Friday, October 31, 2003

Amazing Spider-Man #500 - A Review

Written by: J Michael Straczynski
Penciled by: John Romita Jr. & John Romita Sr.
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: Avalon
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

SCENE: The Void Between Realities

(Peter jumps and finds himself in a cemetery. He sees himself as an older man.)

Old Peter: Aunt May, I’m sorry. I’ll make you proud, I promise. Top of the world, Ma!

(The cops move in on Old Peter as Peter looks the other way)

Peter: What the-

(We see a Younger Peter Parker. Young Peter is standing at the back of a crowd… as a familiar glowing spider crawls down from the ceiling)

Peter: What the…. Yes, I know. It is my destiny to change into the spider that bit me, thus performing a loop in time that can never be broken, thus preventing that future I just saw from happening.

(Peter tries… and fails to become a spider)

Peter: Shoot… wait a second, that’s Barry Allen… not me.

(Old Peter looks back at the tombstone)

Old Peter: Don’t try to save me. This is the end. Besides, if you got killed saving your future self, it would kinda defeat the point. And we have enough paradoxes to deal with in our past as is.

Peter: Well, yeah. Any advice you can give me to avoid this happening?

Old Peter: Nah, not really. Besides, as countless X-Men stories have shown us, trying to alter the future based on what you see in a vision or what some time traveler tells you is just asking for trouble. And everyone will forget about me as soon as a new writer takes over the book. Just remember to treat MJ right, tell her that you love her and do right by our son.

Peter: Our son? No daughter?

Old Peter: Nope. Chew on that, Spider-Girl fans!

Peter: Huh. Oh well. Maybe I can stop all that from happening by stopping the spider from biting my past self! Of course that in itself will cause a paradox because if I don’t become Spider-Man, I will never have wound up here in the void to stop myself from being bit. On the other hand, think of all the innocents who will die if I’m not Spider-Man. But on the other hand, if I don’t become Spider-Man, Uncle Ben will have never died. Or Gwen. Or Ned Leeds. Or…

Dr. Strange’s Voice: Are you done guilting out yet?

Peter: Well, I did have a little bit of angsting left….

Dr. Strange’s Voice: There will be time enough for that later. Right now, I need you to embrace the Spell of Becoming.

Peter: Becoming what?

Dr. Strange’s Voice: Becoming a frog if you don’t stop being whining. Now, this spell will slowly bring you forward in time along your own lifeline, forcing you to relive a number of important events from your own life.

Peter: Oooh! Like Quantum Leap.

Dr. Strange: Yes, except without so much coherence or the drag jokes.

Peter: Groovy. Well, thank goodness I’m already past puberty at this point.

(Peter wanders through super-villain fight after super-villain fight; a gigantic montage and tribute to the early works of Stan Lee; all available for your reading pleasure in the “Essential Spider-Man Volumes 1-5” Trade Paperback Collection.)

Peter: Geez, that was a gratuitous plug.

CUT TO: The Office of “Starman” Matt Morrison

Starman: What? It’s a good series!

CUT TO: The Brooklyn Bridge

Peter: Wait a minute…I thought it was the George Washington Bridge?

Green Goblin: It depends on which printing you have. Not that it matters because your girlfriend is falling off of it!

Peter: What? Gwen? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

(Peter jumps and tries to save Gwen. He goes back into the void before he can shoot a web)

Dr. Strange’s Voice: Follow my voice.

Peter: No!

Dr. Strange’s Voice: Follow my voice.

Peter: NO!

Penelope Cruz: Open your eyes.

Peter: What?

Dr. Strange’s Voice: Ignore her… and follow my voice.

Peter: No! I can’t do this anymore… I can’t look at all the things I’ve done…everything that happened and… it’s just nonstop fighting and violence and madness… like a Chuck Dixon comic.

Dr. Strange’s Voice: Do you know what the greatest gift that anyone can receive in his lifetime is?

Peter: Yes, but I can’t talk about that in a PSR-rated book.

Dr. Strange’s Voice: No. I refer to the one thing that makes your life worth living. (holds his fingers apart) This.

Peter: You SURE you aren’t talking about…

Dr. Strange’s Voice: (sighs) Why do I bother?

Peter: I dunno, but I really liked this talk better when Jack Palance did it.

Dr. Strange: Indeed. But now… follow my voice!

(Peter turns and fights his way across a splash page of nearly every costumed bad guy he ever fought)

Peter: Mmm…. Romita.

(Suddenly, Peter is back in the present. Or twenty minutes before it at any rate.)

Peter: What? Mindless ones? I think…. You there lad, what day is this?

Urchin: Me, sir? Why it’s doomsday!

Peter: Yes! I’m back! There’s still time to change!

(Peter hops up to the roof as the urchin is squished like a grape)

Reed Richards: So all you have to do is channel your energies into the flux capacitor and…

Peter: Wait! I come from a distant future… well, 20 minutes in the future anyway with a warning from my guardian angel, Clarence. If you use the ray thing to close the portals, that big flame-headed evil guy Dr. Strange fights all the time will come back here and loads of bad stuff will happen.

Iron Man: I dunno… it sounds pretty unlikely.

Reed: Well, I suppose it IS possible my meddling with forces I only pretend to understand COULD cause such a thing to happen…

Thor: I sense truth in him though Trickery doth wear many faces. I recall the time that my brother Loki did wear the face of a giant lizard being when we were both youths, and he did convince me that he would eat me were I not to give him all my cookies.

Peter: Yeah… uh… so let’s just kick butt until the Doc gets here to fix things.

Thor: Verily I say then… LET US BRING IT!

(Much more superheroic ass-whooping takes place until Dr. Strange shows up and closes the portal. Sometime later, Dr. Strange and Peter discuss what happened)

Dr. Strange: So my past self sent you back in time and then brought you back here to provide a warning of something that might happen.

Peter: Yeah. And he was still in the future when he did it. So is he still there? Or…

Dr. Strange: It doesn’t matter. Just be thankful that you came through this without your son from the future or an alternate version of him showing up and then getting his own inexplicably popular series.

Scott Summers: (in the background) Tell me about it!

Dr. Strange: Oh, one more thing. Don’t ask me how, but this wound up in my pocket. I believe it is for you. (hands Peter a box)

Peter: Holy snikes! I almost forgot that today is my birthday! Or… wait, it was a few days in the future when I left that it was my birthday… or was it?

Dr. Strange: Time is fluid… especially in our universe. Consider how even now Magneto is enslaving the entire island of Manhattan as years in the future the Asgardians rule the Earth. And in a distant past, Captain American has returned home in 1964 to a world where the Nazis won World War II….

Peter: Uh-huh. Well, I’ll just read the summary later. See ya!

Dr. Strange: Indeed.

(Suddenly Dr. Strange is trapped in a magical bubble)

Dr. Strange: What the-

(ENTER Baron Mordo)

Baron Mordo: Congratulations. Your tampering with the timelines has now allowed me to trap you. Now I shall send you back as you did Spider-Man, arranging things so that you will become much weaker and easier to destroy.

Dr. Strange: If you trapped me so easily, why don’t you just destroy me now?

Baron Mordo: Because then we could not make mention of the upcoming Dr. Strange mini-series!

Dr. Strange: Hold on… I was supposed to get one of those the LAST time I made an appearance in this book…. I couldn’t help Spider-Man because I had an appointment with Death….

Baron Mordo: Don’t hurt yourself thinking about it. Now, onto the past!

(Meanwhile, Peter is web-swinging home. As he crawls through the window..)

Aunt May and MJ: Surprise! Happy Birthday!

Peter: But… when I left, it was late… we were getting ready for bed… and you were… and we were about to… did time warp somehow? Or did-

MJ: Hush. Don’t worry about it! There will be plenty of time for that later, Tiger. And I’ll even wear the heels you like.

Peter: (ponders this) Okay.


Fans Who Read The Issue Already: What? Hey, you left out the best part of the book in your humorous summary!

