Sunday, December 26, 2004
Looking To The Stars: Thoughts on the New Year
There is some small irony in this. I write an article about how Spider-Fan.org (the biggest and, for my money, best Spider-Man history site on the web) were slacking off on their responsibility to objectively review Mark Millar's "Spider-Man" title. I expect to get all manner of angry mails from Spider-Fan readers and Mark Millar fanboys alike. All I get is a few short letters of thanks, saying it was about time that someone said everything I had said.
And yet, I am apparently the Anti-Christ because I didn't know that it was wrestler Kevin Nash and NOT Triple-H who played "The Russian" in "The Punisher". Well, I'm willing to admit when I made a mistake, so fine. I made a mistake.
I should point out two things, in fairness. First, my mistake was based off an article I looked up that incorrectly identified Triple H as The Russian and I figured the source was trustworthy and that I didn't need to double-check imdb.com. Second, with my non-existent background in wrestling, you're lucky I knew who Triple H was.
Regarding my recent writings on Green Lantern: Any and all updates to my "Green Lantern: One Ring To Confused Them All" thesis will wait until AFTER "Green Lantern: Rebirth" is finished. As those of you who read issue three can attest, a WHOLE lot got changed and it looks like a whole lot more is going to change. So there's no point in me publishing the revisions on a monthly basis.
Oh, and on that note... if you haven't been reading "Green Lantern: Rebirth", do yourself a favor and pick up the reprints of One and Two along with Issue Three that just came out. This may just squeak through to win my personal Book of the Year award.
One formal announcement. Inspired by the example set by society columnist for the New York Daily News, Lloyd Grove, I too have decided to take his pledge. Henceforth, my New Years resolution this year is that I resolve not to write anything about Paris Hilton in my column.
Okay, I've never written ANYTHING about Paris Hilton in my column before and am unlikely to ever do so… thank every pantheon of gods that ever existed. But if it comes to pass that Paris Hilton does wind up in a comic book or writing in a comic book, you have my solemn that this reporter WILL NOT COVER IT! Giving away free press to stupid, spoiled whores who produce nothing of value for society starts at home and it starts here and now. I hope that the rest of the writers of The Comics Nexus will join me in this pledge and bring you all Paris Hilton free news throughout 2005.
Sorry to keep this short, but... it's almost Christmas as I write this, and I have stuff to do.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. New Matt year.
Conan #11 - A Review
Written by: Kurt Busiek
Penciled by: Cary Nord
Inked by: Thomas Yeates
Colored by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Conan’s in a fix. He’d been hired to steal something from a temple. Upon getting inside the locked temple, he stumbles across a dead body and not a few seconds later the one guard patrolling outside the temple stumbles across him. Within minutes, Conan is surrounded by armed guards, ready to skewer him for the murder of the high priest of the temple.
Conan protests his innocence (what little he has left) and the evidence does seem to bear him out. The priest was strangled and why would a Cimmerian with a sword bother to strangle a man when a sword is faster and easier? Still, the magistrate on the scene is hard-pressed to repress the bloodlust of the head guard as Conan himself is hard-pressed to repress his rage at the stupidity of the civilized men around him.
Busiek skillfully adapted this story from an original by Robert E. Howard, though I wonder at the wisdom of adapting this particular story. It is a good story and one well worth reading, but Conan is but a bit player. Most of the dialogue here goes to a Hyperborean Sherlock Holmes as he looks around the crime scene, examining clues and determining that it is very unlikely that Conan was the killer. None of this mattering much to the guards ready for swift, if inaccurate, justice or the reader who desires to see Conan, the man of action instead of Conan, the surly victim.
These fans will be satisfied near the end, as Conan loses his patience as the guards lose their limbs and Cary Nord gives us his goriest work on the book yet. Gory, but not graphic, Nord is just as much a star in this book as Busiek and the two have made quite the formidable team. I look forward to more of their work on this book in the coming year. And if you haven’t been reading this title, you should look for it next year too. You won’t regret it.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Hawkman #35 - A Review
Written by: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Penciled by: Joe Bennett
Inked by: Ruy Jose
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: DC Comics
I keep thinking about dropping this title. Really I do. I’ve never liked Hawkman as a character and only the fact that Green Arrow had a guest-shot with The Spider (last seen in Starman) in the first six-issues after the opening coupled with Geoff Johns writing got me to give the book a shot. I kept going with it through the entirety of John’s run and stuck with it after Palmiotti and Gray took over because… well, let it not be said I won’t give a man a fair shot.
I was mixed on the first few issues. I wasn’t crazy about the new villain in the form of a vigilante-hating police inspector fresh from Gotham. I thought showing Carter trying to move on from his “destined” love Shayera by dating the singer Domina was a good step in trying to do something different with the title, up until she got killed. And the issue with Atom and Hawkman fighting Space Nazis in Antarctica? Too goofy NOT to enjoy.
In the end, that’s why I was pondering dropping the book. Sure it was enjoyable, but it wasn’t great. Every issue Johns wrote made me go “wow” about something, be it the story itself or a creative use of an old-school Hawkman villain who has gone ignored for… well, longer than Hawkman himself was ignored. And with my budget tightening I can only afford the titles that make me go “wow” every month. So out of the $30 dollars worth of books I bought this week, Hawkman was the last one I read.
It is safe, for the moment. If for no other reason than in this issue, the writers bring back not one, but THREE classic Hawkman bad guys. Lionmane, the half-man half-lion monster. Fadeaway Man; master of a cloak that allows for all sorts of neat tricks not the least of which is teleportation. And perhaps most unsettling, Trygg The Sorcerer; master of zombies. From what we see, Fadeaway Man is bringing together a reunion of the “We Hate Hawkman” club. Lionmane and Trygg are but two of the three he says he has brought into town. Coupled with his engineered break-out of several hundred criminals from the St. Roch Penitentiary, Fadeway Man is planning SOME scheme which will “make The Joker look like The Riddler” in comparison to him.
This comic is all build-up with not much going on besides us seeing villains talking and the heroes reacting to what the villains are doing. But that’s just fine as we get to see Hawkman dealing with the jail breakout, a sudden influx of dark magic sealing off the city from the outside world (shades of Starman there) and the dead rising from the grave and taking to the streets.
This book features, at a rather odd time considering we are in the middle of an arc, the premiere of the new art team of Joe Bennett & Ruy Jose. While I still miss Rags Morales on this title, they prove to be the best team to tackle the book since his departure. Bennett’s penciling style is reminiscent of Tony Harris. Jose’s inks are suitably dark and foreboding. Together, they make the streets of St. Roch look as spooky as the French Quarter of New Orleans and all of the characters look suitably dark and mysterious.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Looking To The Stars: Blade: Trinity - A Review
Because I was forced to wait a week to see it, I was able to see it on a Thursday afternoon. When the movie theater was all but empty except for a few moms trying to see Bridget Jones 2 before the kids get back from school.
There are few joys greater than sitting down to watch a movie in an empty movie theater. It is very freeing, knowing that there will be no screaming children to distract you. No cel-phones suddenly going off. No sweaty fat men hogging your armrest. Just you and a magical silver screen stretched out before you.
But enough waxing melodic. How was the movie?
Not that bad, honestly. Not that great, either, but overall it was a fitting conclusion to the series. Some elements have been improved upon. Others are sorely lacking. But overall, the flick is good for what it is: an action flick without much plot to distract you from the cool images.
As we start off, Blade has gotten careless. After over two movies worth of running around New York with a sword strapped to his back and blowing up numerous buildings, chasing down numerous vampires and getting into numerous car chases, shoot-outs and general mayhem, the police are looking for him. One set-up fight with one "familiar" (human slaves to the vampires, tattooed with a sigil like branded cattle) takes a stake to the heart, doesn't dissolve into ashes as Blade expected and faster than you can say "Candid Camera" the police have video evidence that a dangerous serial killer is on the loose in New York City.
After a firefight that destroys Blade and Whistler's base of operations (taking Whistler with it in the process), Blade is captured and quickly on the path to a slow and painful death at the hands of the new heads of the ruling vampire class (Parker Posey and Triple H, if you can believe it) thanks to their familiars, NYC's Chief of Police and Blade's court-appointed psychiatrist. Thankfully, rescue comes at the hands of The Nightstalkers; a group of vampire hunters Whistler outsourced with. The Nightstalkers then fill in Blade on how a vampire called Drake (aka inspiration for Dracula, first vampire ever) has risen from his rest and is in New York. The vampire bosses are hoping that they can use him to gain Drake's special gift: immunity from sunlight. And so it falls to Blade and the Nightstalkers to save the world... again.
Things take a while to get started, but things aren't dull while we're waiting. Goyer, writer of the first two 'Blade' movies took the reigns as director this time around and does a credible job in shooting his own script. The cinematography makes every shot look like it was taken from a comic book, and not in the way that made The Hulk unwatchable. The shots are quick and focused, like quickly-taken snapshots by a photographer standing on a ledge. The sets are all beautifully designed and filled with plenty of glass walls to be broken and ledges for minions to be tossed over.
