Monday, March 29, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Jersey Girl - A Review

At what point did it become acceptable, to say nothing of common practice, to critique an object without even discussing the object in question directly?

Case in point: out of all the reviews I read for Kevin Smith’s new film “Jersey Girl”, which opened this past weekend, I saw very few which said anything at all about the movie and how it made the reviewer feel. This includes, I mention lest we start making any broad generalizations about my view of the small press and big media, both the mainstream and independent operations.

There was quite a lot about why Ben Affleck is the worst actor in recent memory. A fair spattering about how Jennifer Lopez is in the film briefly and how the two are married in the movie and how funny that is not that they are broken up. There was quite an obscene amount of talk about how Kevin Smith is, alternatively, a total sell-out, a complete hack incapable of making a mainstream movie and a man who has sold out his fanbase in favor of respectability.

While this kind of thing may appeal to the huddled masses of Indie film freaks who quoted “” like bible verse before it became mainstream and accepted by the huddle masses who get their big movie news from “People Magazine” and “Entertainment Weekly”, it fails to tell us anything about the flick itself, the performances of the actors besides the Allmighty Affleck and the feelings it inspired, This was, unless I missed out on some memo from the grand high king of all critics, our fricking jobs!

So for those of you who want to read about how this is the worst movie since “Gigli”, how this wasn’t worth delaying “Spider-Man/Black Cat #4” for (that being the one rather flimsy link I have to justify writing about this movie in a column that usually talks about comics) and how this was the worst movie to come out this weekend EVEN With “Scooby Doo 2”… look elsewhere. I’m going to ignore the whole Ben/J-Lo break-up and all the other crap that strictly speaking has no bearing upon the movie as a movie.

The first question that any Kevin Smith devotee is likely to ask about this movie is how it compares to the others. Simply put, there is no way to compare them. This is completely different from anything than Kevin Smith has ever done before. Oh, there are similarities to be sure… but this is perhaps the most thoughtful and certainly the most mature work he has ever published in any form.

You can say that this is like “Chasing Amy”, but all they have in common is that they are both touching dramas with a lot of funny moments. You can compare it to “Dogma” in terms of depth, but “Jersey Girl” is firmly grounded in reality without any supernatural elements at all. You can liken it to “Clerks” in how they both portray the real-world suburbs of New Jersey, but “Clerks” lacks the deeper emotional thoughtfulness of “Jersey Girl”. You can even compare it to “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”, but the only “dick and fart jokes” (to quote Kevin Smith himself) involve dirty diapers and little kids “playing doctor”. In fact, the movie I think this most compares to is “Mallrats”, which I shall explain my reasoning for in a moment.

The biggest problem with the media hype around this movie and its’ big stars is that it revealed the big surprise of the film. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of it, as Smith plays the scene beautifully so that it is a complete surprise to the viewers. I heard audible gasps from some of those around me who either had the good fortune to not hear anything about the movie beforehand or were so overwhelmed by the emotion of the scene that they gasped in spite of themselves.

Regardless, as the trailers for the movie now reveal the surprise indirectly, I can discuss it here without fear of spoilage. Within the first ten minutes, we find out that Ollie and Gertrude (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) fell in love, got married and are about to have their first child. Gertrude dies suddenly in childbirth, leaving Ollie alone with a daughter to raise and a career to balance.

Seven years later, little “Gertie” has grown up into the adorable and talented Raquel Castro and Ollie is trying to get his career back to where it was before what I can only call “a forced hiatus” without giving away too much of the story. But with a little help from his father (George Carlin), a cute video store clerk who might becoming more than a friend (Liv Tyler) and his daughter, Ollie realizes what he really wants in life.

I laughed the least at this movie compared to any of Smith’s other works. This is not because it is not funny, but because it is a different kind of funny; the funny jokes that makes you smile and rejoice in your life rather than the “I can’t believe they just did that” shock jokes that fill so many other Smith films.

While the film has much quieter laughs, the laughs that are there are priceless such as the moment in which young Gertie tries to imitate her dad, gesture for gesture, as she gives him the same dressing down for “showing his parts” to a girl he isn’t married to that he gave her. While the laughs were not as frequent as other works, they were much longer lasting.

In contrast, I did become full blown misty-eyed and cried like a baby at three separate moments throughout the film. And whoever arranged the music for this movie deserves an award for their work. Music fills this movie, highlighting practically every scene. And while in a lesser film this might invoke the feeling of a giant music video, it never quite reaches that point here. It seems perfectly natural and completely appropriate that Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” plays in the background as Ollie visits his wife’s grave as he ponders a fight with his daughter

It is in this sense that the film indirectly reminds me of “Mallrats”, for this is very much an “80’s film”. But whereas “Mallrats” was a tribute to the kind of movies that John Hughes made about suburban teenager life, Jersey Girl is closer to the romantic dramas so common to the 80’s that also had a lot of musical moments, like… dare I say it?... Dirty Dancing.

Ben Affleck, as usual, seems to give a much better performance here than he does in the big Hollywood productions that he does when he isn’t working with Smith. Take my opinion with a grain of salt, as I am one of the few people in comic fandom who thought Ben was a competent Matt Murdock, but I think this is easily one of Ben’s best performances ever and his best one under Smith’s direction. And the supporting cast match him note for note.