Starman: Yeah… well, I couldn’t bring myself to make fun of that. All kidding aside, I LOVED this two-part story! Besides, you have to leave SOME surprises.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Of Cons And Continuity

Recently, Judd Winick came under fire by many critics (including yours truly) for his portrayal of certain characters during his tenure on Green Arrow. This criticism became an item of news this past week when Tony Isabella, the creator of Black Lightning, took a vocal place among those same critics.

For those of you who haven’t read the offending issues, Winick’s “Straight Shooter” mini-series introduced us to Jefferson Pierce’s niece, Joanna. Joanna was a lawyer investigating the crimes of a large multi-national corporation who was killed in Green Arrow #30 by an assassin working for that same corporation. The CEO of said corporation, untouchable by any direct proof, was later killed by a bolt of lightning. And while nothing was confirmed directly, the words at the end of Green Arrow #31 as Oliver Queen and Jefferson Pierce talked confirmed that Black Lightning was responsible for the man’s death.

Winick’s run on the book, particularly the last issue has inspired much wailing and gnashing of teeth among fans, critics and comic historians alike.

  • Oliver Queen fans were ill-pleased to see the flirtatious, but never a cheat Oliver Queen (who was ready to propose to Dinah Lance not a few issues earlier!) having a one night stand with the niece of a close friend. Indeed, some wonder how Pierce and Queen became such close friends since their one recorded meeting resulted in the former yelling at the later for nominating him for JLA membership only because of his race.
  • Connor Hawke fans were upset to see the calm, rational and for the most part, pacifist ex-monk using lethal force (in so far as blowing up your own home is lethal force) against a metahuman opponent whose only demonstrated ability was super reflexes.
  • Jefferson Pierce has always been portrayed as a man of unbendable ethics and strong moral values. Indeed, his first solo comic book series ended as Black Lightning retired himself after his powers accidentally caused the death of an innocent bystander. It would be several years before he would return to action at the side of an equally ethical hero with strong qualms about killing; Batman.

Black Lightning has been another sticking point for fans in another Winick book; Outsiders. In that book, one of the new team members is Jefferson Pierce’s daughter, “Thunder”. The problem is that Jefferson Pierce has always been shown as a bachelor and considering what we know of his daughter’s age, she would have been in her early teens, at least, when her father first put on his costume and became Black Lightning – something the ever-responsible Jefferson Pierce as written by Isabella. This begging the question of where did Thunder come from, who was her mom and why did the ever moral Black Lightning find himself as a single father?

Of course this is far from the only argument regarding character portrayal taking place this week. The X-Men fan community, who were already up in arms over just about everything Chuck Austen has done on Uncanny X-Men, REALLY began to wax wroth over the most recent issue, which revealed that…

  • Angel really is an angel.
  • Nightcrawler is really a demon, not a mutant.
  • Nightcrawler’s pappy is none other than Satan himself.

I have little time, space or inclination to quote every single “why this is so wrong” story I have heard about this past issue. Doubtlessly you could search the many X-Men discussion forms on the Internet and find countless complaints with full annotations that could pick apart the entirety of the Austen Uncanny run, if you are so inclined. I will however make mention of two points; one general and one very specific.

  • I am far from an X-Men fan, but I remember stories where Nightcrawler was going bar hopping with the other X-Men. If he was born 20 years ago, as Austen’s first issue of “The Draco” would have us believe, then either there’s been some time warping or someone screwed up what is, a fairly easily researched point.
  • My friend Tanner, who is perhaps the greatest living resource on Nightcrawler lore in this reality, told me about an issue of Excalibur where the team was fighting vampires alongside Dr. Strange. After accidentally being locked up by another vampire hunter (He has fangs!), Dr. Strange used his magic and determined “there is nothing supernatural about (Nightcrawler).

All of this arguing points at one very basic argument between two forces, who for lack of better names, I will call continuity and accessibility. Continuity is the belief in adherence to the traditional portrayal and history of a character. Accessibility is the belief that history can be sacrificed in the name of telling a good story.

Many writers claim accessibility as a reason for why their stories ignore previous stories. In this case, it is harder for the new readers to get into a new title when too much emphasis on what happened before and there is only so much that the “See #242 – Stan!” box can do to help this. The problem with this is that many writers use accessibility to ignore everything that came before them to tell “their” stories, even this requires the characters under their control to do things totally out of character for them or indeed, for the character to change completely.

This is not to say that strict adherence to continuity is any better for a book or its’ characters. There are far too many writers, in comics and other genres, who have made a comfortable living telling the same stories with the same unchanging characters over and over. A little change is needed at times to keep a character fresh and interesting. But this change should come as slowly and naturally as possible.

Still, the question remains; how strict should we be in the treatment of our past history? Some have argued that Tony Isabella has no right to criticize how the character he created is used since DC owns it and that they have no need to ask him how the character is used. Technically, that is correct. However, DC has a history of allowing their creators to have some say over what is done with their creations when they are being used in another book. Neil Gaiman, for example, has been consulted on all the appearances of The Endless and other characters he created for “The Sandman”, such as Dream’s appearance in JLA #23. Also, DC has respected writer James Robinson’s desire to have Jack Knight “retired” in the wake of Starman #80.

Why the disparity? Because Sandman and Starman have very devoted fan bases and any misuse of the characters would inspire irritation not only in their creators but also in that fan base. Black Lighting, while undoubtedly the first major black superhero that DC ever had, has never had the same high level of name recognition or the huge following. Hence, there was no apparent danger in several creators using Pierce as a background character (don’t forget that he became Secretary of Education under President Luthor in the Superman books) and attempting to add something to the mythos to flesh him out. As DC has found out, however, there is apparently enough of a Black Lightning fan base out there to raise a big stink over the man who once retired rather than risk lives striking a man down in anger.

Still, it is my firm belief that the best course lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, it can be a pain to keep up with every little thing that happened in a character’s past but it is ultimately necessary to keep track of certain basic details, like a character’s rough age, (Are they able to drink legally? Are they of the age of consent?), marital status and number of children. It is not, however, necessary to write angry letters to Marvel over Janet Pym’s complaining of her husband’s tacky yellow costume when she was the one who made him the purple costume in the first place back in AntMan #233 or some such. (Incidentally, I am just making this example up…)

Contrary to the belief of some writers, past continuity can be taken into consideration and be used to enhance stories in ways beyond providing “I am so smart” points for the devoted fans. Consider the entire run of Geoff John’s JSA. Consider Mark Waid’s run on Fantastic Four. Consider even this past week’s Amazing Spider-Man #500, which recanted a number of past Spider-Man moments and very few of them major events. All of these books have taken the past mythologies created by other writers and used them to enhance the present stories rather than dismissing the past as irrelevant and unimportant.

In the end though, it is all a matter of making the fans happy. The dollars and cents you spend on each book are a vote of sorts, letting the publishers know what books you think are worth your trouble. So if you have an issue with a writer and what they are doing, don’t just piss and moan about it on a message board - Just stop buying the book. You’ll be much happier in the long run, trust me.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Hawkeye #1 - A Review

Written by: Fabian Nicieza
Penciled by: Stefano Raffaele
Inked by: Stefano Raffaele
Colored by: Ben Dimagmaliw
Lettered by: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I have a confession to make here. I’ve never read that many Hawkeye stories, thinking him the poor man’s Green Arrow. I must admit though, this is hardly a fair comparison as the characters do have some major differences. Sure, both of them have a bad boy image and openly questioned the leaders of their respective teams… but Hawkeye had once operated as a criminal whereas Oliver Queen had always been an abider of the law, if not particularly ethical in regards to his love affairs. Oliver Queen made-do without trick arrows for a number of years whereas Clint Barton always seemed dependent on them to remain on an even keel with the heroes around him Hawkeye lead his own team whereas Green Arrow has shown little interest in leading anyone and indeed had to be wrestled into team-ups and crossovers through most of his career.

And I’m sure I’m not the only fan disappointed to see that the latest Avengers/JLA issue really didn’t settle the issue of who the better archer is- indeed, they seemed to rub our nose in the fact that it WOULDN’T be shown, even as we get to watch Wonder Woman wrestle Hercules and Superman battle Thor. But I digress… I mention Green Arrow, not just for the basis of comparison, but because in an odd way Hawkeye #1 reminds me of the kind of stories Mike Grell used to tell back in his legendary eight-year run on the character.