Would that the performances were as enjoyable as the scenery. Wesley Snipes IS Blade and nothing is going to change that. He is the same character as before. No better or worse. The only change is that this time, there is no attempt at emotional growth for the character. While the first movie gave him a pseudo-love interest as he learned more about being human and the second movie had some romantic tension with a Vampire-American Princess, this movie will have none of it. The closest we get behind Blade's cipher exterior is one scene where he is asked what he will do if they ever DO kill all the vampires and another where the young daughter of another one of the Nightstalker's asks Blade why he's dependant on a serum to control his vampire half and why he just doesn't try being nice.
"Because the world isn't nice," he replies.
The supporting cast is similarly restrained. Jessica Biel is a credible action heroine here as Whistler's bastard daughter Abby, but is given little to do other than look fetching in a tank-top. Ryan Reynolds, as a slightly-reworked Hannibal King is more annoying than comedic. He is meant to be a foil to the more stoic Snipes, but he'd be a whole lot more successful if his wisecracks didn't alternate between his cowardly screamings of the F-word and pseudo-hip pop-culture references. The rest of the Nightstalkers exist only to be cannon fodder and funny-man/comic writer Patton Oswald (resplendent in a Fantastic Four shirt) is wasted in a bit part as the geeky gunmaker.
The villains don't fare much better, with Parker Posey channeling Fairuza Balk, Triple H sporting a few more lines than he had as The Russian in The Punisher and Dominic Purcell as a Dracula who ranks somewhere below Leslie Nielsen but somewhere above the guy from Van Helsing on the "serious threat" meter.
Thankfully, character counts for very little in this movie. It's all about the action. And on that level, it works wonderfully. The fight scenes are well-shot, with Goyer's direction having eliminated the problems with Blade 2, where so many of the fight scenes were shot so close up as to totally miss the action in favor of amazing action shots of Ron Perlman's biceps. The computer effects are much better too, with the vampires dissolving into ash looking more natural than in the second film.
On the whole, Blade: Trinity is a serviceable action flick. Just don't expect much in the way of character development or humor, and you'll have a good time. Especially if you go on Thursday afternoon when no one else is there.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time.
Identity Crisis #7 - A Review
Written by: Brad Meltzer
Penciled by: Rags Morales
Inked by: Michael Bair
Colored by: Alex Sinclair
Lettered by: Kenny Lopez
Editor: Mike Carling
Publisher: DC Comics
Starman Matt Morrison: Be warned ahead of time. I shall pull no punches and spoilers will be spoken! So have you NOT read this issue of Identity Crisis yet and still do not already know the answer to the question that has rocked the Fandom community for the better part of a year, come no further!
Editor Tim Stevens: It’s Nightwing!
Starman Matt Morrison: What the! Tim, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be interrupting Mathan’s column?
Editor Tim Stevens: Nah. I got bored. Thought I’d see if you got any angry letters from all Mark Millar’s fans for your column last week.
Starman Matt Morrison: Well… you know it ISN’T Nightwing who did it.
Editor Tim Stevens: Yes it is! It just has yet to be revealed that he did it.
Starman Matt Morrison: This was the LAST issue, Tim. I think it’s pretty settled now.
Editor Tim Stevens: That’s what they WANT you to think. All the twists they’ve had so far… all the spin offs they have coming out? You really think it’s over?
Starman Matt Morrison: Yes. Yes I do.
Former Editor Ben Morse: You’re a fool.
Starman Matt Morrison: What the… Ben Morse?
Editor Tim Stevens: Ben? You’re back?
Former Editor Ben Morse: Only for a bit. You see, I know I stopped being Matt’s editor, but I couldn’t help but come back to correct him one more time on this. You see, it isn’t Nightwing who killed Sue Dibny.
Starman Matt Morrison: I know! It was-
Former Editor Ben Morse: It was the Rainbow Raider.
Editor Tim Stevens: What?
Starman Matt Morrison: That doesn’t make any sense! And isn’t the Rainbow Raider dead?
Former Editor Ben Morse: Yeah. I got this straight off the line from my super secret sources at Wizard Magazine (available at all fine comic shops and bookstores everywhere!).
Starman Matt Morrison: Aren’t those the same guys who swore blind three months ago that it was the ghost of Jason Todd back from the dead after an interview with Judd Winick?
Editor Tim Stevens: Lies! Lies and chicanery from all of you! It was Dick Grayson, I tells ya!
Mysterious Scotsman: No, it was Norman Osborn. Because Norman Osborn does EVERYTHING!
Starman Matt Morrison: What the- who the hell are you?
Mysterious Scotsman: I’m Mark Millar, you sad little man!
Starman Matt Morrison: Waaaaaaugh!
Mysterious Scotsman: That was for your column last week.
Editor Tim Stevens: Wow… are those steel-toed boots?
Starman Matt Morrison: ...mommy…
Former Editor Ben Morse: Wait a second! Norman Osborn couldn’t have done it! He’s not in the same universe!
Mysterious Scotsman: Bah! You think such a thing is impossible for Norman Osborn? Inter-dimensional travel would be a piece of cake for the man who invented a time machine just so he could go back and pay Flash Thompson to short-sheet Peter Parker’s bed at summer-camp!
Starman Matt Morrison: … that never… GAAUUUGH!
Mysterious Scotsman: Quiet, you.
Staff Madman Jesse Baker: Actually, you’re all wrong.
Mysterious Scotsman: Who’s this twit?
Editor Tim Stevens: Jesse Baker. The other Comics Nexus loudmouth.
Staff Madman Jesse Baker: That’s right! And here in this sack, I have captured the REAL culprit behind all our problems!
Former Editor Ben Morse:What the- it’s Old Man Winters, who runs the haunted amusement park!
Staff Madman Jesse Baker: No! That’s what they wanted us to think! Pull off the mask, and it’s none other than-
ALL: Brian Michael Bendis?!?!
Brian Michael Bendis: And I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for Jesse Baker and his magical talking dogs!
Starman Matt Morrison: … so weak…
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Spectacular Spider-Man #22 - A Review
Written by: Paul Jenkins
Penciled by: Talent Caldwell
Inked by: Norman Lee
Colored by: Studio F
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Two issues ago I was ready to drop this title because of the nonsensical “Changes” storyline. At the end of said storyline, Peter had developed the ability to shoot organic webs from his wrists (like in the movies), became a lot more muscular, had his Spider-Sense increased and for some reason developed the ability to talk to ants. Spiders, I can get… but ants?
But I’m a Jenkins fan so I decided to give him another issue. Last issue didn’t reference Peter’s new powers at all, being a silly story involving a superhero poker game that just proved that it is possible to do comics with comedy still. So now we come to this issue. The one that would decide if I stick with this title until the end…
*sighs* Paul, you magnificent bastard, you’ve done it again.
I was worried when I read the first five pages, where Peter discusses how his new powers have changed his perceptions and how it has caused him to notice emotional wrongness in addition to the usual danger-based wrongness his Spider-Sense warns him of. From there, we launch into the Jenkins special; a one-shot story that is much deeper than its surface suggests and is a perfect summation of everything that makes Spider-Man who he is.
This is all beautifully illustrated by guest artist Talent Caldwell, whose name isn’t just a gimmick. He really IS a talent. His style resembles that of regular penciler Humberto Ramos, but is not nearly as angular or as jagged. His curves are smoother and I personally feel it to be a great improvement over the regular artwork.
I won’t say anything about the story of this book. Far better that you read it for yourself. Trust me. You won’t regret it. I haven’t, nor will I when the final issue comes around. In fact, this issue made me realize how much emptier the racks will seem without Paul Jenkins having a book on it every month.
Get well soon, Paul. We need more men like you writing material like this.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Looking To The Stars: An Open Letter, Regarding Marvel Knights: Spider-Man
I've had some words in the past about how you shamelessly self-promote yourself to a degree that would make Stan Lee blush. Despite this, I've tried being nice in the past about Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, because as much as I have not enjoyed the series I've read enough good work from you in the past to forgive one bad story. I've tried to shrug MK:SM off as a short story that wouldn't really affect anything.
After this week, I can no longer do that.
The final straw came as I was reading the latest letters column over at Spider-Fan, where one fan had this to say.
Rarely has there been a time in history, where the comicbooks writers actually care about the fanbase, and making stories in their context. Case in Point being, MK Spiderman. It was really nice of Mark Millar, to actually ask you for help on the stories and the like. Now, if only JMS and Paul Jenkins could take a hint...
Yes. JMS basing an entire six-part story around one long-forgotten panel in an old Stan Lee story and finally coming up with a reasonable explanation for why Norman Osborn spent time traveling Europe after his "death". Paul Jenkins drawing upon the original Venom stories, coming up with a reason for Venom's differing personalities from story to story and creating a good explanation for how the symbiote feeds off it's host and why it stuck with an idiot like Eddie Brock for so long. These men know NOTHING about using continuity and using it well.