George Carlin is an amazing supporting player, proving the old adage that most comedians make fine actors in any genre. While there is always a danger that comedians can take their lines and make everything a wisecrack, Carlin builds a really deep character in “Pop”, who is equally able to dote on his granddaughter and give his son a dressing down for his selfish attitude. Rest assured though comedy fans, that Carlin does get to crack wise as well but overall proves himself as worthy of an Oscar nomination as other comedians gone dramatic like Robin Williams and Bill Murray.

Liv Tyler also is given a chance to shine like never before. I’ve been a big fan of Liv since “Stealing Beauty” and it was nice to see her given something more substantial than standing around and looking tormented, yet inhumanly beautiful as in “The Lord of the Rings”. Her “Mya” invokes the same spirit as other Smith heroines like Alyssa Jones and Gwen Turner, not just for her disarming openness (She’s working on a term paper on the psychological profiles of men who rent pornographic movies) but also in her ability to see through the B.S. that the hero feeds himself and the world.

Raquel Castro is a wonder and just when I think that Smith has gone too far in how many big words he can put into the mouth of a seven year old girl, she does something so genuine that I can believe that she writes the very intelligent speech about her family that opens the movie. The running gag regarding her always forgetting to flush the toilet as well…her wanting to see the same movie over and over… her wanting do the same musical as all her friends for the upcoming school pageant… all of this smacks of real little girl behavior. And as I recall the words of my local film critic, who loudly protested the validity of a talent show where every other girl is performing “Memory” from “Cats”, I wonder how many talent shows HE has been too lately where half the elementary-age girls in the dance contest are performing “Oops, I Did It Again?” Not bloody many, I’d guess.

And to my surprise, Jennifer Lopez does a good job in her brief time on the screen. I will go so far as to say that this is perhaps the most genuine acting I have ever seen from her… although that’s not saying much as I tried to gouge my eyes out after “The Cell.” Still, for all those who criticized her lack of acting ability in… well, pretty much anything, I challenge you to watch the scene of her, several months pregnant, getting ready for a party and bursting into tears as Ollie berates her for waiting until the last minute and marvel not only at her sudden apparent talent but also at Smith’s ability to write a more truthful depiction of married life than you will see in many films.

Indeed, Smith’s greatest gift as a writer and a filmmaker is his ability to capture the essential truth in any situation. His earliest works did this, honestly portraying the lives of the 20-something men in the awkward man-child phase. The years most college-age men go through where they struggle to achieve manhood while avoiding turning into a grown-up. “Clerks” was practically a documentary of this phenomena as well as a message film. “Clerks” was ultimately a man stuck in a rut because it was more comfortable to lie in the gutter and than to try reach for the stars.

And if “Clerks” taught us about the need to try for something better in our lives, then “Mallrats” was about how to fight for what we have. “Chasing Amy”, in contrast, shows the dangers of questioning the good that comes your way and looking gift horses in the mouth. “Dogma” teaches the importance of general faith and how . Even “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” had a message of sorts, though the message was more about why Jay is not a role-model

What then is the message of Jersey Girl? To quote Robert Burns, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Jersey Girl’s message is that in spite of things not going the way we want them to, sometimes things turn out better than we plan.

I fear this message may be all but lost in the all the Sturm und Drang of the media machine that has surrounded this movie and will likely continue so long as it is in theaters. But those of us who can take joy in the idea of “God, That’s Good” from “Sweeny Todd” being performed before the audience of a private Catholic school will find something much more valuable and enjoyable here than gossip and trash-talk.

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.0.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Moth Special #1 - A Review

Written by: Gary Martin
Penciled by: Steve Rude
Inked by: Steve Rude & Andy Bish
Colored by: Glenn Whitmore
Lettered by: Patrick Owsley & Willie Schubert
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse/Rocket Comics

It all started with a trading card set and a superhero called The Moth. Writer Gary Martin loved the art and the concept and asked artist and creator Steve Rude from whence the character had come, for he wished to write a story for him. It turned out the character was created exclusively for the card set and Rude had no other plans for it.

Years later, a story was written by Martin and drawn by Rude as part of an inking contest in Wizard Magazine. The story was printed in Dark Horse Presents #138 and proved exciting enough to Rude that he asked for another Moth story, to be drawn as soon as his contract with Marvel expired.

More years passed, and after a legal battle with a former employer (The Moth’s logo looks suspiciously like that of another famous vigilante who has a movie coming out soon. Apparently he’s a death’s head moth…), Steve Rude’s “The Moth” has finally made his solo book premiere some ten years since the release of the card set he was created for. So now that it is here, how does the book read?

Sadly, not nearly as well as it might. Rude’s artwork is stupendous and it truly does inspire, as Martin says in his introduction, “the same feeling I got reading Kirby in my youth.” Indeed, the Moth’s design is pure Kirby. Though I’m sure most will compare the mask to Spider-Man and the cloak to Batman; the influence of The King is undeniable.