This is a good simple story about a guy with a talent, trying to help people out simply because it is the right decent thing to do; the kind of man who will step in and deal with an abusive boyfriend even as he is waiting for his hotter-than-hell Chili to be delivered. (Hmm… I wonder what that reminds me of ol’ Ollie) The plot unfolds more or less from the above scene; Clint drives across the country to try the chili at a dive and gets involved after seeing a woman being harassed by a larger man. After tracking the woman down and proving himself no mean detective (and spouting one of the funniest lines I’ve read recently), Clint sets about trying to figure out who is responsible for the woman’s problems.

I haven’t seen any work by Stefano Raffael before, but I like most of what I see here. He draws good characters in close-up, those his pencils do get a bit sloppy and indistinct in far shots. He also has a heavy-shadow inking style that looks wonderful in the early scenes taking place at night but is sorely out of place in the later scenes taking place in broad daylight. Still, most of the art looks good and I love the coloring on the night scenes where everything is blue tinted yet oddly lifelike. Some panels, in fact, look like Tony Harris’ work on Starman.

Overall, this book has me hooked. I’m not crazy about the art in some places, but Nicieza’s writing more than makes up for it, giving Clint a dry humor and likeable presence. I may even give the new Thunderbolts book a look-see, though I stopped reading the original long before Hawkeye ever became the team leader. Maybe that just goes to show that, like Hawkeye and Green Arrow, I can occasionally miss the mark.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Quick Reviews

Once in a while, some books are written that I don’t get a chance to write about during the course of the regular weekly review schedule. When this happens, I use my column to let you, the readers of this magazine, know what I thought about some of the fine periodicals of the day.

And why do I think you people want to know what I think? I know this simply because more people write to tell me how much they like my writing than no.

Incidentally, a quick note to all of my non-fans; the reason I didn’t have a column out last week was due to my being busy with mid-terms and had nothing to do with me being fired. The management would like for me to apologize for getting your hopes up….

but I’m not going to. Honestly, why do you keep reading my work if you don’t like it?

There. On with the reviews!

1602 #3

Shaping up to be the classic you’d expect anything by Neil Gaiman to be. I’m not a big fan of Kubert’s artwork, but he does a good job here and the digital painting technique used on his pencils gives the whole thing the look of a storybook or a stylized woodcut. And yes, it has DOOM!

Agent X #15

The good news is Gail Simone and UDON still have it. The bad news is that #15 is the last issue. The great news is that the door has been left open for more Agency X madness in the future, with all of the old gang together again. And a classic hero (?) thought dead is returned to bring us more ultra-violent buffoonery in the future.

Daredevil #53

Good stuff, but I wish this had been done as an Echo mini-series rather than a part of the regular series. It seems a bit anti-climactic after the epic battle in issue 50 to devote five issues toward a secondary character trying to find a new place for herself in the world. That said, I applaud David Mack’s efforts to develop Echo as a character and must say he has done a great job in making her stand out from the many other women that Matt Murdock has had a disastrous relationship with.

Dr. Fate #3

I’ve been loving this new series, though this was the weakest issue so far. And this weakness came more from some excellently illustrated fight scenes rather than the good dialogue and interesting characters that Golden exposed us to in the first two issues. Still, I plan to stick around for another two issues at least. So far, this book proves to be something magical.

Green Arrow #31

Judd Winnick shows his strength for writing good comedic dialogue, if not keeping his characters consistent with their past portrayals. Consider how Connor Hawke, who has spend years living away from technology in an ashram is now e-mailing and file-swapping with the best of them.

While I don’t think it impossible for Connor to have become a little more techno-savy, I do have some issue with the “all life is sacred” Buddhist cavalierly attacking even a metahuman opponent with intent to kill, going so far as to blow up a building to hurt an assailant whose only apparent power is heightened reflexes. Apparently, someone hasn’t noted that while Oliver Queen has no qualms about killing villains under desperate circumstances, those have to be VERY desperate circumstances. And Connor has always been one to honor life over getting the bad guy. And the issue of Oliver Queen’s casually cheating on Dinah Lance is easily side-stepped as the woman involved in the affair is killed off and forgotten as quickly as she was introduced.

Come back Kevin Smith! All the missed deadlines are forgiven!

Hulk Grey #1

If you like The Hulk or enjoyed Spider-Man: Blue, Daredevil: Yellow or indeed anything that Jeph Loeb or Tim Sale have ever done, then you will love this series. ‘Nuff said!

Knights of the Dinner Table Illustrated #27

One of the funniest issues of this series in recent memory. Misfit adventuring team, The Black Hands, finds themselves having to find a new fourth member after the barbarian Kraggin dies a most messy death in the arena. Sadly, none of their new recruits seem to be making the cut… or are cut down by the assassin Rasputin after only a few hours of questing. A funny book whether or not you are a gamer, all fans of Sojourn, Scion and other fantasy quest comics will greatly enjoy this look at the less-than noble side of adventuring.

Spectacular Spider-Man #5

“The Hunger” has easily proven to be the best Venom story written in the last fifteen years and Paul Jenkins deserved our highest thanks for having given some serious motivation to a character who has often times been written with little of it besides “I want to eat your brains.” While I didn’t like Humberto Ramos’s artwork much in the past, he has grown on me the past few issues and I can’t wait to see this team tackle my favorite Spider-Man villain, Doctor Octopus, in their next major story arc.

Superman/Batman #3

Superman and Batman fight a whole army of super-villains. Simple. To the point. And fun as all get out to watch. I especially liked the “Butch Cassidy/Sundance” moment…

Batman: I think we can take them. Do you think we can take them?

Superman: You always think we can take them.

Batman: Yes I do.

Honestly, I pity you if you aren’t reading this book. World’s Finest, indeed.

Ultimate Spider-Man #48

Few are the writers can pull off a scene that has double-meanings to the action. And triple meanings are rarer still. And yet Brian Michael Bendis creates such a scene here, with apparent ease in Spider-Man’s assault on the Kingpin’s tower.

Angered by how the media has turned against him, even as Wilson Fisk walks free despite being caught on tape, Peter Parker swings with his best feet forward, intent on confronting Fisk face to face. It is a scene we’ve seen many times before- Spider-Man crashes through the glass window to arrive just in time, like a streak of light. But technology has caught up with the comic book industry and Peter bounces off the reinforced window to Fisk’s office like a bug off a windshield.

And here we have the three elements. First, the humor in that the unexpected has happened and our hero looks foolish because of it. Second, the sheer drama and anger as Peter swears at an impassive Wilson Fisk through the window. Finally, there is the symbolism of the window as the shield that prevents Fisk from being touched by anyone… especially Spider-Man.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

X-Treme X-Men #32 - A Review

Written by: Chris Claremont
Penciled by: Igor Kordey
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: Liquid!
Lettered by: Rus Wooton
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Somewhere in Texas, during mid-term week…


Starman: (tired, but angry) WHAT?!

Daron: Minion, you dare to address your Overlord in such an impudent-

Starman: Oh, it’s you. Listen…this isn’t a great time…

Daron: I know. That is why I called. We have noticed a direct correlation between your enjoyment of a comic and our hits on the website.

Starman: And that is?

Daron: The more you insult a book and its creator, the more hits we get!

Starman: Uh-huh… big news flash.

Daron: Seriously! It is like your spewing of bile attracts readers.

Starman: You sure it isn’t because every time I read a bad comic, my mind rebels against it and creates sarcastic commentary as a defense mechanism in a worst case scenario and people find that amusing?

Daron: No, I’m sure people just like reading you rant about stuff you don’t like and throw insults at it. That is why, because I know you hate it so much, I am going to have you read the new New X-Men.

Starman: But I like New X-Men!

Daron: Ah, beg all you want to but- WHAT?!

Starman: I like new X-Men. Grant Morrison is one of my favorite writers.