Thankfully, the letters people were quick to correct this person and note that while they were thrilled to death to have a writer asking them for help, that it is pretty demanding for a writer to have read EVERYTHING and know every detail. Especially when a lot of the little details contradict each other: re, The Clone Saga.
But Mark... though that had nothing to do with you, I am going to have to rake you over the coals on this point. Spiderfan.org proofed all your scripts to make sure they gelled history-wise. They even came up with "a list of characters that might populate the audience in this unique auction scene for the Venom symbiote."
Now hearing this a few months back, I got worried. I appreciated the effort, but hearing that you had someone else giving you these details, well... it made your attitude toward the whole book seem kind of mercenary. Like this is just a job. There's no love going into the character, if you get what I mean. And that your only reason for going to the fanboys was to cover your own butt when the die-hards like me began complaining.
Thing is, I know that's not the case. Read any interview and it's obvious that you DO care about these characters enough not to half-ass job the job. Well, Mark. I'm sorry... but you did half-ass this book for one simple reason. You may love these characters, but you can't write them at all. The sense of thought behind the characters just isn't there.
I'll grant you slack on the continuity. As the guys at Spider-Fan said, "if something doesn't sound right in MK:Spidey, don't get mad at Mark - blame us!" But the sad thing is that none of the characters sound themselves and their actions don't make sense. Here now is a list of my complaints with the series on both counts. I would make separate lists in the interest of fairness, but I typed it out both ways and it reads better as one list.
1. Sympathy For The Goblin (MK:SM #1)
It's been quite a few years since Norman or any Goblin made an appearance in the New York sky. Still, I do not believe that even with the number of people who read the Bugle and especially in light of Norman apparently having been outed as The Green Goblin before this story began (The Pulse has only muddied this point), that in the middle of a fight between Spider-Man and The Green Goblin, the crowd is going to assume Spidey is the bad-guy and berate him for excessive force.
2. Who Was That Unmasked Man? (MK:SM #1)
While I can appreciate the need to convey how serious Peter is upon realizing his Aunt May is in danger, this is not the first time something like this has happened. And I cannot remember Peter EVER FAILING to at least throw on his mask if not his full costume before going web-swinging out in the open.
3. Who Ya Gonna Call? (MK:SM #2)
Okay. Your aunt has been kidnapped and you have no leads. Who do you go to first to ask for back-up?
Your lawyer friend with the super-hearing so sensitive, he once found a kidnapping victim by listening for a particular cough across the most populated city in the world? No.
Your magician friend who no doubt has all sorts of scrying pools and other things that could be used to find missing people? No.
One of the dozen or so psionics you are on reasonably good terms with, to see if they can find her telepathically? Well, not for a few months.
The semi-reformed cat-burglar and sometime detective? No...
... unless she's a hot babe and the artist drawing the book is someone who specializes in drawing hot babes with cleavage you could ski down. Then the answer is YES!
In fairness, the Daredevil and Dr. Strange issues WERE explained away in a balloon in the next issue, but c'mon! Black Cat being the FIRST one he calls?
4. The Mighty (Dumb) Avengers? (MK:SM #2)
Granting that Spidey is a loner and is barely tolerated (though probably not trusted) by the mainstream superheroes, he was a Reserve Avenger in the past. She-Hulk #4 made use of this fact. Avengers #502 referenced this fact.
So why doesn't the Avengers Mansion have some means of identifying visitors other than a surly butler who sends the armed security guards after anyone who comes to the door in a Spider-Man suit claiming to be Spider-Man? You'd think the House That Stark Built would have a retinal scanner at the very least (like the one used in She-Hulk #4) and more than likely some high-tech bio-scanning doodad to protect against shape-shifters, masters of disguise and traveling salesmen.
You could have done this exact same scene while referencing this fact and accomplished the same ends; have Spidey forget to carry his Avengers ID with him and reference the fact that he has no pockets in his suit. Play up Peter's dorkish habit of forgetting things and the running gag about how he can't really carry anything in his costume. It's a two for one special on running gags and WELL within continuity.
And on a side note... why does The Avengers Mansion have armed guards anyway? You'd think if ANYONE could be secure in their home, it would be them.
5. Nick Fury: Pan-Dimensional Traveler? (MK:SM #2)
So Peter wants to get a hold of Nick Fury and figures Captain America can get a hold of him. Sadly, it seems that Nick is in a parallel reality...
Since WHEN has Nick been in the habit of traipsing through the Fifth Dimension? He isn't Reed bloody Richards!
6. A Matter Of Trust (MK:SM #2)
Obviously, Peter is going to make every effort to protect his secret identity. But why CAN'T he just tell The Avengers the name of the woman he needs help finding after making such a big fuss about getting in to talk to them?
Why couldn't he just say "I promised a friend that I'd do all I could to help him with this and I'm out of ideas?" No harm. No foul. The Avengers aren't going to give him a hard time about that. Some of them might, but Captain American would snap them back into line right quick and say "This is serious, Hawkeye! An old woman's life is in danger," or some such.
Even if someone asks "May Parker? Isn't she the aunt of that guy who takes all the pictures of you?", it has been well-established since the Stan Lee days that Peter claims to know Spider-Man and has "worked with him" to get pictures in the past.
Heck, even if they DID start asking questions about why Spidey is so interested in this Parker woman and push came to shove, Peter would probably agree to talk to Captain America alone and explain things. They've had a relatively good relationship and it has been suggested in the past (Amazing Spider-Man #50, most recently) that Cap already knows Spidey's secret identity but that he humors Peter's need for secrecy. And Cap's word would be good enough for everyone.
7. The Birds The Word (MK:SM #2)
Okay. So you're protective of your secret identity to the point you won't even tell the largest collection of superheroes in the world the name of the woman you're looking for, out of fear they'll connect her to you and figure out who you really are under your stylish mask...
... and yet, you'll gladly hand that information over to a known criminal... somebody who you have fought in the past... someone who has a vested interest in knowing who you really are and, being in the information selling business is likely to sell that information to anybody who wants to know why Spider-Man was talking to him.
Even when desperate, Peter is NOT THAT STUPID.
8. Grounded For Life (MK:SM #3)
So you have the name of the guys who kidnapped your aunt. You've fought them both before. One of them controls electricity and could fry you alive if given the chance. You've nearly gotten killed in the past when he caught you off guard. So, as you have done many times in the past when you were anticipating dealing with him, you bring protection. On the odd chance that you can't talk a friendly ConEd worker into loaning you a pair of rubber work boots, you can probably improvise something yourself, you science whiz, you.
Point is, you don't just go charging after the twit without taking precautions. Again, you're NOT THAT STUPID.
9. Very Open Hospital (MK:SM #3)
Thankfully, even if you DO get massively injured in a fight, you can take comfort that you will be taken care of. The New York City Hospital system is well-used to taking care of the city's vigilantes. They will not only treat your wounds without worry of who will be paying the bill; they will also keep away those pesky reporters who might try to get a picture of you without your mask.
Since BLOODY when?
Even ignoring my own cynicism about the modern hospital system treating an injured superhero without proof of insurance, there are too many examples of this type of system having never existed until this story. Even ignoring other Marvel titles, Peter has been shot, cut and generally beaten bloody enough times that he would surely have taken advantage of this by now rather than trying to treat his own wounds.
I'm not saying that it is impossible for Matt Murdock, Jennifer Walters or some other lawyer with a superhero identity to have brokered a deal with the city where they will foot the bill for superheroic injuries. Matt did manage a deal to insure the city from damages caused by superhero battles (Daredevil Vol. 2, #1) so why not give any hero in the city who wanted it full medical and dental? A point of reference on how long this policy has been active would be nice.
Still, I hope that if Matt Murdock DID make this deal that he made sure to find a job for Night Nurse in the new infrastructure. After her nursing him back to health at the secret hospital for superheroes she runs (Daredevil Vol. 2 #58), it is the least he can do.
10. You Bet Your Life!(MK:SM #6)
Great play was made by about how the second act of this 12-issue epic would center around Venom and how it would reference Paul Jenkins defining story, "The Hunger". And for the most part, it did quite well. It referenced Eddie's devout Catholicism, made all the stronger by his seeing The Passion of The Christ. It referenced his desire to rid himself of Venom once and for all. However, it did miss one very important fact.
Remove Eddie from the Symbiote or Vice-Versa, it will kill them both.
This is why the Symbiote was so desperate to bond with Peter during "The Hunger". It only had the strength to bond once more and this time, the bonding would be permanent. The rest of 'Venomous' totally ignores this fact.
11. A Righteous Man.(MK:SM #6-8)
So Eddie wants to be free of the Symbiote. Let's just ignore that he shouldn't be able to get rid of it, for the sake of argument. The already religious Brock has had a revelation and decided to auction off his suit to the highest bidder and donate the money to charity and go on to his death with a clean conscience.
Eddie's never been the sharpest tool in the shed, but you'd think he would have considered that handing over a dangerous alien organism/weapon to a bunch of criminals is NOT likely to get you on St. Peter's list. And even a relative heathen like me knows that in the Catholic religion, suicide (which Eddie attempts to commit in issue #8) is considered a major sin.
