposition to catch up a casual reader or possibly explain to someone utterly unfamiliar with Batman as to what's going on.

Dick and Damian go for a ride!

Morrison does what he so often does, and injects a relaxed cool to the high octane proceedings (these superheroes don't flinch over something like an explosion). Dick and Damian have put together the first flying Batmobile, and are in hot pursuit of a Mr. Toad (who both physically resembles a toad and who is on a wild ride).

There's much in the way of exposition to catch us up, but which also fills in gaps for the reader who may wonder how we got from the end of "Battle for the Cowl" to this point.

But nasty things are afoot in Gotham City as the issue wraps, unveiling the first glimmer of bizarre goings on with the newest additions to Batman's rogues gallery.

All in all, its a great start to the series, and should give those who were left scratching their heads at the end of Batman RIP and Final Crisis a huge jolt of faith in Morrison. One also realizes how much Morrison's work is enhanced or detracted from by the art talent with whom he's joined. One saving grace for Final Crisis was that I felt he was lucky to land two great artists (I really dig Doug Mahnke's stuff), and I'm not sure Tony Daniel really did much to carry his part of the load in Batman RIP.

For myself... I was not at all a fan of the continuity-lite six issue runs that came out of the early 2000's. I was raised on Claremont X-Men and Alan Grant and Co. dominating the Bat-titles. So I very much appreciate DC's decision to let Morrison spin his web across the Bat-titles (just as Johns, Robinson and Rucka are building a phenomenal, multi-year arc on the Superman titles).

This is going to sound odd, but something about the issue vaguely gave me the same charge as those old Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle issues of Batman and Detective used to give me. I think because there was so little distraction. No Dan Didio harping about "Batman RIP" for a year in advance. Just a story, great art and characters. There's not too, too much else in common, but it reminded me of the relentless insistence on the "event" that's been going on in Bat-books for a long time.

The book ain't necessarily for kids. Just felt I'd remind our eager-beavers in the interwebs to be careful what they put in the kiddos' hands.

Morrison said something about trying to mix the psychedelia of the Adam West Batman with some creepier aspects. Whatever he said, fine. The first issue was downright fun. It really is a gorgeous comic to look at, and I'm excited its out there and look forward to the next issue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Comic Stuff You Can Ignore (Dad. Who Admits he Doesn't Read the Comic Stuff)

I've mostly been doing my comic blogging over at Comic Fodder, but things have been so up in the air of late, I haven't had much time to comic blog of late.

But if you haven't picked up your comics yet this week, I'd suggest the following:

Superman 681: Kandor (the bottled Kryptonian city) has expanded in the Arctic. Which means there are 100,000 Supermans running around Earth.

I confess that I actually emitted a profanity aloud when I hit the last page.

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns: I don't think you'd have to have been following GL comics to get what's happening here, but Johns just took the whole DCU up a notch in a single comic with this issue.

This isn't an issue for kids. It's kinda gross. But it's also interesting. And the first Red Lantern (yeah, RED Lantern) to reveal himself has an introduction that will go down in history as one of my favorites.


Check it out.

Marvel has created a "Character Cloud". It's interesting information and data management. I've seen a bit of this sort of 3-dimensional storage of data lately, and, frankly, I feel a bit behind the times for not knowing more about how this works and how I can get onboard. It doesn't hurt that I can process the information a bit more easily as I know a lot about this data and I can sort of more easily see how it fits.

I'll be curious to see more in the future how this is employed, but, anyway... it's kinda fun.

Anyone whose been working in this sort of space, I'd like to hear more about the theory.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wanted: Originally a Comic, not a Movie

Some spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.

So I kind of thought the movie "Wanted" that came out this summer wasn't very good. It seemed like there was a movie in there somewhere, but it was neither funny enough, nor did I feel like I was seeing anything worth my 2 hours and $6.00 to make me think this was something to tell others to see.

I was recently recommended the comic, assured that it was different. Being the polite sort of League that I am, I did not inform the folks who recommended the book that I have a love/hate relationship with Mark Millar, the guy who wrote the original comic of "Wanted". He's sort of an over-caffeinated little troll in his interviews, and he has no problem hyping himself and completely making up whatever facts he feels will help his image, projects, etc... Example: artist of the comic of "Wanted" JG Jones, drew the original Wesley Gibson character to look a bit like Eminem. Millar later claimed Eminem's people wanted to cast the rapper in the part in the movie. This was never true, and Millar now plays it off as if it was the press which misunderstood, and not some posting he made online. Apparently Eminem's people asked Millar to quit saying Eminem was interested.


If I didn't care for the movie "Wanted", I found myself disliking the comic slightly less. At least it wasn't boring. It's just derivative and vulgar and was the sort of high-octane, high calorie, low-nutrition comics that tend to wear me out.


In fact, they make a point in both works that Gibson isn't going to be "wanted" by the law in either work, because they have such a super-awesome secret society of assassins and bad-guys, that the cops can't do anything about them.

Millar uses "Wanted" to tell a DC Elseworld's tale in which the super-villains have taken over Earth. As those of you who've seen the movie will attest: Que? How can Millar not just be embarrassed that the producers so soundly gutted his work? I've literally never seen such a departure from a comic's source material to the big screen. If Producers truly understood what happened there with "Wanted" I wonder if it wouldn't do more harm to Millar's Hollywood career than good...

The movie of Wanted roughly follows the first issue of the comic, and then wildly diverges from the source material to such a degree that I can't really figure out why the producers bothered to cite the comic as even an inspiration for the movie.