Daron: … really?

Starman: Yeah. I think he’s been doing good stuff with the title. Really pushing the X-Men in new directions instead of repeating the SOS every month.

Daron: Blast! Very well… you shall review the new Uncanny X-Men!

Starman: But there’s not a new one this week…

Daron: Damnation! Then you shall read the new X-Treme X-Men.

Starman: Already done.

Daron: Yes, quail in- you did?!

Starman: Yeah. It wasn’t bad.

Daron: It wasn’t?!?!

Starman: Well, it wasn’t that great… but most of my problems with it came from the fact that the whole thing was kinda anti-climactic…

Daron: How do you mean?

Starman: Well, it’s like you walk in on the middle of a action movie without knowing what is going on. There isn’t any effort made to introduce you to what is going on. I mean, practically all the other Marvel Comics fill you in, if not through a one page summary than through a quick summary at the start.

Daron: Yes, but this is X-Men; and X-Fans are notorious for keeping up on their titles and not needing such summaries.

Starman: Yeah, but it’s a pain for those of us who are just getting into things and haven’t been keeping up on twenty-years of Claremont’s character history. And then there’s the big deal about the return of Rogue and Gambit…

Daron: What about it?

Starman: Well, nothing is happening with it! I mean, Gambit is getting some action trying to break into the Bush family ranch with Storm and finding out how Dubya is apparently planning to bring the Sentinels back on-line or do something else decidedly anti-mutant….doing the master thief/superspy thing… but all we see of Rogue is that she got a tattoo, is working as a mechanic and her trying to talk sense into an anti-mutant terrorist named Marie.

Daron: I thought Rogue’s real name was Marie?

Starman: So did I! But apparently she’s going by Anna now.

Daron: Wait a second….Anna? As in-

Starman: Yeah, I read the issue before and she has a “The Piano” poster in her apartment.

Daron: That’s a bit cheesy.

Starman: You think that’s bad, Storm disguises herself as Halle Berry.

Daron: So what’s with this other Marie?

Starman: Same old story… her family got hurt by mutants and yet another anti-mutant terrorist group recruited her. Only interesting part is that apparently some mutant group is trying to segregate themselves away from humans and prompted her going as far over the edge as she did… but its not really that interesting. I mean, they make such a big deal about bringing back one of the favorite couples of mutant-kind and they are barely a part of the story. And the coolest image in the whole book and it is barely examined, but we spend way too long looking at the rise of yet another anti-mutant terrorist group.

Daron: What scene is this?

Starman: Storm makes a tornado and tries to kill the President.

Daron: (writing this down in his journal of world domination ideas) Really? That is most… unheroic.

Starman: Yeah, but… it wasn’t really her. Or she was just trying to scare all the world leader’s straight on trying to kill mutants… or something- which is weird considering that Storm and Gambit are using the same unethical means being used by the mutants who threatened Marie and her family after the attack if that’s the case.

Daron: To the X-Treme, in other words… is the art any good?

Starman: Okay, I guess. A lot of Igor Kordey’s female characters have similar faces. It took me a second, even with the eyepatch and hair-streaks to tell Rogue and “Marie” apart, since I thought Marie WAS Rogue at the start of this issue. But the scene with the attack on Crawford is VERY well illustrated.

Daron: Very well. I think that will suffice for the review. Your words shall be recorded upon the honor roll.

Starman: You mean the website?

Daron: Indeed. Anything further to report?

Starman: Only that I got mail from some crank saying I should knock off the comedic reviews and just report the facts directly rather than subjecting the public to more bad satires and fictional conversations with the editorial staff.

Daron: And do you think this rather lackluster and humorless review has proven the point that you should stick to your comedic works?

Starman: Uh… Overlord, this WAS one of the funny ones. I wasn’t trying to be serious to prove a point this time…

Daron: (long silence) Why on earth are we paying you 0 million dollars, again?

JSA #53 - A Review

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Don Kramer
Inked by: Keith Champagne
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

Keep your Teen Titans and Outsiders, kids. Give me the choice of but one superhero team book a month and I’ll stick with the old school any week of the month! Because more than any other book published today, I can always count on a ripping yarn and some pretty pictures every time I open up this title. In truth, I can count on several stories to keep my interest.

Geoff Johns manages the neat trick of spinning several subplots here and not only does he do so in a totally effortless manner; he makes each plot seem equally important, regardless of how many or few pages it may receive. And more than that, he makes this issue easy to get into even if you haven’t read a single issue of JSA before. And just to give all of you a taste of what gets covered….

*deep breath*

* The origin of the new Crimson Avenger
* The how and why of her efforts to kill the pugilist Wildcat
* Dr. Midnight and his depression over no longer being a real doctor.
* Jesse Quick and her depression over having become depowered since the events of Flash #200
*A growing friendship (and maybe more) between Dr. Midnight and Power Woman
* Black Adam’s further efforts to add on to his more militant team of superheroes.

This much drama could easily become angsty or over the top and yet, it never seems that way. And here’s a big thank you to keeping Dr. Midnight in the limelight on this book… no pun intended. I’ve enjoyed Johns’ take on the character since he first appeared in the book and am glad to see that he is still getting developed, even after his relationship with Black Canary went the way of the dodo- a decision spurred mostly by editorial mandate and pretty much ignored since then by the writers of Birds of Prey and Green Arrow until recently. But I digress.

Kramer had a heavy task to fill taking over the art chores on this book, but he has more filled Leonard Kirk’s shoes. I could talk about how well he draws a gunshot wound or how he manages unique expressions for each character, despite many of them wearing masks that cover their faces. But where he really shines is in the drawing of eyes. You actually get to see the eyes instead of a generic white hole through the masks of his characters… and the eyes say so much from moment to moment. Ted “Wildcat” Grant shows a mischievous twinkle even as he is in danger and Alan “Green Lantern” Scott looks every bit the concerned father as he talks to Jesse Quick. Quite ironic for a book that features a number of physically blinded characters.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Kingpin #5 - A Review

Written by: Bruce Jones
Penciled by: Sean Phillips
Inked by: Klaus Janson
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: Alex Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Call me old-fashioned, but I long for the days when the cover of a comic gave you some idea of what was going to happen inside the book. Maybe not to the extremes of such “talk to the readers” covers like the recent cover of Outsiders #3, but I do like an idea of what I am getting into. I like to see a depiction of the battle that is going to take place in the issue or the character upon whom the issue centers. And by that same token, under no circumstances should you show characters that aren’t in the issue or things that never happen.

I bring this up because for the last four months, Spider-Man has prominently appeared on the cover of this book and for four months, we’ve been luck to get so much as a cameo appearance of old Spidey, much less a speaking role. Well, rejoice True Believers for our favorite wall-crawler finally gets to take action in this issue! Sadly, he doesn’t get into a slugfest against The Big One as per the cover… but then again, we have yet to see Wilson Fisk in a suit in this book either… or seen him with the famous cane that makes up the “I” of the book’s title logo.

In fact, the biggest problem with this book is that it is fighting against the past images of these characters while trying to give us something new and different. And you know what? That’s just fine by me. Sure, a part of me wishes they had left Spider-Man out of this story as (until this issue) he didn’t really add anything to the story. And his presence as a “newbie hero” here drives a rather thick stake into the heart of continuity that had Wilson Fisk established as a major crime lord. Not to mention a decade or two older than he seems to be depicted here and old enough to have a son who had finished college… or are Brian Michael Bendis and I the only ones who remember Richard “The Rose” Fisk?

Still, these are all rather petty complaints. Yes, the covers have been rather shameless about pushing the fact that Spider-Man is in the book, if barely. Yes, this book does violate so many points of Marvel history it is hard to track them all without having religiously reread the original Stan Lee issues of Amazing Spider-Man. All of these points are ultimately irrelevant to the question of whether or not the book is well written, has interesting characters and is drawn well.

The answer to all three of those points is a resounding YES!

The story thus far, dealing with the rise of Wilson Fisk among the gangs as he manipulates the mayoral election of New York City for his own means is as complex and involving as any episode of Sopranos or Law and Order. The action follows the mixing and mingling of four respective sides... if they can be considered sides in a battle where everyone is fighting for themselves.