Go Directly To Hell. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200 dollars.
I had been hoping that there was some bit of cunning here on Eddie's part. That he was pulling a con game, hoping to get a ton of ill-gotten money out of the hands of the crooks and then having the symbiote "reject" the new host and come back to him. But the suicide totally kills that unless he was hoping the symbiote was coming back to heal him and it double-crossed him. And so Eddie Brock leaves the Marvel Universe as he lived: a confusing mass of contradictions.
12. The Old Man Gets Around(MK:SM #5-8)
I'm going to chalk this one up to a mistake on the part of Spider-Fan, but you'd think somebody would have checked their own website's entry on The Vulture which notes that Adrian Toomes is a widower with no children.
Makes it rather difficult for him to have a sick grandson then, doesn't it?
Then again, looking at their reviews section, it seems that nobody at Spider-Fan is reading "Identity Disc". In that story, Adrian finds out that he has a daughter he never knew about, that she has been framed for a crime that she didn't commit and will go to jail if he doesn't join a criminal taskforce for a special job.
I can't blame them for the later, because NOBODY I know is reading 'Identity Disc'. But you'd think that if they were fact-checking a professional and making great play of that fact, that they would have checked this!
13. I Love My Wall-Crawling Son!(MK:SM #8)
So in spite of all the times that J. Jonah Jameson has seen his own son fighting Spider-Man, as either the Man-Wolf or during his brief tenure as a crime-fighting hero (Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #42, which was referenced last month in She-Hulk #8 of all places!), Jolly Jonah is all to ready to believe that his own son is Spider-Man and that every instance before was an elaborate con.
Pull the other one, Mark. It has bells on.
Finally, and this is less a point against this series than it is against every Spider-Man writer within the last ten years.
Could We PLEASE get past the idea that every single bad thing that ever happened to Peter Parker all comes back to Norman Osborn?
It was bad enough that when it was the out to The Clone Saga that the whole thing was just a big scheme to drive Peter crazy. Howard Mackie further expanded this, by having the newly outed Norman totally devoted to driving Peter crazy and raising him as the son he always wanted. JMS at least wrote the characters true to form and made it believable when he put forth the idea that Gwen Stacy had The Green Goblin's children by accident. Paul Jenkins turned Norman into a figure to be pitied as much as a monster to be feared.
And then we get this: Marvel Knight's Spider-Man #9. Where we find out that all this time, the entire super-villain movement has been the work of a big conspiracy and that a whole bunch of rich guys have been wasting their fortunes on idiots in costumes to screw around with the heroes and keep them distracted from fighting the real problems of the world?
As the Eskimo said to the refrigerator salesman, I'm not buying it!
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website, when I'll review Blade: Trinity, now that finals week is nearly over.
Oh, and one last thought. The Scorpion? C'mon! Like Norman would trust that yutz to brush his fangs unaided.
Sunday, December 5, 2004
Looking To The Stars: One Ring To Confuse Them All - 2005 Ediition
For the purposes of simplicity, the rings shall be discussed using these three qualifying terms: Alpha Ring, Beta Ring and Omega Ring. Definitions follow.
Alpha Ring - Standard GL Corps. Ring
Description: The ring created by the Guardians of the Universe to serve as a weapon and tool for their Green Lantern Corps.
Power Source: The Central Power Battery on the Guardian’s home planet of Oa.
Weaknesses: The ring must be recharged every 24 hours. Also, the ring is unable to affect any object that is yellow or beings with yellow skin pigmentation. This weakness was, we found out recently, programmed into the Central Power Battery itself. The yellow weakness is apparently no longer an issue, as the new Central Power Battery does not have this weakness, according to John Stewart in Green Lantern: Rebirth #2.
Powers of the Ring: The ring nominally allows the bearer to do anything, given sufficient willpower to accomplish it. The ring has a number or programmed safeguards that keep it from being used for certain tasks (such as killing) but these can be overridden by Green Lantern with exceptional willpower or a mind that does not function in a normal way. Classified examples of standard ring uses are.
• Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
• Limited Healing
• Protective Shields
• Space Travel (Produces whatever gases and temperature the bearer needs to breathe and live)
• Universal Translator
• Astral Projection (through an energy double of the bearer)
• Mind Tampering
• Communication Device (with standard transmission devices or other Green Lantern rings)
• Remote Control of Ring
• Ring Duplication
• Ring AI/Database - " Ring allows bearer to access information from the Central Power Battery on Oa, similar to a series of networked computers and a file server.
• Protection from Mortal Harm/ Life Support - " An energy reserve in the ring allows it to protect its’ bearer from surprise attacks. Additionally, this charge can be used to sustain a Green Lantern if knocked unconscious in the void of space until help can be summoned.
Beta Ring - Alan Scott’s Ring
Description: Fashioned from the lantern of deceased Green Lantern Yalan Gur and bonded to the chaotic magical energy of the colossal gem known as The Starheart, train engineer Alan Scott survived a fatal wreck thanks to the magic of the lantern, Carving a ring from it, Alan used its magic to fight evil as The Green Lantern during WWII and into the present day.
While its’ powers and origin have changed slightly over the years, Alan Scott’s ring has always been treated as a magical artifact while the other GL rings have been products of science and advanced alien technology. A link to the original Green Lanterns was forged in Green Lantern #19 (current series), when it was revealed that rather than being forged from a piece of the magical Starheart itself, his lantern was an old GL Lantern, lain dormant after the death of its’ owner, Yalan Gur.
Yalan Gur was the subject of an experiment by the Guardians to see if their best and brightest could handle the strain of omnipotence. It was revealed in this issue that the yellow weakness of the Green Lantern rings was a programmed flaw, which was meant to push the Corps to greater versatility as well as insuring the Guardians had a way to deal with those who rebelled. Gur, however, fell to the temptation of limitless power and became a despot in Ancient China. He was defeated after the Guardians programmed a new weakness into his battery, which made him vulnerable to the wooden weapons of the peasants he was ruling. This battery was later taken over by the Starheart; a gem made up of all the wild chaotic magic from the beginning of the universe, which the Guardians gathered up as part of their efforts to make the universe more organized.
Power Source: The Starheart; a gem made of pure chaos magic, created by The Guardians.
Weaknesses: The ring must be recharged every 24 hours. Also, the ring is unable to affect any object that is made of wood.
Powers of the Ring: Like the Alpha Ring, Alan Scott could use his ring to do anything he willed. However, since his ring was not “programmed” by the Guardians, it lacked some of the powers and the limits of the Alpha Ring. There was nothing, for example, to stop Alan Scott from killing aside from his own moral code. Alan Scott lamented this fact and spoke in one story about how he had the power to wish for every person in the world to become a decent human being, but how denying people the choice for good and evil would be more evil than the crimes he sought to stop. Regardless, aside from his time as Sentinel when Alan Scott seemed to be a magician on par with Dr. Fate, Scott has shown the following abilities as a Green Lantern:
• Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
• Protective Shields
• Space Travel
• Universal Translator
• Astral Projection
• Mind Tampering - Alan has never said how he knows the ring can do this, but he has referred to avoiding using said power.
Omega Ring - Kyle Rayner’s Ring
Description: Forged from the broken remains of the ring of rogue Green Lantern Hal Jordan, all but one of the Guardians gave their life force to create a new Green Lantern ring. The last Guardian, Ganthet, went to Earth to try and convince the former GL Guy Gardner to use this ring and to stand against Hal, who was now wielding all the energy of the Central Power Battery.. Gardner refused, saying he did not want to bail out the Guardians now that they realized he was the better man. With not much time left, Ganthet was forced to give the ring to the untested and unlikely artist Kyle Rayner in the hopes that his strong imagination would prove able to weave around Jordan’s strong will.
Power Source: Lacking a connection to The Central Power Battery, Kyle’s battery originally drew power directly from “The Source”; a cosmic energy field responsible for creating The New Gods and empowering certain other energy fields throughout he universe.
With the Central Power Battery reforged and repowered as of Green Lantern #150 and the "Legacy: The Last Will And Testament of Hal Jordan" graphic novel, it appears that Kyle's battery as well as those of the other Green Lanterns, are drawing their power from the new Central Power Battery..
Weaknesses: Unlike the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring was not connected to the Central Power Battery of Oa. As such, it lacked access to the information databases the Alpha Ring drew upon and was unable to communicate with the other, now dormant, Green Lantern rings. Still, the Omega Ring made up for these flaws in two important respects.
First, it lacked the yellow weakness of the Alpha Ring, confirming that the weakness is indeed a programmable event in the rings; a point of contention among many GL fans for years.
Second, unlike the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring did not need to be recharged on a daily basis. The Omega Ring functioned as a normal power tool; being able to lie unused for days, slowly draining its’ supply until recharged.