The character too is a fitting tribute to the Silver Age of comics. We are introduced to The Moth; aka Jack King (hint hint). Jack was ½ of a pair of co-joined twins, his other half lost through undefined circumstances. Still living in the circus which was their home for years, Jack uses his natural skills as a gymnast and acrobat as well as a special gliding suit to fight crime as he travels around the country, now playing the part of the circus daredevil.

The concept of this book is pure Kirby. From the supporting cast of clowns and other performers to the bearded lady love interest, this comic is just plain fun to look at and read. Indeed, it is one part of the fun that raises the only problem I have with the book.

The basic plot centers about The Moth investigating a series of murderers that later turn out to be connected to a supernatural being. Without giving much away, The Moth’s victory here stems not from his own heroic exploits (great though they are) but from a sheer lucky coincidence and things happening on the other side of the world.

Call me an old traditionalist, but I prefer the old Silver Age stories where the hero won of his own accord and not because of blind luck. At least, I’d prefer it that way in the very first adventure of said hero because events as they are presented here make The Moth look like some kind of bumbling fool who has every right to feel as badly about himself as he does during his one moment of self-pitying soliloquy.

I once heard the term “new classic” applied to a Disney movie and laughed at the presumption of anything new being a classic. I laugh no more, for “The Moth” is truly worthy of the oxymoron “new classic” and I can’t wait for him to take flight again.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Looking To The Stars: What Once Was Old Is Old Again...

Did I step through a time warp and wind up back in 1992? All evidence suggests yes. There’s a Bush in the White House, once seemingly invincible thanks to a war in Iraq; now looking weaker and weaker as the economy crumbles. I’m ecstatically happy and yet feeling like a clumsy dork… all due to a girl who is as equally convinced that I’m her soul mate as I am of she, just like the not so glorious days of Jr. High. And Marvel Comics is getting ready to put out a new “Venom vs. Carnage” book.

To paraphrase the great Louis Black… “WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?!?!”

I mean, honestly? Has there really been that big a demand for the return of the symbiotes from anyone who isn’t a speculator? Somebody who isn’t still sitting on five-long boxes full of every single misguided attempt Marvel made during the early 90’s to give Venom a solo series? Someone who can intelligibly give reasons for why Venom and Carnage were the greatest Spidey villains of all time without using the words “kewl”, “w1ck3d!” or “aw50m3”?

It’s almost enough to make a fanboy wish for the second coming of Bill Jemas. Almost.

I mean, ignoring the fact that the current Venom book (which didn’t even really have Venom in it until recently) is one of the most vile pieces of filth to be foisted onto the comic-reading public in recent memory and that pretty much everything done with the character except the recent “The Hunger” storyline in Spectacular Spider-Man within the last ten years has… to be blunt… stunk like a dead skunk in a natural gas processing plant… Carnage is dead. Has been since Peter Parker #10 (vol 2) and I haven’t heard anyone complain since.

The news of this ill-conceived concept came recently in a Marvel Comics news briefing, which also heralded the arrival of other new titles of questionable judgment. Among these are…

Amazing Fantasy #1

Staring a heroine who is “…fierce…sassy...she sticks to walls!” and promising “teen-friendly adventures set in the current Marvel Universe!”, this title will be written by Fiona Avery (aka J. Michael Straczynski’s protégé) with art by Mark Brooks of Marvel Age: Spider-Man.

Wary as I am of any title billed as being teen-friendly, I could see this one actually working so long as editorial and Avery concentrate on building it up as its own unique thing and don’t turn it into a guest-of-the-month book and then have Wolverine and Spider-Man show up in every other issue.

Who are we kidding? This is Marvel. They’ll cross-promote the heck out of this, it will wind up looking like “just another superhero book” that will go ignored by the teenage girls that we’re OH SO DESPERATELY trying to get into the comic book stores and this will go down as one more example of why Spider-Woman has failed to take off in the same way She-Hulk did.

I’m also somewhat wary of having Avery writing this one. This is, as far as I know, her first solo work as writer and plotter and what I’ve read of her writing with Straczynski’s plotting on “Amazing Spider-Man” hasn’t filled me with a lot of confidence. Loki seemed very out of character on her “Chasing A Dark Shadow” story and last week’s “Vibes” seemed derivative of countless other stories where Peter reaches out to a troubled youth and makes a difference by doing something other than webbing up a crook.

Still, though my Spidey Sense is screaming “Miss” the more I read about this title, I’ll wait for it to come out before I get too worried.

Mary Jane

Written by Sean McKeever with pencils by Takeshi Miyazawa, this one will center on teenage Mary Jane Watson, showing “the thrilling highs and the crushing lows of high-school existence in a new, ongoing teen drama!”

This one I see a bit more hope for. The most popular books with the much desired teen girl market these days are manga books that center around this very concept; an ordinary teenage girl who gets caught up in extraordinary events all while trying to balance her life and all the regular problems of a teen girl. Not that a book featuring a super-powered heroine can’t do well, but… well, I see more teenage men reading “Slayers” than “Fruits Basket” and more teenage girls reading “Hot Gimmick” than “Battle Angel Alita.”

McKeever has already proven that he can do this kind of story on various Tsunami title and while I’m not familiar with Miyazawa’s work, what I’ve seen looks good.

Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One

Written by Zeb Wells with art by Kaare Andrews, this one will take a look at the early years of Dr. Otto Octavius.

Wells work has been hit or miss with me in the past. While he can do a cute one-shot, he’s failed to entertain in the past on stories as serious as the early years of Doc Ock are likely to be. Also, I’m curious if he’s going to try and utilize the new background (ie troubled childhood, abusive father) that Octavius has seemingly developed over the last few months. Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of the “Octavius as an altruistic scientist, forever changed by a lab accident” origin as it just makes Dr. Octopus another example of one who could have been a hero had it not been for cruel fate as opposed to just another mistreated maniac.

Still, it will be interesting to read if nothing else… assuming I haven’t gotten Dr. Octopus burnout by then.

Other projects announced for June this year (though not expanded upon in the announcement) were Identity Disc, Invaders, and Witches; none of which grab me by title alone.

And in another announcement, Marvel announced that they would restart “Avengers” with a new #1 and a new team made up of the “big guns” of the Marvel Universe with Brian Michael Bendis writing.

Okay. This one I won’t wait on do declare an outright BAD IDEA.

I thought we were past the days of restarting books with #1! This one seems particularly gratuitous as we are now rebooting the book just a scant few issues after it will be renumbered as Avengers #500 and taking it into yet another volume!

I like Brian Michael Bendis as much as the next guy but thus far he has not proven able to write an effective team book. His best works usually focus on a single character as they deal with an event, with a supporting cast to back them up. This is how his work on Ultimate X-Men thus far has read, with a focus on Wolverine and the rest of the team just showing up later… or with a focus on Angel and then the rest of the team in the background not saying anything except for a few panels. I’m not saying that he couldn’t do well on Avengers… but the evidence thus far suggests it.

Also… the “big guns” idea for the team is a bad idea since, in this case “big guns” means the most popular characters and not the most powerful. That approach might work in JLA, where all the most popular heroes are also among the most powerful and versatile. Compare that to Avengers mainstay Scarlet Witch. Wanda has never been as popular as The Hulk, but there’s nobody better to have on your side going into an unknown situation than a woman who can control the unknown.

Compare that to the concept of Spider-Man and Daredevil on a team. Bad idea: they both team-up well, but are not the “sit around the base and do patrol duty” type of hero. Besides, with Spider-Man’s reputation and Daredevil all but retired from active duty (thanks to Bendis’s work on his title) they would be hard to fit into The Avengers.

Storm and Wolverine on a team other than X-Men. Bad idea. True, they are team players but both are more used to covert ops than the more visible role the Avengers play. Also, with Wolverine’s habit of cutting down those he fights, it’s unlikely he’d gain much public acceptance.

And I’m not even going to touch the concept of The Hulk in his current savage form on a team. Mark Millar already showed how well that works in Ultimates; not bloody well. Still, we can hope that something good will come of this. And hope, if nothing else, is the one thing a good comic book can give you.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Spectacular Spider-Man #11 - A Review

Written by: Paul Jenkins
Penciled by: Daimon Scott
Inked by: Rob Campanella
Colored by: Frank D’Armata
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: John Miesegaes, Axel Alonso & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This is, perhaps, the weakest issue of the new Spectacular Spider-Man published so far. This is not to say that it is bad, per say… but it doesn’t look like this new storyline is going to match up to “The Hunger” or “Countdown”. This is odd because for the most part, the individual components of this issue are excellent.

The Story

Jenkins has the thankless task of trying to build upon the atrocious “Spider-Man: Quality of Life” by Greg Rucka. All you need to know about that particular story is that Martha Connors, the one stabilizing force in the life of Dr. Curt Connors dies of cancer and that, for reasons that elude such established Spider-Man experts as the good people at as well as myself, Dr. Connors now knows Spider-Man’s secret identity.

Anyway, Dr. Connors is stressed because of work, his wife’s death, his son’s growing preteen disrespect for him and the knowledge of what too much stress will do to him. His therapist is doing very little to help him and he just lost a major grant to continue his new pet project (a cure for cancer) to a hated rival who is working on the much more commercially acceptable cure for athletes foot. There is smashing a plenty and a big explosion. All of this is very cool, but has a feel of ho-humness. “Dr. Connors goes MAD” stories are a dime a dozen and Jenkins has yet to twist this one into something different as he did with the earlier Venom and Dr. Octopus stories.

The Art

Ramos has left the book and I couldn’t be happier. Goodbye distorted cartoonish figures with their jutting, angular bodies! Hello distorted cartoonish figures with jutting curved bodies!

Umm…. What?

In all seriousness, I do like the look of Daimon Scott’s work. I just question how appropriate it is to the darkly serious story that Jenkins has written here. While his scenes of normal life look fine (the scene with Billy playing video games and talking to his dad stands out), his transformation scenes are more silly than scary. And why does ever adult male in this book with the exception of Big John the Kiwi Kid (whose dreadlocked afro looks HORRIBLE) have a prominent widow’s peak?