On the one side, we have Fisk, who has allied himself with Senator Myles Clennon; candidate for mayor of NYC. They have a very simple “scratch my back, I scratch yours” partnership. In the other corner, is Clennon’s main opponent; Senator Bianco, who is closely affiliated with the five big families of the Mafia (no longer the Magia, eh?). And then there’s Portia; Senator Clennon’s ex-wife, who is working on a book that will expose the corruption of the man who abandoned her as well as the street crime problems And finally there is Spider-Man, who is trying to sort through who is a bad guy… or at the very least who is the biggest threat.

In order to weaken Bianco’s position, Fisk arranges to kidnap his son, showing that the man cannot manage his own family, much less a city. This in turn will aggrevate the Mafia, whom Fisk has already made some daring attacks against, having arranged for his own second-in-command to kill the nephew of Don Sanguino. Said second-in-command, Rocko, was stabbed and left for dead back in Kingpin #1, but was found and rescued by Portia, who is using Rocko as her “in” to the world of Fisk and the JV crimes she is investigating.

All of this is neatly explained in this issue, either on the “previously on” Title Page or to a still-confused Spidey as he questions a detective Portia hired in the past. So don’t worry about not knowing anything about the characters or having missed the first few issues- it will all get explained without being too wordy.

I cannot say enough good things about the art. The covers by Tony Harris, while portraying the classic Kingpin, are gorgeous and I think any fault in the depiction probably lies with the editorial staff and not Mr. Harris, who likely painted the covers months ago. The interior artwork is just as gorgeous, with Janson’s inks giving Phillips pencils an appropriately dark aura not unlike that of a more gritty Steve Ditko.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Pardon Our Dust

To all of Mr. Morrison’s fans,

We are sorry to inform you that due to a sudden emergency involving at his place of employment, Mr. Morrison has not had time to scribe one of his famous writings this week. The editorial staff would like to assure you that all is well and that Mr. Morrison has not forgotten his public. His reviews for the week, which were written beforehand, will be published as per usual later today and on Thursday.

To all of Mr. Morrison’s detractors,

We are sorry to inform you that Mr. Morrison has not been fired but proved unable to write a column this week, due to a sudden emergency at work. We apologize for the inconvenience and recommend that you go and enjoy some of our other fine articles and reviews.

To the people who wrote in to complain about the forthcoming “Reasons Why I Am A Better Person Than Jesus: Part One” article Mr. Morrison said he was going to write last week,

It was a joke. The whole thing was a joke. Mr. Morrison does not really think he is better than Jesus and the whole thing was a play upon Mr. Morrison’s egotism, which is as much a joke persona as the shameless, self-promoting blowhard played by Stan Lee.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

NYX #1 - A Review

Written by: Joe Quesada
Penciled by: Joshua Middleton
Inked by: Beaulieu
Colored by: Cadenhead
Lettered by: Elipoulous
Editor: Cebulski
Publisher: Marvel Comics

*cue sad saxophone music*

I wake up in a daze at my desk, the empty glass the first thing I see as my eyes shift into focus. I should take it as an omen of the day to come. That, and a grim reminder that optimist or pessimist, it doesn’t matter when your glass is all empty or not full. Despite my better judgment, I pull myself up. I’m a comic book critic and a damn good honest one. Sadly, only in a better world do good and honest equal rich and my work doesn’t pay the Bills.

The morning mail brings bad news, the one thing that travels faster than light and is more common than stupidity in our universe. The Bills demand attention, specifically Bill my landlord and Bill my accountant. And then there’s the letter about a job. Guy named Daron Dol wants me to look into a new case. Name of NYX. I’d heard a little buzz about the book on the streets, but hadn’t heard much. Then again, books with X in the title are a dime a dozen. At least, they are if you know the right comic shops to browse the bargain bins at. After throwing on my face and my trusty ol’ trenchcoat, I hit the streets aiming for the local comic store.

The store was typical for its ilk. Stained carpet covered the floor and the room was thick with the smell of dust and sweat. The cause of the later stood all about me, salivating over the latest bits of paper and ink that would feed their respective addictions. I bellied up to the counter and nodded to Chris, a comic slinger who I could usually count on for an honest tip.

“NYX, Chris. Heard anything?” Chris looked nervous. Of course he always looked vaguely nervous, like the deer as the headlights bear down on him. He paused, like he was carefully considering his words, before speaking.

“Is about mutant teenagers, Mister Morrison. In New York City.”

“Oh, you’ve gotta have more than that, Chris. There’s a ton of books about that. Didn’t they just start a New Mutants title for that kind of thing? What makes this one so special?”

Chris was beginning his trademarked pause when a gaming grunt from the far end of the counter called for help at the dice display. Seeing an out, Chris ran with it and I found myself alone again, no more the wiser than when I had come in. Knowing future conversation would prove unproductive, I moved to the comic wall.

It took me a few minutes to find a copy of NYX. A cursory glance at the wall showed nothing new in the N-section. Playing a hunch, I looked up to the top two shelves- home to the “adult” comics. Everything that didn’t meet “The Code” or got one of Marvel’s nice new PSR+ ratings. And there it was. Just to the left of the new Punisher book. It took me a minute to pull the book down.

I look at the cover and wince. Meaningless cheesecake of what appears to be an illegal minor and badly drawn in that anime style that is so popular. Still, there is one sign of hope- I see the name Quesada and rejoice. Joey Q- a wonderful artist, whose work on Daredevil helped to revolutionize a sagging company. Then I realize that Quesada is the first name- the space usually reserved for the writer. I open the book and flip through it, looking for a title page.

Joey Q is indeed the writer. And some patsy named Middleton is the artist. I should take it as a warning sign that nobody else got their first names put on the title page, like they were hoping to avoid attention… or the egos of the higher-ups demanded they go by just their surnames. I note that Middleton’s name comes first here- a clear sign of their priorities in promoting this book.

The story centers on a dame named Kiden, who ain’t much of a kid. The plot is nothing special… girl goes wrong after cop father dies, the subject of a hundred after-school specials. As I read on, I see why this book is on the top shelf. Junior-high girls doing drugs while sitting on the toilet. Petty theft of cigarettes. Sneaking into nightclubs and staying out all night. I double check the cover again to confirm that this is indeed a Marvel comic and not an offering from Avatar Press.

I’m not so far gone from my own high school days to see the truth in this book. Lord knows girls like Kiden are a lot more common than they should be. Still, I think to myself, who are they trying to reach with this book? The older comics-reading crowd will be lost or turned off by such a frank portrayal of modern teenage life. The rating will keep most of the kids who could use a cautionary tale against this kind of behavior away from it- most comic stores are all too responsible about selling books like this to minors. And as for the mutant angle promised by the X in the name, well… it’s limited to two pages at the end where it looked like Kiden’s mutant powers kicked in while fighting a bully, so the Marvel zombies and X-Fans are likely to be disappointed.

It’s a shame, I think as I put the book back on the shelf. Someone who could make a good, realistic book about a teenage girl with superpowers could clean up. Shame all the books being written in this genre are being written for PSR Plus crowds- books like Emma Frost which could be so good for getting a young lady interested in comics if it weren’t for a few panels here and there and a cover that has no purpose over than to serve as cheap titillation for overgrown adolescents.

I move back to the counter, thinking I can confront Chris again. The customers are gone for the moment, so there’s nothing to stop me from getting some answers from him.

“Alright, Chris. What’s the deal with NYX? It’s a book for teens that no teenager can read. It’s a mutant book with no mutant powers until the last page where she freezes time?”

“She does not freeze time, Mister Morrison.”

“She doesn’t?”

“No, Mister Morrison. That is her Ecstasy kicking in.”

“Wait… so her only power is super-strength or something?”

“As far as I know, Mister Morrison.”

“Well, that sucks! I mean, how many super-strong women are their already? I mean, stopping time is an original power at least. Heck, Marvel could use a few more superspeedsters if that’s her power…”

“I think you should be quiet, Mister Morrison.”