Powers of the Ring: At first appearance, the Omega Ring lacked many of the powers of the Alpha Ring. While Kyle Rayner would later gain some of the powers as he became more experienced in using the ring, he started out very limited in terms of ability though unhindered by the yellow weakness and 24 hour time time-limit of previous Lanterns. Indeed, Kyle only displayed three powers in his first outing as Green Lantern…
• Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
• Protective Shields
Despite this shaky start, Kyle did wind up developing nearly ALL of the powers of the Alpha Ring. This suggests that Kyle's low power levels were more the result of ignorance and a lack of training than any limit within the ring itself. Consider the list of Alpha Ring powers and how many of them Kyle later used...
Limited Healing - In JLA #17, Kyle says he can use his ring to heal a bullet wound after being shot. In Green Lantern: Rebirth #2, he internal dialogue explains how he could use the ring to make stitches to sew together a cut. Also, having this power would explain his quick recovery from other various injuries he picked up in the line of fire that would have required explaining to friends and neighbors.
Space Travel/ Life Support - Too many examples to count, but the first time was probably in the wake of the destruction of the Planet Oa in GL #0
Universal Translator - Very likely the first time he did this was in Green Lantern #56, when Kyle makes his first contact with an alien world. Countless examples since then.
Invisibility - Kyle used the ring to mask his presence in GL #154, as he confronted the man responsible for beating his friend Terry Berg in prison.
Astral Projection - JLA #15, where an energy projection of Kyle's face was able to deliver a warning to Superman from some distance away. Also, in last GL #174, Kyle communicated with the rest of his Corps with an energy projection of his thoughts.
Mind Tampering - Used by Hal sparingly to erase memories in Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II, Kyle has never used this ability despite experimenting with telepathic abilities during his time as Ion.
Communication Device - See countless JLA issues where Kyle stays in touch with the team without an apparent separate communicator.
Remote Control of Ring - GL #124. Kyle summons his ring to his hand as he is being chased by the Controller's Effigy squad. He has since then programmed his ring so that it will always return to his hand if it is forcibly taken from him.
Ring Duplication - This power has never been demonstrated and, apparently, is impossible with an Omega Ring. Kyle used the Alpha Ring given to him by a young Hal Jordan after the events of "Emerald Knights" to create rings for the new GL Corps that he was creating in "The New Corps" and had to take one spare Alpha Ring Copy as a master in edition to his own Omega Ring.
Ring AI/Database - Never demonstrated, but with the lack of the Central Battery "Hub", this makes sense.
Protection from Mortal Harm/ Life Support - This emergency power supply is apparently missing from the Omega Ring, as great play was made of this in GL #100, where Kyle and a young Hal Jordan switch rings when fighting Sinestro, so as to catch the villain off-guard. Considering how many times Kyle has been wounded and nearly killed (his being sniped by an assassin in GL #120, to give one example), it would seem likely he doesn't have this power.
Going through this list, we see only four powers that Kyle has not demonstrated directly in some capacity. The lack of a Ring AI is explained by the lack of a Central Power Battery to act as a database. Mind Tampering may not be impossible, but would likely be distasteful to a free-spirit like Kyle who would avoid such options even if he knew they were possible.
Ring Duplication is apparently impossible, as we can assume that Kyle would have at least tried to make a copy of his own ring just for the sake of trying after the events of Emerald Knights. Or can we? Kyle may have just assumed his ring was too different to have ever tried it.
As for the emergency power supply, no logical answers can be determined from the text. Perhaps it was, like the Ring AI, tied to the Central Power Battery whose network had the capability to monitor every individual Green Lantern at once and determine if they needed assistance?
Regardless, looking at this list the differences between the Omega Ring and Alpha Ring are not very great. In fact, were it not for the ability to copy itself and the emergency power supply they might well be the same ring but with a few features added ( the DNA lock that allows only Kyle or a family member to use the ring) or taken away ( the yellow weakness, and 24 hour time limit)
Indeed, in the wake of the reforging of the Central Power Battery, it seems that the Yellow Weakness is no longer a concern for ANY Green Lantern, regardless of whether or what ring they use. In Green Lantern: Rebirth #2, John Stewart confirmed that the yellow weakness hadn't been an issue since the destruction of the old Central Power Battery. This confirms that the Yellow Weakness was a programmed flaw and that the new battery does not impose such limits on Green Lanterns.
This means that only three things now separate the Omega Ring from the Alpha Ring.
1. DNA Lock " The Omega ring only works for Kyle Rayner, a member of his family (one of Kyle's descendants used the ring in the future) and, because it was his ring for many years and it still holds a "memory" of him, Hal Jordan. Reportedly, Kyle can will the ring to function for other people as well.
2. Emergency Energy Supply - " In GL #150, Kyle programmed his ring so that it would always have a small reserve of energy. The ring would still need to be recharged to be at full power, but the ring could never really run out of energy. This could be tied into the reconstruction of the Central Power Battery and be a substitute for the Protection From Mortal Harm energy reserve
3. Boomerang Effect - " Kyle programmed his ring in GL #150 so that it can never be taken from him by force. While a bit redundant when he can just pull the ring back to his hand at will, this makes the process automatic and would protect Kyle from having his ring stolen by a mind-controlling enemy.
Currently, the number of ring bearers as of Green Lantern: Rebirth #2 and where they got their ring from is as follows.
John Stewart: Alpha Ring. His ring is an emergency spare that was given to him by Kyle Rayner, who originally got it from a young Hal Jordan.
Oliver Queen: Alpha Ring. Hal Jordan's best friend, he was given a "for emergency only" ring by Hal Jordan.
Guy Gardner: Alpha Ring. Former Green Lantern, he recently got a new ring after a copy inexplicably split off of Oliver Queen's ring and flew onto his hand.
Killowog: Alpha Ring. Formerly dead Green Lantern, restored to life by Kyle Rayner. When last we saw him he was ringless, helping Kyle along with other former Lanterns in his effort to bring down the intergalactic Black Circle crime syndicate from the inside. As of GL: Rebirth #2, he is back in uniform with an active ring, presumably provided by Ganthet, the last Guardian.
Alan Scott: Beta Ring.
Kyle Rayner: Omega Ring.
Any questions? You know how to e-mail me.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.
Thursday, December 2, 2004
Looking To The Stars: Farewells, Goodbyes and Simpler Times.
As I'm sure you all have heard by now, our beloved fearless leader Ben Morse is leaving us this week for a job at Wizard magazine. Needless to say, I'm conflicted about the whole situation. Sure, I'm glad that Ben got this job which I know he's been dreaming of forever and a day. But it still sucks that we're loosing the guy who gave me, if not everyone at The Comics Nexus, our jobs way back when we were the smallest section of some wrestling site.
Still, I'm somewhat dismayed that of all the places to lose Ben to, we're losing him to Wizard, who exemplify everything that I personally feel is wrong with the comics news world. Still, he is happy and I take comfort in that. So beyond the first sentence, no negative words from me today.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't take any joy from writing negative reviews. I may make fun of bad stories and laugh off the antics of annoying, show-boating creators, but this is my defense mechanism. I never wish actual malice or harm to anyone, no matter how much I wish they would just STOP.
It was something of a shock then when I stumbled across the news while researching something else. Donald G. Jackson, the very first professional who wrote me about something I reviewed, was dead. He was also, it might be noted, one of the three creators who responded to something negative I reviewed.
Back in the days of Fanzing, I also tried my hand at movie criticism. But being an old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan as I was, I briefly turned my hand to Bad Movie criticism at a site that would publish nearly anything turned into them. I thought it a good place to warm up then and find a voice for myself. The site was called It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie. The movie, rented from the sci-fi section of the locally owned comic store with the huge sci-fi/horror section with tons of straight-to-video classics, was called "Legend of the Rollerblade 7". I'll skip the synopsis here (that's what the previous link to my review is for) but suffice to say it was bad. MST3K quality bad.
This was back when I was still naive enough to think that word never carries. That no professional, much less a film-maker, is going to care what an aspiring writer of 21 summers thinks of his work and of one lone page that says "This is crap and you shouldn't waste your time on it."
Boy, did I get an education. And not just when I got an e-mail from Donald Jackson, noting quite seriously that the Rollerblade 7 would come for me in the darkest night. No, that amused me more than anything. The education came when, tracking his e-mail address, I found Jackson's site, which I am sad to note is no longer up. And I learned of his filmmaking philosophy which explained everything.
Jackson, who trained under James Cameron (Yes, THAT James Cameron) all but single-handedly created a school called "Zen filmmaking". The basic gist of which is that if something unexpected happens during a shot that doesn't hurt the scene, use it. If your actors want to try and improvise something, let them. Shoot the picture and let fate sort it all out.
And in reading this, the movie came together for me. Sure, it was still low-budget and had some bad acting, but it was obvious that everyone on the set wanted to be there and that they were having fun. And that the movie was being made for that simple reason. You don't see a lot of that spirit in the world today, especially in the creative arts.
Whatever else may be said about Jackson's work, and I said quite a bit, his movies were never dull. You'd be hard pressed to find a plot sometimes or to explain what was going on at any given moment, but you could always find something to watch.
So here's a toast to Donald G. Jackson. And a recommendation; track down a copy of his classic "Hell Comes To Frogtown". It is one of the few movies with an outrageous title that actually manages to live up to everything outrageous the name promises.