Millar's tin-ear for American, non-white bread dialog shines through, and he drops the f-bomb at least twice in every word balloon, robbing profanity of any potency or punctuation, and making his characters sound like mildly idiotic 8th graders trying to sound tough. Lifting from the Wildstorm/ Rick Veitch method of thinly disguising known characters, Millar sets up a somewhat intriguing scenario of a post-Crisis world reformed in which the villains have won the day, and are living in the shadows as the super-wealthy (which Millar seems to think $10 million means super-wealthy, which... come on. Maybe in 1955). Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to know what to do with the scenario once its in place, except tear it apart.

You can sort of begin to see some of the differences between movie and comic here...

The comic winds up having the same problem as the movie, in that it seems to be challenging the reader to embrace... something. Chaos? Anarchy? Ignoring the fact that we generally aren't waking up one morning to find out we have super powers and millions in the bank. There's a last page with Gibson directly addressing the reader, and I felt the way he was describing, but not in the manner in which Millar intended. More in the "you've got to be @#$%ing kidding me" manner. Your plot was useless, your characters shallow stereotypes and interesting only in playing the "who is the analog for who?" game that he and others had already done for Wildstorm. And that ending made sense only in that it was on the page and we sort of had to go along with it, because that's what we had to do to finish the comic.

And it's sort of tough to differentiate between the casual racism/ homophobia of the book's narrator and the voice of Millar himself. One has hopes that Millar just really understood the mechanics of the soon-to-be villain, but given the evidence we get regarding Gibson's childhood and how he was raised, it doesn't seem in synch. Which is either Millar waffling, or Millar having a very weird idea about race relations/ LGBT issues in the US. There's just a lot of language that, maybe is intended to make things "gritty", but it doesn't seem to actually come from anywhere, other than a sense of bigotry ingrained prior to Gibson's transformation.

I just got really tired of it. Just as dealing with it in real life really wears me out.

I am aware that there's a class of comic reader out there who gets a small thrill from gratuitous violence, and I am occasionally part of that crowd. Especially when I'm reading anything by Garth Ennis (that dude knows how to push my "sweet lord, they did not just do that" button better than anyone). Millar's handling of the ultra-violence is so unsubtle and steady that at some point, its just a torrent of blood and death you can hop over to jump to the next plot point.

That said, JG Jones' art work is really, really nice throughout. His character designs interesting and familiar, while avoiding any copyright problems. I can see why Morrison had pegged him for "Final Crisis".

My difficulty comes in that: It may sound as if I'm picking on "Wanted" for spoofing DC material, but that isn't really the case. I wouldn't mind at all, if I felt there were a story here rather than just a bunch of things happening in some sort of sequence.

Mostly, knowing when this comic was originally released, it just seems like its about seven years behind the trend. Millar favors co-opted style over substance. The names of characters ("$#!T-head", etc...), all seem to have come from the Garth Ennis school of inappropriate hilarity, founded in the mid-90's. Pair that with the Warren Ellis school of bad-asses routinely declaring how bad-ass they are (founded, also, mid-90's) , an opening which, really, seems to have been taken from an early draft of "Fight Club", and you're left with the actual plot. Which is sort of nonsensical, and whose "twist" ending doesn't work. Even for a comic where the arch-villains are the protagonists.

I'm a little baffled by the huge audience for Wanted as a comic. I'm even more baffled how the movie and comic relate to one another.

I've had it mentioned to me that "Wanted" was optioned after the first issue, and a script cranked out before the comic series was done. And the producers must have liked their script much more than the comic itself (which, really, would make no sense to anyone but comic nerds, anyway). So they stripped the characters of their comic-book styled outfits, and nicknames. And put in some other plot about monks/ weavers (which, really...? how was nobody suspicious?). At any rate, its an interesting case study.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes

I was planning to really hit you guys over the head with a review of the Trade Paperback release of Geoff Johns' recent run on Action Comics.

But I just read BeaucoupKevin's review, and its spot on. Comic readers should be reading BeaucoupKevin, anyway.

I may review this myself, anyway. But, here's a first shot.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Final Crisis #1

DC Comics' mega-event of 2008 is the Grant Morrison penned "Final Crisis". The first issue hit the stands Thursday, and I picked up the issue Friday.

From what I read, I would never recommend that the issue be taken as an entry-level comic to the DCU. The story is mired in DCU characters and continuity, and asks that readers have been paying attention to recent output from DC, but also picking up key collections as they've been released of late.

None of that is intended as a criticism. At some point, you're either allowed to tell stories for people who have been following along (see: Lost, BSG), or you're stuck in the perpetual cycle of episodic storytelling, where the reader can pop in and it doesn't matter if they're familiar with the concepts and characters before tuning in (see: Law & Order, most police procedurals).

The story actually seems to make events such as the abysmal "Countdown" make some sense, as well as the uncompleted, unnecessary "Salvation Run". It embraces characters from Kirby's 70's run on New Gods, Anthro and Kamandi, while seamlessly embracing recent events in the DCU, such as Johns' introduction of the Alpha Lanterns in Green Lantern. Morrison also plays with some of the toys he created during his mega-series "Seven Soldiers of Victory", and its probably worth returning to your issues or collections of that series to get an idea where he might be headed.

But what I've always enjoyed about Morrison's stories is that, despite the need for our heroes to win, his set-ups don't tell me how the story will unfold in a neat pattern I can consume with the predictability of a McDonald's meal.

Unlike Marvel's competing event "Secret Invasion", "Final Crisis" isn't telegraphing the ending before the story has started. I am picking up both series, and, honestly, compared to last year's "Civil War", I've been a bit let down with Secret Invasion since sometime last fall when Elektra was revealed as a Skrull in "New Avengers".*

I've already read considerable negative noise in the blogosphere on "Final Crisis", and much of it is a reminder of the grim state of the monthly comic. A lot of it seems to bemoan that the reader isn't able to jump into the story with page 1, which seems a bit unfair. Morrison does what he can to provide exposition without recounting 40 years of DCU history.