“No really! The visual storytelling on this book is awful! And another thing…”

I’m so busy ranting I don’t hear the Marvel Zombies behind me. On the bright side, I’m so high on adrenaline and fan boy rage, I barely feel the billyclub hit the back of my neck as I sink into dreamland.

When I come to, I have a headache again… but not the good kind you get after a night with a St. Paulie girl and her eleven sisters. I haven’t hurt like this since the Kurtz debacle at the Dallas ComicCon. As I dust myself off and pull myself from the comic shop dumpster, I reflect that what I really need right now is a hot shower, a warm woman and a cold drink. And I know where I can get at least two of the three…

Futurama #15 - A Review

Written by: Eric Rogers
Penciled by: John Delaney
Inked by: Phyllis Novin
Colored by: Joey Mason
Lettered by: Karen Bates
Editor: Bill Morrison
Publisher: Bongo Comics

It is the year 3000. Space travel is now possible and the Earth has regular contact with a number of races, giving the phrase “illegal alien” a whole new meaning. Intelligent robots exist, powered by alcohol if not the Asimov codes. And comic book geekery has finally lost its stigma and beautiful women are now a frequent sight at any comic book store.

Wow! This really IS Science-Fiction!

In all seriousness, things have changed for comic-book fans in the future, as we find out in this story that takes opens with time-misplaced delivery-boy Fry and his best friend, the surly Robot Bender, at a comic book convention. Captain America is now “Captain Democratic Order of Planets.” Frank Miller is still around and writing, though his head preserved in a jar. And unsurprisingly, Todd McFarlene is not in attendance but is represented with The McFarlentron 6000 Signature Simulator.

These scenes alone might be enough to make this book worth reading for those of us in the business… but for those of us who may not laugh out loud at the idea of “Frank Miller’s Richie Rich”, there is an equally humorous plot to follow. Fry hears about an open casting call for a movie based on his favorite comic of all time; Space Boy In Outer Space.

Fry gets the part after reciting a speech from the comic from memory. And Bender breaks into the business too - hired on as personal buffer to egotistical robot-actor Calculon; his duty to ensure that Calculon’s posterior remain perfectly shiny and well buffed before each shot. And yes, there are plenty of jokes about… that. (“It’s a legit job on the set! There’s even a union for it!”)

Of course something goes wrong with amusing consequences; it turns out movie star life isn’t quite as easy as Fry had hoped and “events ensue” in typical Futurama fashion, with Leela having to stop in and try to save Fry and Bender from their own stupidity and greed.

I can’t say much about the artwork, as it is done as a straight copying of Matt Groening’s style from the TV series- with the exception of the first splash page, which is a rather neat Miller-esque portrait of Space Boy standing over the bodies of some fallen aliens. It all looks just like still shots of the TV show, so I guess the art gets its’ job done. Then again, you don’t read a book like this for the art. You read it to laugh. And this book succeeds quite well in getting you to do that.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Ultimate Six #2 - A Review

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Trevor Hairsine
Inked by: Danny Miki
Colored by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulous
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Doctor Octopus has always been, for my money, the best Spider-Man villain ever. Why? Well, he’s one of the first villains Peter Parker ever fought… in fact, Peter faced him more than any other villain during the history of Stan Lee’s run. His origin also closely mirrored Peter’s; a man of science unwittingly given powers after a lab accident. But Otto Octavius’ accident also effected his mind, turning a once benevolent scientist, probably the greatest expert on radiation on the planet, into a jealous and petty madman. So I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy as there was a little bit of suggestion that his taking the path of villain was not completely his fault; he was as much a victim of circumstance as Peter Parker.

But despite that sympathetic element, he was still every bit the villain. He was one of the few villains who could match wits with Peter on the level of a scientist. He also proved to be no mean strategist, leading most of the various incarnations of the Sinister Six against Spider-Man. And depending on who is writing him, he is also one of the few villains who can match Peter insult for insult, quip for quip… and exhibits no mean sense of humor himself. I remember a scene in one of the Spider-Man novels (Revenge of the Sinister Six, I believe), where he is holding the Bugle Staff hostage, recognizes Betty Brant and thanks her for being “one of my first, and most agreeable hostages”. Betty angrily asks him if it really made him feel powerful, menacing a helpless young woman. (See Amazing Spider-Man #12, true believer!) Doc Ock just smiles and says, “Yes, actually, it did. Thank you for being so kind as to ask.” And nobody, but nobody else in the Spider-Man rogue’s gallery almost married Aunt May.

It’s going to be a good time to be a Doc Ock fan in the coming months. In addition to getting a costume redesign and a new story arc in Spectacular Spider-Man, he’s also going to be appearing in TWO mini-series; the first of which, Negative Exposure, also came out this week with “Out of Reach” starting later this year. And of course he will be THE villain in the Spider-Man sequel coming out this summer. And then, of course, we have this… his appearance in Ultimate Six.

Bendis has translated the classic character of Doctor Ocatvius into the Ultimate universe beautifully. Though he was rather amoral before the accident, working for the unethical Norman Osborn AND acting as a spy for rival Justin Hammer, his vicious streak doesn’t fully emerge until he is left as a freak “just to see what would happen” by Hank Pym and other SHIELD Scientists. Though it is unclear if he has been driven completely insane by the accident in this universe, it is clear that he is just as twisted now, as his 616 counterpart. Still, it is Otto who is the first to “break ranks” in the holding cell arranged for him and four other “illegal genetic mutations” (To wit- Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Electro and The Sandman) and offer to help Hank Pym and his scientist with curing the conditions of the other villains.

Not surprisingly (at least to us fans of the good/bad Doctor), things go wrong and Otto effects a brilliant plan which results in the escape of all the villains in question. The issue closes as they escape and discuss finding “the Sixth man”… who turns out to be someone that I had not seen mentioned in ANY of the on-line discussions regarding this story arc.

The art by Hairsine and Miki is quite different from the styles of the artists on both Ultimate Spider-Man and The Ultimates, but still enjoyable. It has the fine detail of Bryan Hitch’s pencils, but is much cleaner and smoother flowing. It has the cleaner feel of Mark Bagley’s pencils, but also seems much darker and more subdued than the high-energy, every-moving style that Bagley employs. In short, the art, like the story, appears to be merging two totally different styles and succeeding… forgive the pun… Marvelously.

Monday, October 6, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Thank You, Mr. Kurtz!

In the course of writing about comics over the last few years, I have gotten some attention from the creators whose works I critique. Some were thankful, saying that it was nice to see someone who got what they were trying to do and spread the word about their good works. Some thanked me for the criticism, which hurtful as it may have been, ultimately made them think of things in different ways and attempt to be better writers. Some have hurled insults and questioned my manhood, my mother’s virtue and my own intelligence after reading a bad review of their work. But only one man has gone through the effort to make a public stink about a negative review and in so doing inspired dozens of his fans to write me and tell me about what a horrible person I am for not seeing the brilliance of said writer’s work. That writer is Scott Kurtz, and I am forever indebted to him.

Last week Mr. Kurtz linked to one of my columns from about six months ago from his comic’s website, comparing it to a more favorable review at I’m pleased to report that thanks to Mr. Kurtz linking to 411 Comics, our hits on the first day after his news post were triple the usual rate- a trend that continued throughout the week! The editorial staff couldn’t be more pleased and have in turn tripled my salary in response and have given me carte blanche to stir up as much controversy as I want in my future writings. Look for “Reasons Why I Am A Better Person Than Jesus: Part One” next week.

I feel it worth noting that while I did get quite a few unflattering letters from Mr. Kurtz’s fans, not all of them were filled with profanity, poor spelling and poorly spelled profanity. Some of them did make some good points about my original column that showed me that some of the statements I made were slightly inaccurate. Well, in the interest of clarity and fairness, here are some quick corrections taken from the mouths of the fans themselves…

Apparently Mr. Kurtz has made mention, in the six months since my review, that his book was always intended to be an “anthology” of his past work and was meant to give him a chance to go back and improve old comics. PvP #4, for example, was done to allow him to redraw the first few strips featuring teenage female Marcy in her new and improved form. Any fault in failing to advertise this fact to those of us who don’t regularly review the PvP website is therefore the fault of Image Comics, who advertised the comic as new material. I would like to apologize for implying that Mr. Kurtz was intentionally scamming the comic-reading public and applaud him for making an effort to go back and improve his past works.