The biggest problem with the art is the coloring. Everything is done in muted pastels that give the art a “washed out” feeling. Consider the Spider-Man costume, which looks more pink then red on the cover and is similarly colored throughout. Not to mention the unnatural tan/pink used for pigmentation here.

Ultimate X-Men #43 - A Review

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: David Finch
Inked by: Art Thibert
Colored by: Frank D'Armata
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

SCENE: The X-Mansion

Xavier: Storm, are you sure that you know nothing about Hank’s disappearance?

Storm: Nothing.


Xavier: And there’s nothing bad that happened between you two?

Storm: No.


Xavier: You are upset about something…

Jean: I thought you didn’t read our minds without permission.

Xavier: I’m not reading her mind, Scott. There’s a major hurricane about to make landfall in New York City and that usually only happens once a month.

Cyclops: Why once a… oh!

Rogue: Just standing her in the background. Saying nothing. Sure would like a line or some character development.

Nightcrawler: Ja. Wish they’d do something with the new mutants they got at the end of the Millar run before introducing even more characters…

SCENE: A Hotel Room. Washington DC

Hank: *sighs*

Xavier: Problems?

Hank: Why don’t you just read my mind and tell me?

Xavier: I’m not doing that, Hank. I never did that. Well, except when I was figuring out who spilled the beans on my having Magneto hypnotized and in a secret identity. And who told the public that we had a mutant who looked like an angel living with us. And to see which one of you stole my Rogaine but otherwise I never read minds without permission.

Hank: Whatever. I’m gone.

Xavier: But why?

Hank: I dunno. Maybe I’m upset because I went on three missions with you and got turned into a giant blue furry freak instead of just a big vaguely human freak. Maybe I’m upset that I’m risking my neck to save people who don’t care about me and who I really don’t think should be saved. Maybe I’m tired of not being called “the blue one” anymore, now that we have Kurt on the team.

Xavier: Who?

Hank: Never mind. Point is, I’m not going back..

SCENE: The White House : Sub-Sub Basement

We See The President sitting at a table. We know he is the President, because he is called the President even though we never get to see his face clearly. He is NOT George W. Bush, because what follows suggests that The President in the Marvel Universe is a complete idiot only concerned with appearances who is being manipulated by corrupt forces in his own cabinet in order to force an agenda that would oppress the rights of a minority group in order to satisfy the whims of a vocal group of religious fanatics. Again, this is TOTALLY FICTIONAL and has absolutely NO BARING WHATSOEVER on today’s society. Really.

The President: Welcome, Ms. Frost. I understand you have a radical idea to help solve our mutant problem. However, I am ready to listen to you and consider what you have to say in a fair and reasonable manner.

Emma Frost: Yes sir.

The President: Now, it says here that you are a mutant?

Emma Frost: Yes…

Guard #1: RIGHT!

*Guards throw Emma Frost down against the table, forcing her hands behind her back*

Guard #1: Under Article V of the Patriot Act, we now have the right to ask frankly anything, including what library books you’ve checked out…

The President: That will do.

Guard #2: But sir! We haven’t even gotten to do the body cavity search yet!

The President: I said, that’s enough. Now, you aren’t going to read my mind are you?

Emma Frost: No sir.

The President: Make me do anything against my will?

Emma Frost: No sir.

The President: Rip the clothes off my body and make me lick your boots?

Emma Frost: Not in this universe, no. All I wanted to do was talk about Charles Xavier. You see, he has apparently banged half the beautiful mutant teachers in the world and I was once a student of his. We disagreed on some things and what I propose is that you build a non-militant group of mutants in order to combat the group under General Fury’s command.

*A monitor comes up showing screen several mutants that are probably going to eventually be in the crowd standing in the background of every issue in the very near future*

The President: Oooh, this is just like American Idol! Well then… yes, yes, no, no… yes, no…

MEANWHILE, in the background.

Random Cabinet Member #1: Generic statement of mutant hatred.

Random Cabinet Member #2: Affirmative Statement of Agreement

Random Cabinet Member #3, who looks like a lot like Stryker from God Loves: Man Kills: May God help us to slay the mutant scum.

SCENE: The Comic Book Store of one “Starman” Morrison.

“Starman” Morrison: *reading through the book* Well, now this is a cool concept. Emma Frost is the non-militant one creating a team of pacifist teachers while Professor X is running a militaristic superhero school. That is something different and unexpected and yet unusually deep and insightful as to the natures of both characters in the 616 Marvel Universe and turning that on its ear.

Fanboy #1: Hey! That looks like Blink in the one screen!

Fanboy #2: Hey yeah, it is! She’s so hot!

“Starman” Morrison: *sighs* The world exists only to mock me, I swear.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Looking To The Stars: What I've Been Reading Lately

As I’m sure you’re all aware, I do quite a bit more for this little rag then merely bang out the occasional rant regarding which writer is screwing up which book and which overrated and over-hyped project I’m most dreading the release of. I also write more serious and focused reviews of some of the things I read every week.

This begs the question; Starman, what happens when you want to review something but fate (and the Dark Overlord) don’t let you write something about it that week?