And while we're on the subject of fun, a new book I checked out recently has had more "fun" in it than most of the comics I read on a regular basis. This wonder book is "Flare" by Heroic Publishing. The title has been around a while, but my comic book store only started carrying the book with this, its' third volume. Issue 2 just hit the stands last week and all I can say is that if you are a fan of books like JSA, the old JLA and Silver Age comics of all types, then this is something you should be reading.
One final thought. Green Lantern: Rebirth is greatness incarnate if only for the fact that in two panels, Geoff Johns finally managed to settle a point of much debate amongst Green Lantern scholars for the last ten years. But that topic I will save for next week... and the revised edition of "One Ring To Confuse Them All!"
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.
Wednesday, December 1, 2004
Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes #3 - A Review
Written by: Andy Hartnell
Penciled by: Nick Bradshaw
Inked by: ?
Colored by: Jim Charalampidis
Lettered by: Josh Johnson
Editor: Kerry Schindl & Shawn Spurlock
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
Quick pair of questions before we begin…
1. Have you seen the movie ‘Army of Darkness’?
2. If yes to question one, did you enjoy it?
If you answered no to question one, go see the movie but don’t read this review.
If you answered no to question two, go read my review of Small Gods instead of this one. You won’t find much worth reading here, I’m afraid.
Now that that’s out of the way, an explanation may be in order. The reason I asked these questions is because this book is, much like the movie series it is based on, an all-or-nothing gambit. Either you are going to totally enjoy it because its strengths totally eclipse its flaws or you will see this as one more example of why comic book adaptations of movies are a bad idea.
If you’ve seen Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, you know the story so far. Not that it matters because the whole thing is retold for us in flashback at the start of Issue One and a new flashback at the start of this issue. The quick version is that S-Mart clerk and badass-at-large Ash went on vacation in the woods, fought a bunch of zombies, lost his hand, got lost in time, killed more zombies and returned back to his proper home and time only to fight more zombies.
This series picks up where Army of Darkness ended. Literally, seconds after the ending, when an old wise man who helped Ash in the past appears to tell him that they sent him back in time a day before he left. It falls to Ash to become a hero once again, as they must move to find and destroy the true Necrocomicion; an evil magic book which is responsible for all the undead springing up all over the place.
As this issue opens, Ash and The Wise Man (who gets no other name) have recovered the book and must now travel back to when the book was first created; the one place where it can be destroyed. Naturally, the book itself is far from helping them with this and is summoning all the assistance it can get. And it gets a hand from Ash’s severed hand, which has been possessed by pure evil and put to work in a very literal interpretation of what happens to idle hands.
Of course if you’ve seen the movies, this will all seem very familiar. It will be a welcome familiarity, of course, but only we dedicated Dead-heads will think so. Still, there’s a surprise on the final page that will… um, surprise everyone.
The artwork is cartoonish, but perfectly suited to the source material. Army of Darkness itself danced on the border between cartoon and serious horror/action, so the exaggerated limbs and expressions on the figures here are not unwelcome. Indeed, Bradshaw’s art looks like a twisted mix between the films of Don Bluth and the art of J. Scott Campbell.
Small Gods #5 - A Review
Written by: Jason Rand
Penciled by: Juan E. Ferreyra
Inked by: Juan E. Ferreyra
Colored by: Eduardo Ferreyra
Lettered by: Jim Keplinger
Editor: Kirsten Simon
Publisher: Image Comics
I try to avoid reading previews as much as possible. Call me old-fashioned, but I like being surprised when I pick up a new book. And was I surprised this time! I had been expecting more adventures involving Owen Young, a cop who has visions of the future who also unwittingly discovers telepathic abilities that he cannot legally have and be allowed to keep his job.
The four issue opening arc of this title, Killing Grin, perfectly introduced us to the world of Small Gods; a world like ours, except that psychic powers are a scientifically recognized and heavily regulated force. Killing Grin also gave us a whole cast of interesting main and supporting characters. It was something of a shock then, to pick up this issue and find that while the amazing world Jason Rand has created is still here, the cast of characters has changed. And despite the fact that world-exploring titles are often high on concept but low on characterization, we get some amazing and memorable characters once again.
Robert Pope is a con-man with a gift. He can see flashes of the future seconds before they happen. He usually uses his talents at the poker table, where he can see his opponent’s hands before they are revealed. But his gifts also come in handy when his secret is ratted out to unhappy players and he’s forced to enter high-stakes fights for his life. Being able to see how a man is going to move to punch you is very useful too. Still, Robert quickly finds himself in over his head when he runs from a man before he has a chance to pull his badge and confirms his gift to a group of cops who want to use him for a mysterious job.
The issue, like all issues of Small Gods so far, concluded with a shorter comic. Whereas the last four issues gave us a four-part mini-comic, this time we are treated to a more humorous one-shot tale about a telekinetic cop writing up a report on his pursuit of a purse-snatcher.
As before, Ferreyra’s artwork is simply magnificent. The characters each have a distinct look to them and Ferreyra avoids the trap so many other artists fall into of drawing every character with the same jaw or the same hair. The greys used to color (in so far as greys can be called colors) this book are well-chosen and highlight the pencils and inks perfectly, creating images that seem closer to black-and-white photographs than comic-book artwork.
All in all, I’ve been surprised by every issue of this series so far; more so with this issue than any other. Still, the surprises have always been pleasant ones. And while I am not sure I can be truly surprised if I come to expect a surprise every time I read this book, I can be sure that I will always be given a pleasant read.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Ex Machina #6 - A Review
Written by: Brian K. Vaughn
Penciled by: Tony Harris
Inked by: Tom Feister
Colored by: JD Mettler
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: Wildstorm Comics
Okay. You have no excuse not to read this book now. Yes, I’m talking to you.
I know, I know. I’ve said before that “Ex Machina” is the greatest thing since sliced bread and you should be reading it. So you tried picking up issue 4 or 5 and it didn’t make a lick of sense. And you thought I was being an elitist snob having fun at your expense, recommending some trendy arthouse book that just went over your head.
Well, we all make mistakes. And I can cop to mine. See, I’ve been reading this book since issue one and I’m a big fan of the work of Brian K. Vaughn (Y: The Last Man, Ultimate X-Men) and Tony Harris (Starman, JSA: The Liberty File). I’ll admit my jonesing over two of my favorites working together did blind me to the fact that there’s some stuff you miss unless you’ve been reading since issue one. This is a great book but it is somewhat difficult to just pick up and read. Throw in the fact that the first five-issue arc was something of a mystery and that there’s a lot of flashbacks to a past that we know little about… and I can see why you got frustrated with this title.
But it’s different now. This one, Number Six, starts a WHOLE new story arc. Nothing you need to know going in, except perhaps the basic premise of the series. And that, I can give you for free.
Mitchell Hundred was raised by a single mother who was something of a political activist. One of his babysitters was a Russian tinker who he called Kremlin. Mitchell grew up to become an engineer working for the city of New York. He would be called out to investigate a bomb threat under the Brooklyn Bridge, only to be caught in the explosion of a strange device that did not hurt the bridge, but left Mitchell changed forever.
Somehow, Mitchell gained the ability to speak to machines and control them. Any type of machine, clockwork or electronic, is his to command. He can command guns not to fire, answer his phone without the touch of a button and even set off the airbags in a car before impact. He tried to use his powers as a superhero called The Great Machine with only Kremlin (who built several crime-fighting devices as well as a jet-pack for Mitchell) and Bradbury (a Harbor Patrol cop who was on the scene when Mitchell got his powers) aware of his secret. Mitchell accomplishes quite a bit, much to the chagrin of the Police Commissioner, who isn’t crazy about a vigilante working in her city.
Still, Mitchell decides to give up the superhero act, reveals his identity to the world and parlays the instant celebrity into a bid for Mayor of New York City. A bid that becomes a sure thing when he puts his costume on for the last time, in order to save the second World Trade Center Tower on 9/11/2001. It is now March 2002, Bradbury is now his security head, Kremlin is now estranged from them both and Mitchell is slowly learning the ropes of how to run the biggest city in the world. It is a daunting task his superpowers can’t begin to help him with. Rounding out the cast of regulars is Suzzane Padilla, a reporter who makes Lois Lane seem demure; Dave Wylie, Mitchell’s deputy mayor and intern/special advisor Journal Moore.
As far as the artwork goes, it’s about damn time we got Tony Harris on a regular monthly title again. He hasn’t had one since Starman and he’s been sorely missed since he left about halfway through that also long-missed series. He’s had a few projects since then, the JSA books and a lot of covers at Marvel among them, but nothing steady until now. And boy does every panel of this book make me realize how much we’ve been missing out on.