I stated, incorrectly, that Mr. Kurtz does not archive the daily comments from his main page, regarding various bits of news and complaints about the current story arc – such as the one I noted regarding his anti-Furry arc and his comment that the people sending him angry letters should stay away from his dog. In fact, he does archive these comments. I simply missed the link, which is not on the prominent display bar at the top of his page under “Rants” but in size 2 font, lower down on the page, between a banner ad and the most recent news articles. I would like to apologize for this oversight.

I stated that based on what I had read of some of Mr. Kurtz’s comments and strips that he seemed incapable of taking criticism in any form, negative or comparative. One reader, who agreed with most of my comments, informed me that the very same week my column saw print, Mr. Kurtz saw fit to shut down the official PvP forum on his website, for reasons that are detailed here.

I make no comment upon this, save that you should read all eleven pages here and judge for yourselves the thinness of his skin.

Finally, I was accused by some of bad-mouthing Mr. Kurtz just to get attention and to break into the comics business. Ignoring all issues of the wisdom of trying to break into a business by insulting the people in it, there are many writers and artists with a much larger readership who I could spew bile at in a pathetic attempt to get a few more readers of my work. I could say bad things about Geoff Johns, for example, and expect a sizable amount of hits from the readers of Teen Titans, JSA, Hawkman, Avengers and The Flash. That would certainly make more sense than my attacking a writer/artist who self-published most of his work – assuming my goal was to drum up publicity for my own work.

However, that is not my goal in writing this column. I am not out to destroy anyone’s career nor promote my own. I doubt quite frankly that I have so much power that my word can sway so many hearts and minds as to make a major difference in a comic company’s policies of what they will and won’t publish.

And even if I did possess that kind of power, I would try to use it, not to end careers, but to save them. Like I would dearly like to save the job of Ben Raab, whose work on Green Lantern I was enjoying immensely. Sadly, I seem to be in the minority as DC Comics has announced that Issue #175 will be Raab’s last on the title. Raab wrote to me earlier this week regarding last week’s “Looking To The Stars”, regarding his work on Green Lantern.

Just read your defense of my run on GL thus far and wanted to say "thanks". Nice to see someone gets what I'm doing with these characters and their ongoing stories... Sincerely hope you (and everyone else at 411) will enjoy where I take them in the upcoming months...

I know I will, Ben. I hope that everyone who agrees with me will join me in writing to DC Comics and asking for you to remain on Green Lantern.

Before I go, one final thought. I write this column simply as a voicing of my opinion, which is no more valid or invalid than any other. We all have the right to our own tastes and opinions and should have the right to voice those opinions without having to worry about the negative reactions of other people.

So if you enjoy PvP, good for you. I personally do not, but that is just me. If you don’t like Green Lantern, that’s fine too. I love it, but that’s just one fanboy’s opinion. If you don’t enjoy my critiques, you don’t have to read them. I certainly enjoy the comments I get about my writing but nobody is holding a gun to your head and making you read my work. At least I hope not. If you want to send a letter to my editor demanding that I be fired for my opinions, ask me for his e-mail address and I’ll refer you to him.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website. Assuming I’m not fired before then.

Sunday, October 5, 2003

New X-Men #147 - A Review

Written by: Grant Morrison
Penciled by: Phil Jimenez
Inked by: Andy Lanning
Colored by: Chris Chuckry
Lettered by: Rus Wooton
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The cover makes no secret about what was the surprising revelation at the end of last month’s issue. That is, Magneto… long thought dead in the Sentinel attack that destroyed the nation of Genosha at the beginning of Morrison’s run… is back.

It turns out that he has been masquerading himself as Xorn; a mutant with healing powers who became a teacher at Charles Xavier’s school. Using his position, Mageneto has formed a new Brotherhood of Mutants from the problem students of the school and slowly set about taking out the big guns of the in-house X-Men team. Now, he overlooks the city he has dubbed “New Genosha” and plots his next move as he gloats to his minions and, later, to a subdued Professor Xavier.

Morrison has given the X-books a much needed kick to the pants. Famed for some of his more unusual writings under the Vertigo imprint, Morrison combines his near-trademarked loopy ideas with old school comic book heroics in a way reminiscent of his work on JLA. Morrison has taken quite a bit of flack for some of the revelations he has brought forth, but all of these revelations do make an odd sort of sense. Consider, for instance, how Magneto has apparently discovered how to channel his powers into a healing power; similar to the holistic medical theories about using magnets to treat some major ailments as well as the MRI machines used to diagnose physical disorders. It is an unique idea, but in terms of comic-book science it works quite well.

As for the old school heroics, Morrison depicts Magneto in top form; arrogant as his is powerful, like an opera hero taking the center stage. Yet, Morrison also pokes fun at Magneto’s self-importance, as he tries to deliver a speech from the top of a skyscraper… and gradually realizes that nobody in his captive audience can see him or is taking him seriously. And in a line that stabs at Marvel’s policy of having people yo-you through Death’s Door, to paraphrase Toad “You’ve come back from the dead so many times, a lot of them don’t believe it is really you…”

Sadly, Magneto does get the spotlight throughout his issue and a lot of his Brotherhood members barely make it out of the wings. We do get brief glances as to how some of the members see themselves in the new order and what roles they play but not nearly enough of them. Toad is still toadying away, though he appears to have traded his bowl-cut for an Afro. Bird-boy Beak appears to be serving Magneto more out of fear than any solid belief in Magneto’s ideals. And Esme- blond telepath and ex-Honors student of Emma Frost is setting herself up as the manipulative woman behind the man in a fashion that would do the Emma of the Hellfire club proud.

All of this is gloriously illustrated by frequent Morrison illustrator Phil Jiminez, doing some of the best work I’ve seen since his run on Wonder Woman. Whether it be depicting the various deformities of the freakiest Brotherhood to date, or showing the massive damage that Magneto inflicts with his powers around the island of Manhattan, the pencils are detailed without becoming too cluttered as they often were during Frank Quitely’s tenure on the book.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Amazing Spider-Man #58 / #499 - A Review

Written by: J Michael Straczynski
Penciled by: John Romita Jr.
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: Dan Kemp
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

SCENE: Peter Parker’s Classroom

Peter: All right, folks. It’s been a great semester and I hope you’ve all enjoyed about learning the wonders of science as I have enjoyed teaching it.

Students: GROAN!

Peter: As a momento of this class, I have bought you all, out of my own pocket, a copy of a book that had a profound impact upon me as a young man. Joey, hand everyone a book out of this box which I have not examined beforehand in order to confirm that my order was right. Random girl, please read the lines on page 19.

Girl: (horrified) As I stealthily snuck into the chicken coop, a strange excitement came through me...

Peter: WHAT? That’s not The Private Joke Files of Stephen Hawkings!

(Peter grabs the book. It is indeed not “The Private Joke Files of Stephen Hawkings” but “Truly Plucked: Memoirs of a Chicken-Lover”.)

Peter: Well, pluck me.

(Everyone laughs at Peter as he runs down the hall to confront the Administrative Assistant From Hell!)

Peter: You screwed up my order! I want my money back.

AAFH: Hmm…. No. Allow me to further insult you, degrade you and engage in behavior that would actually get a person fired, if they didn’t have photos of the principal and one of the cheerleaders engaging in some very interesting “extracurricular activities”. Oh, and allow me to be the first and only person to wish you Happy Birthday, which is also, for reasons that will not be clarified anytime soon, the title of this story.

Peter: I’m too angry to listen to all this exposition! I’m going home!