What indeed? What happens is that I turn this little space to other purposes for a week or two and give my quick thoughts on everything I read in the past week instead of churning out one more chapter from my upcoming book: Dr. Strange Fate Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying About Characterization And Love Mark Millar. (Available At All Fine Comic Shops the day after Hell freezes over.)

Green Arrow #36

Is it impossible for Judd Winick to write a story in the DC Universe without demons these days? After the last Outsiders and this issue of Green Arrow, it seems so. We started out with a nice story about Riddler doing what he does best, driving heroes up the wall while laughing it up in a big pile of money, in the last issue. This issue degrades the storyline into Riddler acting as a distraction as his rich employer, who is summoning demons on some mystic site in a public park on the other side of town.

Ignoring all the problems I have with this portrayal of Riddler after the excellent “Hush” and the current storyline in “Gotham Knights” and the question of just how many millionaires there are in Star City who perform Satanic rituals (remember Kevin Smith’s “Quiver”?), I do not believe that Riddler would call in his threats to the police from the same room as the bomb. What are you going to do if they refuse your demands? Blow up the city with you in it? That logic works for religious fundamentalists but not for someone as intelligent, greedy and interested in self-preservation as The Riddler. Even if the bomb is a fake (and we never DO get an answer to that), surely someone with half an ounce of common sense would say “Hang on… “

All in all, I can’t wait for the new writer to take over on this title. Yes, I know there isn’t a new writer scheduled to take over this book yet. But a fan can dream, can’t he?

Score: 3.0 out of 10.0 and that’s purely for the artwork.

Hawkeye #5

It started out interesting but the opening arc of this book, The High Hard Shaft, now feels like a cloth-yard shaft in a short compound bow: too long and unwieldy. I fear this series is suffering from Tradeitis and, like many books today, is being unnaturally stretched into six issues to make way for the inevitable trade paperback. The only problem with this approach is that at the rate this is going, all the fans will leave this book by issue #7.

Not much of interest happens in this issue except for a whole lot of flashbacks of Vietnamese peasants getting killed, some trekking through the jungle and the final big payoff we’ve been waiting for after three issues of watching Clint Barton fumble around playing detective.

Don’t get me wrong: this is a good book and I like the artwork. It just… drags a little bit. If you’re a fan of smart-aleck archers, you’ll love it. The rest of you can give it a pass.

Score: 6.0 out of 10.0

JSA #59

And once again, I am reminded why Geoff Johns is simply the man when it comes to team books. Using one forgotten villain of the Golden Age, we get a collection of quick stories, taken out of joint in time as we follow the Nazi time-traveler Degaton on his latest mission.

But this villain has not come to cause trouble, no. He has come to revel in the fact that while he does not defeat the individual JSA members, he has still been able to see their deaths. The idea of time travel as a psychological weapon is an unusual one and Johns runs with the ball as Degaton informs Hawkgirl that he spent an afternoon watching all her deaths and how the one in this life will be the worst ever. Likewise, he revels in the pain of Stargirl and Captain Marvel’s relationship collapsing as Billy Baston finds himself unable to tell the team his secret identity because of the Wisdom of Solomon and that there really is nothing wrong with his seemingly mid-twenties self seeing a 16 year old girl.

The real treat to this issue, and one I fear that will go neglected by most who will appreciate the significance of it, is the Dream of the Endless cameo. In the last issue, Lyta Hall was found alive and well, imprisoned inside the amulet of Nabu. She is free now and Hector Hall (Dr. Fate) has taken a hiatus from the team in order to spend time with his long missing wife. Lyta, fans of “The Sandman” will remember, was directly responsible for what brought about the death of Morpheus and that a new “Dream” was reborn from Lyta and Hector’s son, Daniel. Degaton arrives in the Tower of Fate and a presence from a mirror stops him from approaching, saying…

“No, Degaton. You wish to terrorize the Justice Society of America. Continue to do so. But my parents deserve some peace. And they shall have it.”

A quick tangent here: I can’t think of anyone else but Dream who would have cause to call Fury and Dr. Fate his parents. My friend Tanner, however, insists that it can’t be “Dream”, because in “The Wake’, “Dream” denied the name “Daniel” when Lyta talked to him before putting a mark on her to ensure her protection. I do not think this is necessarily contradictory; he may still recognize the fact that they were responsible for his mortal creation, even if they have no connection to what he is now. While that may not be enough to force his intervention, his promise to protect Lyta would be.

Regardless; this is still a great read and one of the few books that leaves me aching for more at the end of each issue.

Score: 10.0 out of 10.0

Ultimate Spider-Man #54

I was dreading this storyline when I first heard the idea for it. Granted, some of the Marvel ventures into mixing their characters into “the real world” have been worth reading. I fondly recall the book where the Avengers went on Letterman and enjoyed the Spidey meets the Original Cast of Saturday Night Live comic. These have been the exceptions though, and most every other attempt to put a real word celebrity into a Marvel book have been.... well, Jay Leno saving Spider-Man from ninjas. ‘Nuff said.