Whether you are, like me, a brazen fanboy of these two great masters or a total newbie to the world of comics and the work of Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris, you should be reading this book. Even if you know their work and, for some reason I can’t begin to conceive, didn’t like it… you should read this book. It is unlike anything that has ever been done before and, I think, anything we will ever see again.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Looking To The Stars: The Marvel/City of Heroes Lawsuit
You see, it's no shock to me the suggestion that Marvel has become obsessed with wringing as much money out of the hands of their fans as possible. They're a business first and foremost. It's what they do. Making money is the ultimate goal behind every decision that they make. So if they think printing three different variant covers for a new book, putting Wolverine in every single book and allowing Rob Liefeld to work for them, so be it. That's perfectly acceptable marketing practice in the comics world. What shouldn't be acceptable, however, is turning on the very same fans who pay your bills as Marvel has done recently regarding the on-line role-playing game, City of Heroes.
As originally told on Comicon's website, Marvel filed a suit against the makers of City of Heroes, claiming that the character creation engine used allows players to create virtual copies of characters owned by Marvel. They say that the game can allow a person to play a super-strong green-skinned giant like The Hulk as well as a mutant with claws and a healing factor like Wolverine.
The announcement of the lawsuit has lead to a whole lot of arguments on message boards over the evil corruptness of Marvel, the rights of copyright holders to protect their property under any circumstance and all manner of childish bickering. Well, as somebody who plays City of Heroes, I feel uniquely qualified to comment upon this. So, as a guy who has been a fan of Marvel Comics for a number of years and an active player on City of Heroes for nearly six months now, let me just address both parties here.
To Marvel Comics,
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MINDS? Good Lord, folks! I know you're worried that the big MMORPG you've been trying to get started for years is taking forever. I know that X-Men Legends wasn't nearly as big a success as you'd hoped for and that City of Heroes is probably partly responsible for that as it is a true superhero RPG and not the action-game-with-stats that Legends is and Freedom Force was before it. What you're doing isn't protecting your copyright rights at all and it's just making you look like jerks.
The big problem is this: Yes, the City of Heroes engine is VERY flexible. It does allow you to make giant characters of any skin color. It allows you to make martial artists with healing powers and claws on their wrists. It even allows you to make a guy who can fly and make fire just like The Human Torch. The problem is, you can't sue the guys who make City of Heroes over other people creating something based on your characters for two simple reasons.
1. I'll admit to not being an expert on Copyright law, but I believe the main reason behind it is to prevent one's creative property from being used by others to make a profit. None of the people creating these characters - these Incredible Sulks and Wolferines - are making any money off of what they are doing. You wanna sue somebody, sue the fans. Oh wait: the fans don't have money do they? And suing the fans will make you look like greedy, money-grubbing jerks - like record company executives or the guys who ran Enron.
2. The people who are making money while all this is going on: the guys who run City of Heroes? They have been going out of their way to make sure that this kind of thing DOESN'T happen. It's right there in the terms of service when you sign up for your account as well as EVERY TIME you log into the game. Sections 3e and 3f of the user agreement are quite clear about this point: create a character who has the name and appearance of a copyrighted character or create a supergroup with the name, motto, description or battle cry of an established group and it will be deleted. It is, as that great master of Legalese Willy Wonka said, "clear as crystal." And I know for a fact that that rule gets enforced: I lost two good comrades in arms who played as Arthur and The Tick and actually role-played the parts. We fought for only two sessions when I was level 2 as they were level 3, but what sessions they were!
So please, for your own sake if not my blood pressure, drop the suit. You're looking like idiots and no competent judge is going to believe for a moment that the CoH team has been encouraging people to use your characters. Worse, you're annoying the fans who ARE paying your salaries. I had a good customer drop his entire comics subscription this past Wednesday, because he's an avid City of Heroes player and he'd rather play his own heroes now than read about yours now.
And speaking of the players, now I'd like to address the players who have been making characters based on Marvel characters.
To all the City of Heroes players making characters based on Marvel Comic's characters,
WILL YOU PEOPLE SHOW SOME FREAKING INITIATIVE? Honestly! Here you have this whole new world! A world where you can be nearly any type of hero you want, create billions of different costumes, write your own background and make something truly unique. And what do you do? You make a Defender with force-field making, psychic blasting powers and name her Jane Gray.
Look, I'm the last person in the world to decry the idea of hero-worship. For crying out loud, my nickname comes from my favorite superhero of all time! And I'll cop to admitting to having tried to make a carbon copy of some of my favorite characters in the engine, just to see if I could. But I never played any of those characters. Not for any longer than an afternoon. Because it was all the more satisfying for me to run around the city as a shadow-controlling good guy than for me to be one more Colossus-clone. It was more fun to make a heroine based on my girlfriend and have "High Sierra" saving the city than making a picture-perfect Phoenix.
Thing is, you're doing yourself and the rest of the player's a disservice. If I had a dollar for every good idea for a new take on superheroes I've heard while working in a comic shop, I wouldn't have to work in a comic shop. The most interesting people I've met playing City of Heroes were the ones who put some effort into their characters, wrote up a good backstory for them and those rare few who actually try to role-play in what is meant to be a role-playing game.
So just try something new. If people laugh at your costume, so what? At least you're being original. And more importantly, you're safe from being sued if Marvel DOES decide to go after individual players.
The ranting booth is now closed. Thank you all for playing.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Knights Of The Dinner Table #97 - A Review
Written by: The KODT Development Team
Penciled by: Jolly R. Blackburn
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: Jolly R. Blackburn
Editor: Jolly R. Blackburn
Publisher: Kenzer & Company
SCENE: Day. Thursday Morning. 9:00 a.m. A small loft apartment in Texas.
“STARMAN” Matt Morrison sits at a computer, typing away while muttering under his breath.
Starman: … get me wrong. I realize the need to raise the curtain and expand the world at times. But the sad fact is that in this issue, the need eliminates a lot of the usual comedy from the book. While this is necessary, it is not enjoyable and-
Suddenly, an Instant Messenger window opens!
Daron, The Dark Overlord: Minion!
Daron, The Dark Overlord: It has been a long time, minion. Too long.
Starman: What do you mean? We chatted just the other day.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: But not like this, minion. I’ve missed this. The humorous reviews where I threaten you with unreasonable threats, make unreasonable demands. And everyone is amused by your pain and suffering.
Starman: But don’t you think the readers can get enough of that watching our counterparts over at the critically acclaimed 144 Anima?
Daron, The Dark Overlord: As if the readers could ever get enough of me. Now, where is the review of Army of Darkness #3 that I asked, nay DEMANDED of you?!?!
Starman: It didn’t come out this week.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: WHAT?!? You mean it is not done?
Starman: My review? No, it’s not done. The comic didn’t come out!
Daron, The Dark Overlord: But Diamond said…
Starman: Diamond was wrong. The book never made it to the stores. Not MY store, anyway. And I’ve got it on subscription, so I would have gotten it by now if it had come out. But I haven’t. So it hasn’t. Period.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: But… but that’s not fair! That is a great film! A great movie!
Starman: Yes, I know. And the comic is pretty good too. But I’ve got something to run in it’s place. A new Knights of the Dinner Table came out.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: I don’t enjoy that D&D gamer geek stuff.
Starman: Well, I didn’t enjoy this one much either. The usual back-up material and columns are okay. In fact, there’s a really funny rant by this one guy about how Boba Fett doesn’t make any sense as a character…
Daron, The Dark Overlord: Yes. And his helmet is far inferior to mine!
Starman: I guess. But the actual comics this time around were kinda flat. See, the current storyline involves how the group’s gamemaster B.A. bought “The Biggest Damn Dungeon Ever”; a new adventure that parodies something just released for D&D players in real life.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: That sounds topical and amusing.
Starman: Well, once they get into it, it will be. But after a quick strip showing the main characters sitting down to play, the whole rest of the comics section is taken up with a story showing goings-on in Hard 8 Productions, the company that makes all the great fantasy RPGs in the Knight’s reality.
Daron, The Dark Overlord:And that’s bad?
Starman: Well, they even so much as admit that they’re more concerned with throwing out plot points about how the company is going under and setting up for the future than they are about doing the usual comedy material. When you get right down to it, there’s not a lot of humor to be found in a board meeting between four characters trying to figure out how to keep their jobs.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: What? Pain and suffering. Sounds funny to me!
Starman: Yeah, well this doesn’t quite overcome the Mel Brooks Law of Relativity.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: I’m not familiar with that one?
Starman: Tragedy is when you get a papercut. Comedy is when someone else falls down an open manhole.
Daron, The Dark Overlord: Ah yes. Speaking of which, bring me a few small children. I desire to have things fall down into the bottomless pit for my amusement.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Ghostbusters: Legion #3 - A Review
Written by: Andrew Dobb
Penciled by: Steve Kurth
Inked by: Serge LaPointe, Michel Lacombe
Colored by: Blond
Lettered by: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Sebastien Clavet
Publisher: 88 mph Studios
This book, like many others, would be so much more enjoyable if it weren’t for the multi-month delays. Thankfully, each issue since the first has had a “Previously” page at the start of the comic to fill in late-comers on the story thus far. And speaking of the story thus far…
It is six months after the events of the original Ghostbusters movie, wherein four men became supernatural exterminators. Scientists Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and ex-military man Winston Zeddemore saved the world from invasion by an ancient Sumerian god incarnated as a fifty-foot high Marshmallow Man. Now, a series of increasingly deadly and strange ghost attacks have the team run ragged, with the boys in brown fighting ghosts that are much more intelligent than normal.