CUT TO: Aunt May’s House

Peter: (thinking) Wow, that woman is evil. And yet, she remembered my birthday… I had almost forgotten that it was my birthday. Hey, if my birthday comes a few days after the end of school, that must mean I’m a Gemini. That’s the sign for late May/early June. Well, that hardly seems accurate. I mean, sure Geminis are supposed to intellectuals, quick witted and have at least two personalities, but they’re also supposed to be self-absorbed, introverted and flighty.

Aunt May: PETER!

Peter: Auuugh!

Aunt May: What have I told you about having internal monologues at the dinner table?

Peter: Oh, I’m sorry Aunt May. I was just thinking about this evil woman at work and how angry she makes me.

Aunt May: Well, you know that not everybody is as nice and giving as you. And some people’s nature is to cause other people pain. So you really can’t be angry at her for following her nature.

Peter: That’s it? That’s the great sage advice I came here to get?

Aunt May: Alright then. S*** happens. Get over it. Is that philosophical enough for you?

CUT TO: Peter’s Apartment

ENTER: Mary Jane, wearing a smile and not much else.

MJ: Wotcha thinking about?

Peter: Oh, just watching the lightning…. Thinking about how I used to be afraid of it as a kid until I read about all the kinds there are. I can tell what kind of lightning it is by the flash it makes.

MJ: (cozying up) Hmmm… that’s interesting.

Peter: Isn’t it? Like that right there… that’s ball lightning…

MJ: Mmm… you know I love it when you talk like this.

Peter: And that… that’s sheet lightning.

MJ: Mmmmmm… yes. Yes! Talk geeky to me, Tiger!

Peter: And that… that’s red lightning.

MJ: Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Tell me what that means, baby!

Peter: It means that I’m once again getting dragged out of bed to go save the world while you wait here, unfulfilled and wait for me to take my time to get back as I get dragged to the gods only know where.

MJ: Funny how I seem to remember one of the major reasons we separated was that you were always doing this…

Peter: Yeah. Well, there’s only one other guy on the planet as flexible as me and Sue Richards has him all tied up.

MJ: Good point…

CUT TO: Times Square. All Hell (or some other dimension) is breaking loose!

Peter: Hey Ben! What’s going on?

The Thing: It’s ‘dem blasted Mindless Ones. Some big portal thingy opened up and des’ guys is pouring out of it. Me, some of da Avengers and one of the X-Men who wuz caught in da middle of clubbin’ are beaten them back until Ol’ Stretch can wire together some doo-hickey to stop dem!

Peter: How come you get all the exposition?

The Thing: How come you’re sticking around and not running back to ya wife, even though the three biggest superhero teams in the city are already here dealing with the crisis that drug you out of bed?

Peter: (posing dramatically) Because I made a promise, years ago… that with my great power would come great respon-

The Thing: Yeah-yeah. I didn’t ask for your origin story! Now, It’s Clobbering time!

(Much Mindless Stone Giant butt-whomping ensues.)

(Peter saves a woman on a ledge. It is the AAFH!)

AAFH: Oh, thank you! You’re my favorite superhero! Can I have your autograph?

Peter: Okay.

(Peter signs a heating duct and then swings back to the fight)

Peter: Hmm… now that was a ridiculous and petty thing to do. Still, she did expect me to take time to sign autographs while lives are in danger, so it’s okay for me to have done what I did.

(Peter looks down at his hand.)

Peter: Hey wait a second! Where did I get this pen from? I don’t have any pockets on my costume!

Reed Richards: Never mind that! I need you on the roof.

(Peter lands on a rooftop along with some of the other heroes)

Reed: I’ve built a device that will suck the Mindless Ones back into the portal before sealing it up. I need all of you to hit this panel with all your assorted energies…

Thor: Hold, good Doctor Richards. I have no doubt of thy scientific prowess… but even in far Asgard, it is known that tis Doctor Strange who is the guardian of the barriers between the Earth realm and the realms from which these monsters come. Be it not wise then, for us to seek his counsel in this matter before taking action?

Reed: (staring at Thor) What happened to your beard?

Thor: What beard?

Peter: He’s right. You had a full beard the last time I guested in your title.

Thor: I know not what thou speakest of. Though as a member of the Aesir I may control the growth of all hair upon mine body, lengthening or shortening it at will!

Reed: And yet you still have that mullet.

Thor: Verily, I say unto thee that the Eighties shall never die so long as Thor draws breath! Yea. Also sayest I that the Crue shall always rule.

Peter: Uh… yeah. Look, Thor may have bad fashion sense, but he’s got a point. Every time we try and build a science doo-dad to deal with these magical monsters, something always goes screwy and we wind up having to deal with something ten times worse.

Reed: Oh, come now! That’s only happened with… well, at least half the times I fought Doctor Doom. But that’s not the point. The point is that I’m here, he’s not and nothing is going to go wrong.

(The device gets activated. Something goes wrong. ENTER Dr. Strange)

Doctor Strange: You fool! You foolish fool! You have released the dreaded Dormammu!

Peter: (pointing to Reed) He did it! Not me! Not my fault this time!

Doctor Strange: Yes. Reed, didn’t we have this discussion about not messing around with magical things you don’t understand a few months ago in your own book?

Reed: Maybe… damn this sacrificing continuity for the sake of readability!

Doctor Strange: Indeed. Well, now I must confront Dormammu alone.

Thor: Because he commands dread magical forces that we would stand no chance confronting? Because our strength shall be needed to repel those minions that even now threaten to besiege the city again?

Doctor Strange: No. I just don’t trust any of you idiots watching my back any further than I could project your souls through the astral plane.

(More stone monster butt-whomping ensues)

Peter: Man. It’s weird seeing everyone in my title, just like the old days when Stan Lee was still writing me and you couldn’t go two issues without a guest star and a big fight in the middle of the streets. I’m barely getting the time to make pithy one-liners or self-introspective monologues!

Peter sees Doctor Strange about to get stomped. He saves him.

Peter: Yes! I finally got to do something!

Doctor Strange: No! You foo-


Peter: Huh… hello? It’s dark.

Dr. Strange: Be quiet. We are in danger of being eaten by a grue.

Peter: What? Was that a Zork reference?

Dr. Strange: Yes. Not only am I the master of the mystic arts, I am master of the esoteric reference! You may speak now… I have given us something similar to a physical form.

Peter: Okay… so what happened?

Dr. Strange: You altered my spell so that instead of being destroyed along with Dormammu, we have been sucked into the void between realities.

Peter: Well, don’t thank me for saving your life or anything.

Dr. Strange: I don’t intend to. We are in a most dangerous position and must be very careful if we want to return to our proper place and time. Stay close to me and say nothing or else.

Peter: Or else what?

Dr. Strange: Or else we might wind up trapped in another world; perhaps one where your wife has your powers and is a 19 year old lesbian.

Peter: Yeah. Or where Judd Winick is writing both our titles!

Dr. Strange: (glaring at Peter) I don’t have a title…

Peter: You can have one of mine. You’re in here often enough…

Dr. Strange: This is true. Perhaps we can take this up with Mr. Jemas…

(Suddenly, Mary Jane runs out of the rubble being chased by a Mindless One)

Peter: Mary Jane! Wait!

Dr. Strange: No! You must stay with me!

MJ: Help! Help!

Peter: Don’t worry, MJ! I’m here. You’re still straight, right?

(MJ is killed by the one Mindless One Peter missed)


(Peter jumps and finds himself in a cemetery. He sees himself as an older man.)

Old Peter: Aunt May, I’m sorry. I’ll make you proud, I promise. Top of the world, Ma!

(The cops move in on Old Peter as Peter looks the other way)

Peter: What the-

(We see a Younger Peter Parker. Young Peter is standing at the back of a crowd… as a familiar glowing spider crawls down from the ceiling)

Peter: What the…. Yes, I know. It is my destiny to change into the spider that bit me, thus performing a loop in time that can never be broken, thus preventing that future I just saw from happening.

(Peter tries… and fails to become a spider)

Peter: Shoot… wait a second, that’s Barry Allen… not me. Guess I’ll have to wait until next month to see what the heck is going on….

This is a critique/parody published by, and is not intended maliciously. has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.