As I mentioned, I don't think this would be a great first comic to hand to someone, but I also don't think that asking readers to pick up on contextual clues or have the slightest bit of knowledge of the DCU as a comic reader is that tough of a request.

But to address some particular resurfacing internet complaints:

(a) If you have to ask who Dan Turpin is, well, bone up on your Kirby and New Gods reading, or just check Wikipedia. (b) Maybe if the reader continues to follow the series, s/he will be rewarded with knowledge of who characters are and what is going on.

(League special nerdy snark: If some are confused by "new characters"/ obscure characters (gasp!), you might want to note that DC is telegraphing to readers what MIGHT be important in upcoming storylines by what its including in its re-release of older material.)

The art of the issue, by JG Jones, is phenomenal. He seems to have a tremendous ability to meld the mundane and the fantastic, and portray them side by side without either seeming silly (and did you see his Metron?). The coloring is excellent, the rendering and composition top drawer. I've mostly known Jones as a cover artist, but I'll need to do some research and see what titles he's previously handled. It's not the same hyper-realistic style we'd see out of Ross's watercolors, but there's always room at the table for terribly talented artist.

This issue included a lot of what I've found exciting about the DCU. The New Gods, The Question, Green Lanterns... and a history that extends back to the cavemen with Anthro and Vandal Savage, all the way to the 31st Century and beyond. This issue only plants the seeds of what could be a great series, but the pieces are in place. Fallen Gods, Red Skies... Color me intrigued.

I guess the watchword I'd share on Final Crisis is: Patience. Comic nerds can be such an impatient lot, insisting on instant gratification, plotting and pacing be damned. Just get to the fights, and don't ask the reader to work.

It seems the same lack of patience which has marred many reader's experience during the current, phenomenal run on Morrison's Batman (which is taking the better part of two years to come to a head) may also rain on the parade for Final Crisis.

What readers seem to forget is that super-hero comics are often plagued by writers and story lines that start promisingly, but end with a whimper. Look at virtually any 90's era DC cross-over, from "Final Night" to "The Death of Superman", and you'll see potential squandered as the big ideas come out of the gate first, and its all about the writer trying to scramble once they've got the reader's attention. And, honestly, I kind of felt that way about issues 3-6 of Marvel's Civil War (for this reader, the outcome that seemed most logical won out).

So give Final Crisis some time. Give Morrison's Batman some time. And, for God's sake, give All Star Superman its due. We're getting great comics from the guy, and it feels like we're headed to a point where DC has trimmed the excesses of the post-Infinite Crisis DCU and is finding out what really works.

And I think Final Crisis, given time, will define what that will mean for DC Comics for the next few years.

*Really, the story of Secret Invasion, to anyone who'se ever watched TV, should play out as a big superhero slugfest which will involve super-heroes realizing their teams have been infiltated by spies, go through unease that comrades have been aliens/ bodysnatchers/ commies/ what-have-you, and it will all end in a big fight where the heroes team up and push the enemy out into space. It's all very "They Live". With superheroes instead of Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Countdown and Death of the New Gods: A fanboy rant

Well, so that's over.

I want to be be clear here as this post begins: Will this post come off as fanboish, and all that fanboyishness implies? Yes.

For readers who are not following the DCU, two years ago DC Comics launched a series entitled "52", a weekly series, each issue encapsulating a week in the life of the DC Universe. While interesting, its not clear that 52 managed to fulfill its goal of giving the reader an eagle's eye view of the DCU and the new status quo following Infinite Crisis.

Selling almost 100,000 copies every week seemed like a pretty significant success for DC, and so they followed with "Countdown".

I have a number of issues with the current administration at DC Comics, but many of them can be boiled down to two points:

1) DC has seemed far more interested in "stories" cooked up as editorial, status-quo-changing ideas rather than as organic tales with a natural arc from point A to point Z. It seems as if Didio and Co. are much more interested in where the characters will end up, rather than how they managed to get there. Which, correct me if I'm wrong, is sort of the point of telling a story.

Instead, DC has determined finishing points for their characters and don't really seem to care whether or not plot points B-Y make any sense, or occur in any particular order. Or, whether its a satisfying read with an engaging narrative arc.

Countdown has not been the only offender.

2) Unable to convince the DC A-list writers and artists to get on-board with this cockamamie scheme, Didio rounded-up a team of writers that never met an idea of Didio's they didn't like. It's my guess that Dini may have plotted the original Countdown story, but it was this team of writers that put words in the character's mouths and came up with the execution of the action. Unfortunately, these were mostly DC's B and C-listers. The guys who seem willing to take on 2nd and 3rd tier books and who are asked not to mess up the character too much until someone else takes over the title in order to boost sales.

In my opinion, the issues you'll see in the rant below trickle out of the above two issues.

The concept behind Countdown was that it would act as the "spine" to the DC Universe, and idea I've always felt was a pretty good idea. A central book which would reflect and define the events of the DC Universe. I now see that idea was not one of my better ones.

The troubles started with the absolutely abysmal cross-over "Amazons Attack!", which was supposed to be a major event, I guess. Unfortunately, it was terribly executed, made no sense, and reflected how little thought had really gone into Wonder Woman by the DC powers that be with the Infinite Crisis re-launch.

Add in the side-events, such as the death of Bart Allen, and Countdown was a colossal trainwreck this year for the DCU. The idea of tying the books together didn't really work. And shouldn't work over the course of a year. At best, that's a one month event editor's should try every year or two. If not less frequently.