Things start to pick up in this issue as we get a look into the Ghostbuster’s past and we see the work that got Peter, Ray and Egon their doctorates, as a colleague, to use the language of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, “failed his sanity check”. We find out that said colleague, Michael Draverhaven, has recently escaped from the mental hospital he was kept in and that in the past he apparently attacked Ray, traumatizing him somewhat.
This book is a class act in all respects. The artwork is excellent, resembling a more heavily inked Mark Bagley or a less-chessecake driven J. Scott Campbell. The writing is dead on, with each character sounding like their counterpart from the movies and the long-missed animated series. The dialogue is spot-on and the whole thing feels like a credible continuation of the original movie. The one sore spot, apart from the chronic lateness, is that the story has been more concerned about the characters than the action and the plot. Of course, the original movies were guilty of this as well, but things moved so quickly that few noticed. The lateness of the book has only exasperated this problem and made us all too aware that only now in the penultimate chapter are things being investigated, much less explained.
Still, these are petty complaints and ultimately have no baring upon the book’s quality. Outside of these problems, it is one of the most enjoyable reads in recent memory. It would be well worth your time to try and pick up the first two issues as well as this one. There’s not a ghost of a chance you won’t enjoy it!
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Looking To The Stars: The Incredibles - A Review
Yes, this film has weighed heavily upon my mind for this past week. For as I toiled in the comic shop throughout the weekend I had many customers come into the store, fresh from either the Wizard World convention or from seeing The Incredibles. Both events, I was assured, were without equal in coolness.
And then there were those who had not seen it and asked me, "Matt. You're a knowledgeable guy about these things. How IS the movie?" What else could I do except to say that I had heard it was good, but I hadn't had the time off to see it myself... until now, that is.
The plot is surprisingly heavy stuff for what is primarily assumed to be a kid's movie. Heavy as in complex, not dark. Though it is that too. All the superheroes were forced into hiding after various lawsuits threatened to cripple the federal government that apparently authorized superheroes to do what they do. One of the foremost heroes, the super-strong and nigh-invulnerable Mr. Incredible, settles down with superheroine Elastigirl and the two settle into suburbia, where she becomes a stay-home mom to three children and he gets a job in the insurance industry.
Sadly, not all is well at home. Son Dash is a hyperactive troublemaker who wants to play on the sports teams, but can't for fear of accidentally using his superspeed powers. Daughter Violet is very much a shrinking violet, hiding behind her hair when she isn't hiding with her invisibility powers. And the former Mr. Incredible is increasingly dissatisfied with his work (which requires him to ignore people in need in favor of keeping expenses down) and is sneaking out of the house once a week with his old partner (the ice-controlling Frozone) in order to help people in secret.
All this changes after Mr. Incredible is contacted by a woman named Mirage, who offers him three times what his insurance job offered doing secret jobs for the government tracking down rogue battle droids. He accepts the job and quickly finds himself in the clutches of Syndrome; former member of Mr. Incredible's fan club, aspiring sidekick and now full-fledged super-villain. It falls to Mr. Incredible and his family to save the world from Syndreome's plans even as they struggle to save their family.
This movie is, as the title says, simple incredible. Pixar's animation has never been better and fans of their previous works will love this movie for that reason alone. The characters are paper thin and likely familiar to any avid comic book reader, with the cocky speedster and the shy invisible girl common enough to be cliché now. Still, they are enjoyable for their familiarity and everyone will find someone in the movie they can relate to as a character. Because like all the great comic books, this is less about the superpowers and more about the relationships between people.
There's only one complaint I have about the movie; there's too little of it even with nearly two hours of screen time. There is so much focus on Mr. Incredible and his mid-life crisis, that a lot of the other subplots are given shorter shrift. We don't even get to see much of the rest of the family until about an hour in when the rescue mission begins. And Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone seems woefully underused, as his appearances offer some of the best moments in the movie. In fact, he has the single funniest moment in the movie and it is totally spoiled by Disney's annoying habit of always putting their best moments in their trailers and TV advertisements.
Still, as good as Sir Samuel is, the movie is stolen by Jason Lee as Syndrome in his all but too brief (maybe five minutes total) of the whole movie. The man is a comedy genius and it's rather sad that aside from Kevin Smith and the guys who made Mumford, that nobody has given him more of a chance to showcase his comedic talents.
That's the other problem I have with the movie. Compared to Pixar's past efforts, it's just not as funny. Even allowing for the fact that this is meant to be a more dramatic picture, even the funny bits seem less funny.
Still, this movie is fun if not funny. Taken for what it is, it is amazing. And it's also a great vehicle for introducing the little ones in your life to the cool world of superheroes if you haven't done so already.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Rising Stars #22 - A Review
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciled by: Brent Anderson
Inked by: Brent Anderson
Colored by: Brian Buccellato
Lettered by: Spehar, Dreamer
Editor: Scott Tucker
Publisher: Top Cow Productions
SCENE: Day. Wednesday Morning. 11:00 a.m. A small comic shop in Texas.
“STARMAN” Matt Morrison ENTERS. At the counter is JENNIFER, a co-worker.
Starman: Morning, folks!
Jennifer: Morning, Matt!
Starman: Sorry I’m a little late. Overslept a bit. Was up all night watching the election returns. It’s tight, but I’m sure that John Kerry will wait it out to the last recount.
Jennifer: Oh, Matt. Hadn’t you heard? They just announced on the radio. Kerry conceded.
Starman: WHAT?!?! With all the reports of voter fraud and lost ballots in Ohio? He’s giving up? Just like that?
Jennifer: Yes. But cheer up! There’s some good news!
Starman: I could use it. They’ll probably be sending the wagon for us Red-State liberals any moment now.
Jennifer: Probably. But guess what came out today? Rising Stars #22!
Starman: Ha! Good one. That almost made me feel like smiling.
Jennifer: No, really! See?
JENNIFER hands STARMAN a comic.
Starman: Good Lord… this is real!
Jennifer: Yes! And you’ll never believe it… but Superman/Batman came out today too.
Starman: What? After less than two months?
Jennifer: Yes. See! Things aren’t all that bad…
ENTER, A ZOMBIE. It ambles up to the counter.
Starman: (still reading his Rising Stars) Jennifer?
Starman: Did Avengers 503 come out today too?
Starman: There you go, sir. Just look at the start of the bookshelves.
Starman: No, there’s NO limit on how many copies you can buy. Freaking Marvel zombies…
Suddenly, comprehension dawns.
Starman: Wait a second! He smells awfully good for a comic book reader! He must be the walking dead!
Jennifer: No, that didn’t come out. But we do have two other Steve Niles books…
Starman: No! Jennifer, don’t you see? Bush re-elected? Superman/Batman coming out on time? Rising Stars #22 finally hitting the shelves? The dead rising from the grave?!?! Don’t you see what’s happened?
Jennifer: Oh no! You mean…
Starman: Yes! The End-Times are upon us and the zombie legions of the damned have risen to destroy all that is good and decent.
Jennifer: You know, Bush hasn’t even made his victory speech…
Starman: (not hearing her) Yes. The End Times are here. The final battle between good and evil is set to play upon the world stage. And these undead bastards think they can come in here and taint this place with their negative energy, unclean presence and high-volume speculation?
STARMAN reaches under the counter, pulling out a shotgun.
Starman: Not on my shift!
Well, I hope you all enjoyed the above proposal for my upcoming comic: Starman Morrison: Action Comic Geek! Of course those of you expecting a review of Rising Stars #22 are probably wondering what the heck is going on.
Well, the above was written in about 20 minutes. It is sophomoric, preachy and contains very little serious social commentary or political satire. And yet, despite it’s obvious flaws, it is STILL a much more effective political piece than the new issue of Rising Stars.
Two pages quickly recount the events of the first 21 issues and the #0 special. letting everyone know what has happened before. We are then launched into this issue where… not much happens. The artwork falls flat as well. Anderson’s work here looks sloppy and rushed; ironic considering that this book is about.. what, three years late now?
Still, this is probably not the fault of Anderson. Nor is it likely the fault of Straczynski. Or even Top Cow, whose going behind Straczynski’s back on the plans for a “Rising Stars” movie prompted the whole mess that delayed this book for so long. This book, even when it was coming out regularly, always read better in the trade paperback format than it did as a monthly title. And in the wake of the last week, the plot of this issue, centering around political intrigue; it pales in comparison to the real life political intrigue that occurred the week before this comic was released.
The sad fact is that in the post 9-11 environment, this story is no longer as shocking as it was three years ago. A few elitists in government lying to their citizens and conspiring against them to increase their personal power? The idealists we’d hoped would fix everything not allowed to lift a finger to solve the problems because fixed problems aren’t profitable? Not as big a flight of fancy as we’d hope.