Imagine my shock then that Bendis not only keeps this from achieving total cheesiness but also manages a neat little tribute to one of Stan Lee’s original script ideas: Spider-Man trying to cash in on someone else making a Spider-Man movie. Yes, we do get celebrities in this issue... though only a brief shot of Tobey Macguire with quite a bit of Sam Raimi and Avi Arad. We also get quite a bit of the now infamous teenage rage at the corruptness of the world around him, as Peter informs everyone on the set that they all suck. Except Sam Raimi, of whom he admits, “All right. Evil Dead 2 was cool, but the rest of you suck!”

Still one of the top ten books on the market. My one complaint is that we finally see Gwen in this issue for the first time in what seems like forever AND the subject of her still thinking Spider-Man killed her father is raised AND is quickly dropped. I thought the guy robbing the banks dressed as Spider-Man was caught. Even if he hadn’t confessed after the fright of his life that he got from Peter, wouldn’t the police have had enough evidence to charge him with Capt. Stacy’s murder? It’s not a big point, but I really would like to see Gwen’s issues with Spider-Man given a little more time for discussion. Just a thought…

Score: 8.5 out of 10.0.

Penny Arcade

One of the more acclaimed web comics out there, I was recently introduced to this one from someone asked me if I was a “fan” since I promote nearly every other major gaming comic out there. I’d never read Penny Arcade before this past week though I had heard quite a bit about it and most of it mixed. Having read all of them in the past week, I am also somewhat mixed on the comic.

One complaint I’ve heard about the comic is that it is too dependent on in-jokes. I must admit that there is some justice to this claim. Some of the strips are dependant on things such as knowing who John Romero is or knowing of the feud between EA and Microsoft regarding X-Box Live. However, the vast majority of the strips are easily accessible even to a guy like me who until recently, hadn’t touched a counsel game system in years. For instance, I’ve never played Final Fantasy XI and have no intentions of doing so but I can still laugh at a comic showing how a starting fighter in said game starting is so weak that they can get their butt kicked by a rabbit. People getting attacked by cute little animals is funny; something all true masters of comedy understand.

Another complaint is that there is way too much use of “frat boy” and/or “geek” humor. Overuse of the word “wang” and the F-word, bloody and cartoonish stabbings & mutilations and even a little bit of sexual innuendo do abound throughout. Of course considering that most of the people who play video games and read web comics are frat boys and geeks, this is not a serious complaint. Knowing your customers and pandering to their demands is not bad. In fact, I believe this concept is the basic cornerstone of most of the world’s economic system.

Of course, all of this makes for interesting social discussion, but how does it read a comic? Honestly, I think it’s pretty good but not great. I smiled at some, but laughed very rarely. The art is cute but I’ve seen better. But when all is said and done, this comic does exactly what its’ title suggests; provide us with some cheap laughs about games and gamers; a proud accomplishment which most web comics cannot match.

Score: 6.5 out of 10.

For more web comics, that DO fit the bill, here’s Unca Starman’s regular reading list:

Something Positive - One of the most famous and certainly one of the funniest comics out there for all fans of twisted humor. Centering upon a wide cast of various colorful weirdos in Boston and Dallas, this one has had me laughing uproariously since the very first comic.

Queen of Wands – Second on this list, but second to none, this strip does an excellent job of balancing its’ own unique style of humor with a sense of drama more touching and genuine than anything you’re likely to see in the wasteland of prime-time television. Plus, anything with a redhead pagan grrrrl in the lead is cool by me.

8 Bit Theater - The sprite comic to end all sprite comics! If you’re a fan of gamer humor, twisted humor, Final Fantasy or just plain weirdness, you need to be reading this if you aren’t already.

Halloween Man – If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, this isn’t for you. If you like Sam Raimi, zombies and the kind of horror movies you find in local-owned video stores horror sections, this is so up your alley it is already parked outside your house.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, March 8, 2004

Looking To The Stars: The Belated Hulk Movie Review

I really should have seen it by now. It opened up on your birthday, for crying out loud! It’s your responsibility, as a critic and a writer to see this movie so you can review it for your public! It’s been out on DVD for months!

All these thoughts scream at me as the justifications scream back. Like Gollum fighting with Smeagol. We were at a Con the whole weekend of our birthday. There’s no law that says we HAVE to see every comic book movie. We’re boycotting the local video store because they took out 2/3rds of their Cult Classic Films section and sold off their Marx Brothers movies to make more room for the best of Shannon Tweed. Everyone we knows who saw it HATES it.

So naturally, it was during this week, when I had mid-terms and way too much to do anyway, that I finally broke down and rented “The Hulk.”

I’ve never been a big fan of The Hulk. Not even at the age where monsters are coolness incarnate and you want nothing more than to be big and strong and able to crush tanks with your bare hands. This is, I think, the main reason I didn’t feel the need to rush right out and see this movie last summer, unlike Daredevil (love the comics), X-2 (dragged to it by friends) and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Sean Connery kicks ass & love the comics). That, and perhaps, the bits of negative news I heard from friends, co-workers, customers and employees alike.

That said, how did I feel about the movie now that I finally have managed to sit through it?

I really didn’t like it that much. I didn’t hate it to quite the extremes I did the Daredevil movie after the first time I watched it… but I didn’t like it at all either. If anything, my attitude toward it is complete and total indifference. And yet, I can see why so many Hulk fans… those whose passion for the character is equal to my own for Spider-Man... were unhappy with the film. But before we get drawn into the flaws of the film, let us first consider some of the good points of the movie.