Marvel's Civil War may have succeeded far better for one single reason (aside from the writing, and there being a point): Something explicit was happening in the Marvel Universe, so each character had an opportunity to react to it. Countdown chose to be a story of covert happenings and occurrences on other-dimensional versions of the DCU Earth. From the first issue, there was never anything for the characters in the other books to actually react to. Certainly there was no sense that anything was "Counting Down".

One of the funnier things, to me, about the whole Countdown debacle started when I was writing for Comic Fodder. Contributor Jason C. had proposed we write a series of alternating articles, ostensibly about Countdown, but to never actually discuss Countdown in the articles. "Because", he explained, "Countdown isn't about anything." I think I understood at the time, but Jason C. has a PhD, and I do not, and so it was that every few weeks upon closing an issue of Countdown, Jason's words would come back to haunt me.

For a sampling, go here and here of what was to be a year-long meta-joke, that only ran 6 installments.

Structurally, Countdown broke down almost every issue to show you what was going on with some aspect of the "Countdown" story. There was a storyline featuring a rogue Captain Atom as "Monarch", forming a trans-dimensional army to do... something. With a character called Forerunner, who was... supposed to do something...

The "Challengers" were supposedly hopping from Earth-to-Earth across the DC Multiverse in order to find Ray Palmer. There was a mysterious tattoo we were supposed to learn more about, that looked like the symbol of The Atom. The Challengers were made up of Donna Troy (DC's answer to the lifeless student council president), Kyle Rayner (the fifth wheel of the GL Corps), Jason Todd (who should have stayed dead), and a Monitor.

The Monitors were supposed to care about people jumping from world-to-world, but why they cared was never made clear.

Darkseid was up to... something.

For some reason Karate Kid and part o Triplicate Girl from the Levitz/ Giffen era Legion was there. And had Space Herpes.

Jimmy Olsen (one of my favorite characters of the Silver Age) was involved, probably to revitalize Jimmy as a character. Unfortunately, the writers seemed to hate writing Jimmy, and never bothered to give us a reason to like Jimmy or care.

Harley Quinn and Holly Robinson, two characters who've never been that popular in the DCU, were death marched through a nonsensical plot that I'm embarrassed to even describe, and came off as equally grating and useless to the entire Countdown story.

Speaking of useless, Flash villains Trickster and Piper shared a storyline that was supposed to give off the same spark as the movie "The Defiant Ones", but came off more like "Fled".

And, of course, the character self-immolation DC felt was necessary for Mary Marvel, the only non-whiny female teen in the DCU (well, I guess we have Misfit now over in BoP).

A few things:

-It seems that none of these storylines would have been approved by DC as a 6-issue mini-series, so why they were part of DC's YEAR LONG, 52 issue event is a mystery.

-It seems that having a writer who was passionate about any of the stories might have been to the overall story's benefit. Instead, rotating through writers every week... didn't work. I can't shake the feeling the lack of enthusiasm stemmed from the D-list level of characters, and, of course, the fact that the story made no sense.

-Somehow the series lasted 52 episodes, and yet we learned nothing about the characters. How does that even happen? The one character who actually HAD a character story-arc was Mary Marvel, and her awakening was literally magically infused.

-The characters carry a person with a deadly virus all over the place instead of just quarantining them. Plus, if you're familiar with how diseases spread, kids... pretty much the whole JLA/ JSA and the DCU should have been infected as Karate Kid should have been contagious before showing any symptoms. Plus, when, where and how did he get infected?

-The plot was not just all over the map, it was across 52 maps. Not a single storyline had a satisfying conclusion. In no way did the events of the final seven issues or so really tie into the first 40+ issues. Instead, our protagonists just stood around watching events unfold on Apokolips, on Earth-1, on Earth-52 and sort of through the whole series, really. Aside from mindless brawls here and there, did anybody actually DO anything in this series?

-The whole Morticoccus thing was just awful. As was Brother Eye/ OMAC. What was I supposed to get out of that? Where in continuity Kirby's ideas came from? From frikkin' Karate Kid?

Oh, DC. Do you ever write these things down, sleep on it, and look at it in the morning to see if they make sense before you start writing the script? Because it sort of feels like the whole story was the result of cramming for finals on too much coffee and No-Doze.

I'm inclined to believe something pretty major happened at the DC offices somewhere around week 15 when they realized readers were staying away in droves. It can't have helped that writers on other books were having a bear of a time trying to tie back into Countdown in some way, when the story wasn't really much of a story.

Unfortunately, DC was more about saving face with keeping the weekly machine going, rather than actually fixing the problems of Countdown. Or someone grabbing the editor and asking him if he actually asked what the story was before the damn series got started.

To add insult to injury, DC launched several companion series, many of which I began reading, and stuck only with "Death of the New Gods" through to the end. I am sad to say I was not enjoying Steve Gerber's work on Doctor Fate prior to Gerber's death, but after the very straightforward and interesting idea of Kent and Inza Nelson plus helmet was tossed to the side, I'm afraid yet another adaptation of the Fate idea just wasn't working for me. At all. Nor did "Countdown to Adventure", that Lord Havok series, or whatever else they were throwing my way.

In truth, "Death of the New Gods" reminded me why I'm not much of a Jim Starlin fan. Starlin has a reputation for the cosmic, but when simultaneously reading Kirby's original work, side-by-side with this series, Starlin comes up far, far short in understanding the characters, dialog, and energy that Kirby put into the original work.

Like Countdown, Death of the New Gods seemed largely plotless, and the reveal of the murderer wasn't just disappointing, but a smear on the work of Kirby and the many writers who have come after in an attempt to keep Kirby's flame alive.

Countdown could have been easily read and enjoyed without Death of the New Gods, but would have left An early issue or two of Countdown, and Issue 2 of Countdown feeling a bit out of place. Not that the conclusion to Death of the New Gods and the events of Conclusion match up in any satisfying way...

In truth, Countdown and Death of the News Gods each turned out to be enormous disappointments. And the worst part is, because I took a risk, week after week, believing DC had a plan in mind, I was going to get something out of all of this when the story wrapped up. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Which means I'm out a lot of money for collecting both series.

So what to do now?

DC Universe Zero comes out Wednesday. Is a single issue, and written by Johns and Morrison. And is 50 cents. So I'll pick that up. I'll pick up Final Crisis, mostly because I trust Morrison.

As per DC's next weekly series... I'm picking up the first four issues. I trust writer Kurt Busiek to an extent, but I'd be foolish after this debacle to keep going back to a weekly series and expect that DC had a master plan in mind if its looking like they really don't.

I might swing a bit to the left, but I believe capitalism works. When i used to write at Comic Fodder, i would always encourage readers to "vote with their dollars". In a way, I did vote with my dollar. I voted that I had confidence that DC had a plan, and I wanted to be on board to see what that plan was. So I took an expensive gamble and I lost.

Do I feel like a sucker: I didn't. Not until that page where the new team of The Atom, Donna Troy, Jimmy's insectoid ladyfriend and someone else decided to front with the Monitors, which I totally didn't buy. At that point, I was left wondering where the hell they came to the conclusion that the people who stood by and watched two worlds die were going to (a) hold anyone responsible for stuff that, really, had nothing to do with the Monitors, and (b) how they were going to do something now, when they hadn't done anything before. At that point, I felt like a sucker, because I realized DC had spent the entire Challengers storyline setting me up for a series that sounds very much not up my alley, and I'd give 12 issues before cancellation.

What DC can do for me:

52 left a lot of hanging threads. The Island of Mad Scientists. Lady Styx. Steel. Do wright by these. (And Infinity Inc. is not, by definition, doing anyone any favors).

If you want to do a weekly comic, think about a new format. It doesn't need to be a year-long. Think anthology. Think classic Showcase formatting. I'd read a weekly book featuring c-list characters, especially if I knew storylines were going to wrap up and not last for 52 issues.

Pay attention to what made The Sinestro Corps War story work in Green Lantern and GLC. Note how it didn't have a multitude of mini-series tied in. Note how the story built out of characters and character motivations, and not just "let's make Mary Marvel Evil".

DC does have an aging audience of older readers who have seen it all. The references to older events in Countdown were interesting, but you can't base a storyline around nostalgia for work that is significantly better than what you're putting on the page. Don't remind me you're nowhere near as talented as Jack Kirby by trying to use his ideas, or that you're not even as much fun as the old Superman's Pal comics by referencing Jimmy's many transformations.

Signs indicate that DC has learned many lessons from Countdown. Heck, the latest DC Nation column read something like an apology for Countdown (not yet online).

So I don't count DC down for the count yet.

If you take a look at the line, the Batbooks are the best they've been since I started reading Alan Grant/ Norm Breyfogle and was wowed by Jim Aparo's Dak Knight. The Superman books are in good hands and seem to be headed in a clear direction, with a new continuity that ties in the best of all the eras of Superman. Green Lantern is amazing. Gail Simone is pulling Wonder Woman out of the gutter, and simultaneously talking to previous authors of Wonder Woman about what made the character work for them. Justice Society is a great read every month. And Justice League ain't half-bad, either. Even the formerly luke-warm Legion series is a page-turner. And I really dug the latest Suicide Squad run.

Count me in for Morrison's work on Final Crisis.

It's too bad the "spine" idea didn't work out, but I understand why it couldn't. I just wish it hadn't set me back so much dough.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Titans #1 v. Tiny Titans #3

In the mid-80's, Teen Titans and X-Men were the go-to books of choice for many readers. Both were team books. Both featured a youngish cast with problems from a soap opera, littered with decent villains. Both had writers which planned long term and built a universe within the book.

My first exposure to Teen Titans was actually in a DC anthology, published in a smallish format called a "Blue Ribbon Digest"* (they'd reduced the page size). The reduction probably didn't do George Perez's art any favors, and the issue was not about non-stop action, but rather... the wedding of Donna Troy to some bearded dork named Terry. I would be college before I would consider the matching of a nebbish dweeb to an Amazon princess to be an odd pairing, and to this day I think its the creepiest thing to ever occur in Titans.

Titans sold big numbers back in the day, but, as these things occur, somehow the fanbase drifted away. Including myself. I don't know if it was a change up of creative teams, change up of the roster (I recall being confused and annoyed by the "Danny" character), the conclusion of too many threads by Wolfman leaving them grasping at straws... And I've heard weirdness about the decision in the 1980's to make Titans a direct market book, which seems almost suicidal in the age of the spinner-rack and before most readers were old enough to have a driver's license. I think DC and Marvel, in NYC, often lose sight of what it means to not have public transportation readily available to get the kids to a comic shop.

Many, many incarnations of the Titans have resurfaced since the 80's run drew to a close. Aside from the Geoff Johns penned run of Teen Titans (circa 2003), none have really taken off. Even that "Teen Titans" series eventually became a plotless slugfest with underdeveloped characters who whined relentlessly. And, it didn't star the Wolfman-era Titans, anyway.

Titans #1

The new series picks up the action from the Titans East one-shot which ran several months ago to absolutely no fan reaction. Penned by Judd Winick, he of the "let's bring Jason Todd back to life" plotline, the narrative of the issue is entirely dependent on a huge amount of a priori knowledge by the reader. In fact, for a number 1, there's literally no way a reader would be able to follow this issue without a whole lot of DC comics at their fingertips. It references the series "52", Countdown to Adventure, 70 years of Batman comics, recent storylines/ mindless violence of Teen Titans, the Titans East one-shot, JLA, the Flash comics, etc... And while all of those should be respected by a writer on a team book, assuming the reader is up to speed is a mistake. Further, the conclusion of the issue references a run of Titans which occured more than twenty years ago. Twenty (actually, something like 24 years ago).

It's not a big deal to do this in comics. Dusty, bench-riding characters re-appear all the time in comics. But the normal MO is to drop some exposition and treat the reader coming to an issue marked #1 as if this is a brand new comic. I'm not sure this would prevent this reader from believing that Winick has made a career at DC out of taking decent concepts from the past and recycling them and/ or putting a pretty bland spin on them. In any case: what is DC saying by assuming new readers will be up on a 20+ year old story? And begin the action as if this were just another mishap in the lives of the original Titans?

The gravest mistake Winick makes is going for the tried-and-true mode of bringing a team together by having all of them randomly attacked by a former villain who has returned from the grave. I feel a bit cheap criticizing this tactic as Morrison ingeniously used it in recent issues of Batman, but perhaps that's the difference between Winick and Morrison's skill level.

Add in Churchill's cupcake skirt cheesecake art, and there's nothing to love here.

Given Winick's tendency to sort of muck up a lot of good concepts (the ScareBeast? Really?), and the retreading of the Trigon story, which seems as if its pretty well-worn territory at this point, I'm not in for issue #2.

Tiny Titans #3

For Leaguers looking for (a) a comic they can put in the hands of their kids, or (b) a genuinely funny, if a bit adorable, read... Tiny Titans is your comic.

Tiny Titans is intended to reach kids well under the median age of comic readers, and should be aimed at 4-10 year olds. Little kids will like the pictures. Olderkids will like the hi-jinks and school setting of the series. It features Titans from all eras of the Titans, from Rose Wilson to Kid Flash (Wally).

The concept is fairly simply: There's a school where the superhero kids go. It's just plain old school, not superhero school. The villains of Titans are cast either as teachers or rival kids within the school (Deathstroke is leading Show and Tell, which is hilarious in and of itself). Titans are mostly a bunch of goofy kids in capes and masks with powers which are best for goofing around, and not necessarily crime-fighting.

It's a cute comic. I'd hand it to a kid in a heartbeat. If they don't get the jokes, well... woe unto them.

I suspect that if the indie crowd found Tiny Titans, it could be their only non-Vertigo DC title they'd pick up, especially thanks to the little in-jokes and whatnot that pervade the comic.

Highly recommended.

*Why DC does not publish a similar sort of anthology these days is beyond my ability to comprehend. This WAS my gateway drug to the DCU. It fetured Legion, Outsiders, Infinity Inc. and the Titans. Looking at this page, it looks like, had I found more of these, I would have been into DC many years earlier.

I just think its a neat format, and the price point seemed like a good entry for folks wantuing to try some stuff out.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Comic Book Make League Cry

I know it doesn't really matter if I beg or plead with my good Leaguers... You're unlikely to pick up a comics just becasue I say so.

But if the League may recommend: All-Star Superman #10

The League is not made of stone, and every once in a while we're also particularly tired and/ or not feeling well. And in those moments, well, we confess a tear or two might creep to the edges of our otherwise manly, manly eye.

Things in comics that made me cry:

-The death of Hippolyta in Wonder Woman. Poor, poor Diana. For the love of God, comic nerds, be good to your mother. You never know when an evil space tyrant is going to take her away.

-We3. Pretty much every panel of every page of We3 had me sort of teary. It's partially due to something about how Frank Quitely draws, and partly because I'm a sucker for animal stories.

-Lois's face when she sees Superman again at the end of New Frontier. Sometimes someone actually understands Lois and Superman, and Cooke knocked it out of the park. Sadly, the movie didn't really capture the moment in quite the same way.

-Promethea. When Promethea turns to the reader and speaks to them in the penultimate issue of the series. This series was so underrated and under-appreciated in its time, its a crime. Moore truly succeeded with pushing the boundaries of reality on this one, and his collaboration with JH Williams is one of the finest examples of art and words mixing as they can only in comics that I've had the privilege to see. What Buddy Baker began with his "I can see you" business reaches a new apex.

Also, maybe one day Jamie will let me hang my two Promethea prints.

Amazing Spider-Man #36
- It's tough to imagine with a few years of separation, but in the wake of 9-11, Marvel Comics interrupted the storyline of the Spider-Man comics to tell a story devoid of cynicism, and which captured some small aspect of the tragedy of 9-11. And just as it uses the eyes of Spider-Man to capture the helplessness of the day, we also see the determination of the real heroes of 9-11 reflected in the story.

Had this story been printed now, it would seem odd, manipulative, and in questionable taste to use the very real tragedy of 9-11 as a backdrop for a tale of the wall-crawler. But at the time... And even today as the tragedy of 9-11 fades from view with the passage of time, it will be a time capsule of how we reacted in the days, weeks and months following. No doubt some readers will feel it absurd, even insulting that Marvel would have dared to tell a Spider-Man story, but that is now. This was then.

There are also stories of how quickly this comic was produced, hitting the shelves by November, 2001. Indeed, you can feel the urgency of the story, and the raw feelings of a true moment in history and how Marvel tried to come to grips with what was the only thing on everyone's mind.

Laika - Is there anything more likely to make you cry than shooting a puppy into space with no plans to bring it back? Reall, you could probably get my lower lip trembling just asking me to tell you what our Russian friends did to get something alive into space before the US of A.

This is, also, a great comic. I highly recommend.

First in Space - America's inability to treat its own non-human astronauts with John Glen-like-respect gets its own treatment in this true story of the US's first chimp in space, Ham. Suffice it to say, The League's feelings regarding poor treatment of chimps, especially when its a true story, are perhaps stronger than we care to admit.


All-Star Superman #10 managed to fall somewhere in there. And for Superman fans, Morrison and All-Star Superman have been nothing less than a gift. Each panel reflects more understanding of who Superman is and what that should mean rather than the mere caped do-gooder too many writers have fallen back on. The essence of what fans find in the character is omnipresent in each of Quitely's perfectly composed pages.

As with We3, and parts of new X-Men, Morrison and Quitely seem to have a synergy few other writer/ artist teams seem able to capture. Quitely manages to convey the quiet magic of Superman's world in a manner that seems to have been lost since the days of Curt Swan, with broad expanses necessary to contain the Man of Steel. His renderings of each character's expressions rival Kevin MacGuire for internal monologue.

The ideas and understanding of what a Superman would mean to the world, and what responsibilities that Superman would feel pervade the issue. But to tell it is to give the moments away.

Perhaps when the series is completed and collected, I can recommend the trade collection. In the meantime, you're missing out on one of the best comics on the stands. If we get a little misty when reading All-Star Superman, we hope you'll forgive us. The same thing happens whenever I watch Superman and they do that pan over the Kryptonian landscape.

The League doesn't mind shedding a few tears now and then. We're sensitive like that.

As much as I love getting a good laugh out of a Jimmy Olsen comic, every once in a while, its nice to know comics can be a powerful enough medium to involve us enough in the characters, in their worlds, to maybe do a bit more than tell another tale of fisticuffs and heat vision.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Comics You Should Be Reading: Action Comics

The League was reading some of his weekly stash of comics last night, and I was reminded that while one of the primary missions of The League of Melbotis is a forum for my Super-Fandom, I don't always mention the comics.

I stick with the Superman titles through thick and thin, sort of like a Cubs fan might stick with the Cubbies. And just as a Cubs fan might get very excited when they enter the play-offs, so do I get excited when the comics are on an uptic of quality.

Writer Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, JSA, etc...) was once a film-school graduate working as an assistant to Richard Donner, director of Superman: The Movie. It took Johns a while to work his way through the DCU to his current position as writer of GL, Action Comics, and pretty much any other property he wants to get his hands on.

Honestly, when Donner and Johns took over on Action Comics, I was a bit skeptical. Johns' love of Superman was well-known, and I was concerned he would be too concerned about making a wrong move and begin on a forgettable run. But that wasn't the case.

The Up, Up and Away storyline ran through Superman and Action Comics in mid-2006

Johns teamed first with writer Kurt Busiek for the first One Year Later storyline "Up, up and Away", a storyline which re-set the status quo for Superman and the World of Metropolis. After that, Johns and Donner moved into telling the story "Last Son", which would introduce the triumverate of Zod, Ursa and Non to the comics for, really, the first time. (Zod and other Phantom Zone survivors had appeared in the comics during the Bronze Age, from the Weisinger and Schwartz eras of editorialship, but the trio seen in Superman: The Movie and Superman II were somewhat an amalgamation of characters seen in the comics.)

"Last Son" was a fascinating storyline, but... artist Adam Kubert ran late with his issues, winding up with fill-ins during the middle of the storyline, and culminating in the single, 3D issue of Action Comics 851 (which was cool), but the storyline broke precedent and never actually wrapped up. Apparently series artist Adam Kubert, who had been announced as coming onto the comic with huge fanfare, simply wasn't keeping up with his duties. Kubert helps run the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning, and who knows what else was going on in his private life.

A Kubert Action Comics cover

Unfortunately, despite the engaging story, the delays made the comic impossible to recommend, and shook my faith in what Johns was brining to the title. A few fill ins and an unexpected Annual issue later, and the series was back on track with Eric Powell drawn Escape from Bizarroworld.

Powell's work on the JLA of Bizzaroworld

With 52 concluded and Teen Titans no longer on his plate, Johns seems to have found focus on both Green Lantern and Action Comics. Donner is no longer on the writing team, and it may be a case of Johns slipping backward into fanboyishness... But the current storyline "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes".

Superman is asked to return to the future of the 31st Century, re-establishing continuity lost during the Crisis on Infinite Earths and with the Byrne/ Wolfman reboot of the Superman titles with Man of Steel. He learns that an "Earth First" movement has meant that the true story of Superman, now 1000 years in the past, has been co-opted by the movement and changed so that the people of Earth would believe Superman was born on Earth, denying his Kryptonian heritage. They are using this as part of an anti-alien propaganda, which is leading to war between Earth and other planets of the 31st Century.

Gary Frank's art on the cover of Action Comics

It's a good read, despite some gaps in logic that could use some explaining. The action is fast-paced, and while it's certainly rewarding to know a bit about the Legion, it's not a requirement for getting into the story. The threats are understandable and of an appropriately enormous scope for a Legion and Superman story. There's a common complaint in comics that the fanboys are now writing the comics, and that's inherently bad for comics. But in the case of Johns, his understanding of the publishing history of Superman and the Legion helps to make a textured read with a good understanding of character and character motivation.

Add in the pencils of Gary Frank, whose style one might compare to a less cartoonish Steve Dillon (sharing the love and mastery of the facial expression), mixed with detail of far more naturalistic artists, its a great look for the title. Especially as Frank has internalized Christopher Reeve for his version of Superman, and gives the reader a Superman with distinct facial characteristics.

You may still be able to pick up this storyline from the first issue at your local comic shop, or may wish to wait for the inevitable collection. Either way, now's a great time to be jumping into Action Comics.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Comics You Should Be Reading: Captain America

America, @#$% YEAH!!!

So, you may have heard several months ago: They killed Captain America.

What they did not tell you is that the 24 issues leading up to the Death of Captain America and the subsequent issues following have been absolutely engaging reading.

I thought I'd post on this, thanks to this story which ran today on

Writer Ed Brubaker took over the reigns on the flagship title for the Sentinel of Liberty, relaunching the series with a new #1. I was familiar with Brubaker from his work, mostly, on Gotham Central (perhaps DC's most underrated title of the past six years), and had read a few other comics he'd penned, and had planned to follow him to Marvel. I did pick up issue #1 of Brubaker's run, enjoyed it, and planned to pick up the collections of the series... But somehow I never got around to doing so.

And then I heard they were bringing back Bucky.

Bucky was Captain America's youthful sidekick in the original comics sold during WWII, but he'd never been part of Captain America since Atlas/ Timely became Marvel. It had been explained that Bucky was killed during the final mission in which Cap, himself, fell into the sea to be frozen until found and thawed by the Avengers. Wacky stuff, but, you know... you grow up with an idea and it doesn't sound totally weird.

Anyhow, Bucky's death was canon, and for whatever reason I took exception to the idea that they'd bring back Bucky Barnes. His death was as fundamental to the mythos as the death of Jason Todd had become to the Bat-comics. Well, of course, we know what happened with Jason Todd, and so perhaps having Bucky around didn't seem that crazy.

Brubaker's take on Cap isn't so much superhero as super-soldier. Or, more specifically, super-anti-terrorist operative. World weary, but with a certain optimism and faith in what he's doing, it makes for a good, three dimensional character behind the shield.

The plot is not convoluted in the way so many comics can become, but rather feels novelistic. There's a lot going on that doesn't require punches to the head (although those happen, too), and there's a good story. Good enough that, in the telling, the return of Bucky feels less like a stunt to draw in readers, and more like one of the unfortunate side effects of the world Cap's been a part of since WWII.

The New Cap

I have to thank Nathan Cone for pointing me back towards the series. Part of why I picked up the Omnibus was that Nathan told me he was reading the series and was still very enthusiastic about it.

You may be aware that Cap was killed some time back, but that story is just as fascinating to watch unfold. Unlike the impenetrable and winding plots of the Death of Superman and World without a Superman stories, the post-Steve Rogers world feels organic, and as if the characters are acting from a real sense of loss and grieving (which, in superhero comics, rarely means sitting around crying).

Anyhow, pick up Brubaker's Captain America.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

You Should Be Reading: BLUE BEETLE

I was as bummed as the next guy when DC killed off Ted Kord in the event comic "Countdown to Infinite Crisis". And I think, in some ways, DC knew they'd kind of made a mistake. They'd finally put the spotlight on a character who was almost universally loved, but who had a hard time making it as anything but a supporting character. But certainly, the fanbase liked the character and wanted the possibility of having Ted in more stories.

Ted Kord as Blue Beetle was just fun. He was Batman with none of the trauma, cool gadgets and a fun pal in Booster Gold. What wasn't to like?

I'm happy to report that, in spite of the end of a great character in Ted Kord, DC's replacement wasn't just some half-baked replacement so they could put out a new #1 and temporarily lift sales. DC introduced a whole new concept with the creation of Jaime Reyes, a 16 year old living in El Paso who has merged with the Blue Beetle Scarab once owned by the first Beetle, Dan Garrett, and the second, Ted Kord.

I was originally skeptical. Both Marvel and DC had been trying to catch lightning in a bottle again since Spider-Man hit the scene with a constant stream of teen-agers with varying degrees of tragic backgrounds and mopeyness. The formula had never really managed to coalesce again, but that didn't mean teen-book after teen-book hadn't hit the shelves.

Jaime doesn't always handle all of the threats he faces with the calm, cool nerve of an action hero.

Blue Beetle tried something a little different. Jaime wasn't an edgy kid, he was a good kid who lived with his parents and had a fairly standard relationship with his folks. He even told them about his Beetle-powers right off the bat. Further, he had supportive friends, also in on the secret identity, and stayed in El Paso, rather than immediately getting shipped off to some other town that the writers might know better.

Perhaps because Jaime isn't moody or depressing, its a bit easier to believe he's tossed himself headlong into the superhero business with his family's support and a bit of fun rather than because he's suffering from crushing guilt.

Moreover, John Rogers has managed to tell a fairly expansive story without undue decompression, and after providing several pieces along the way, the story of Blue Beetle is finally coming to a head.

Beetle keeps good company. This issue featured Beetle and Superman visiting Austin, for which the artist had no references.

Honestly, if DC is looking for a property they could easily bring to other media, the latest version of Blue Beetle is it. The generational aspect of the character might be fun to explore, but I think audiences would also really respond to not-just-eager-but-uncertain hero Jaime Reyes. Throw in one of the best supporting casts in comics since Clark Kent met Lois Lane, and there's a lot there.

I don't know if DC and writer Keith Giffen knew exactly what they wanted to do for the first few issues, but when the comic was handed over to John Rogers and the armor changed from so weird it was thought to be magic to a sci-fi angle with global consequences, it's been one of the comics I pick up first from my stack every time it comes out.

I should also add that there have been occasional guest-written issues, and those have been fun as well. I think that already the character and his environment are well-enough defined that guest writers can step in and keep up the spirit that Giffen and Rogers have worked to define.

Check it out. Blue Beetle is a good read.

Plus, really, the armor is totally cool.