1. The Cast

Say what you will, but this movie did not want for talented actors. Though the dialogue left a lot to be desired in some places, the delivery was top notch. Sam Elliot in particular, did a nice job as General Ross and Jennifer Connelly presented the first version of Betty Ross, in cartoon, TV or comic form that I did not want to slap senseless.

2. Stan Speaks!

It’s a small point, but there’s something about getting to hear Stan Lee during his cameo in one of these movies that is gratifying. It’s no small secret that Stan always wanted to be in pictures, and after his “blink and you’ll miss it” cameos in X-Men, Spider-Man and Daredevil, it’s nice to hear the voice that introduced so many fanboys to Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends as well as The Incredible Hulk every Saturday morning back in the day.

3. Musical Score

Danny Elfman does the music for yet another comic-book movie and once again finds the right note (bad pun, I know) for the character in his Hulk themes. The mournful violin plays on Bruce’s terror even as it turns powerful and strong, suggesting what is to be unleashed.

4. A More Mature Story-Line

More than any comic movie in recent memory, this one had the most advanced plot and dealt with the greatest number of adult themes. If nothing else, Hulk proved that comics are hardly kids stuff anymore.

That said, the movie is not without some significant problems as well.

1. Dark City

Much of the movie is shot way too dark. The entire section where Bruce changes into Hulk on his way to save Betty after the call from his father about half-way through is perhaps the best example of this, where even with all the lights turned out in the house, I still had trouble telling what was happening on screen. This was perhaps to disguise…

2. Crappy Animation

I know I’m probably the last person to say this, but in broad daylight, the Hulk CGI stinks on ice. I know that it is futile and bordering on the insane to complain about the realistic appearance of a fictional green-skinned giant… but The Hulk looks like the computer effect that he is and not a potentially real being. It says a lot that Hulk’s best scenes are those in which he cannot be scene, such as the dark scenes where Hulk fights the dogs to protect Betty in the middle of the movie.

3. The “Comic Book” Shooting Style.

While I didn’t feel the nausea that I heard some complain of, the “occasional” panel by panel transitions as well as the quick dissolves seemed like art for the sake of art. I appreciate the concept behind them, but it just doesn’t work in a film to shoot it like a storyboard.

4. The Complaints of the Purist

Strictly speaking, the new origin here, where Bruce is a college student who becomes the Hulk because his DNA was tampered with by his mad scientist father AND because of radiation exposure, is confusing and unneeded. It would be much simpler, if not more scientifically accurate, to stick to Bruce being an established scientist, working in the military complex who becomes the Hulk after the exposure to the radiation because of his tendency to repress his emotions and, if need be, his abusive father. The mad scientist/genetics angle did little more than to update the science a little and add one more villain to the mix besides General Ross.

Also, much like the removal of Matt Murdock’s act of heroism costing him his sight being removed from his origin in the Daredevil film, there is just something about Bruce Banner getting his powers because of his genetics that just removes some of the sense of tragedy from the character, making it only an act of senseless stupidity. In the comics, he was caught in the radioactive blast because he was trying to get a young Rick Jones out of the middle of the testing field and this act of heroism causing his transformation is what truly made Bruce Banner a tragic figure, rather than just the unlucky shlub portrayed in the movie.

5. Not Kids Stuff

The same thing that makes this movie so much more enjoyable for an adult audience also makes it all that more inaccessible to a younger audience. There is too much focus on science and Bruce’s personal problems and not nearly enough of Hulk running around and smashing things. In fact, it takes us forever to get to a scene of Hulk just running around smashing things, and he never says the infamous line even ONCE!

6. The Gamma-Poodles.

As Stan Lee himself would put it, ‘Nuff said.

All in all, I really can’t recommend The Hulk. While it is nowhere near as bad as I had been lead to believe, it is still not really a very good adaptation of its source material nor is it entertaining on its own merits.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Batman #624 - A Review

Written by: Brian Azarello
Penciled by: Eduardo Risso
Inked by: Eduardo Risso
Colored by: Patricia Mulvihill
Lettered by: Clem Robins
Editor: Will Dennis & Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ll admit here at the start that I may be somewhat biased against this title at the moment. Jeph Loeb is one of my favorite writers and it seemed unlikely that anybody could follow after him and leave me satisfied, particularly on a character who was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I am, based on numerous conversations with other fans, not alone in this feeling. Similar feelings abound among those who follow artists rather than writers who feel that there was nothing that could possibly match Jim Lee’s work on “Hush”. The team of Azarello and Risso, most recently of 100 Bullets, had quite the heavy task of winning over a skeptical audience; a task which, sadly, they were not up to completing.

To be blunt, Azarello is not writing a Batman story here. There is nothing distinct that makes this story Batman and indeed many sections where our hero is written very out of character. (“Go [to hell]? Look around… we’re already there. And as bad as this is, it’s going to get worse…”).

The plot, a murder mystery centering about a generic gangster who killed his sister, is standard issue Spade or Marlowe material. (Indeed, there is a new strong arm for hire who is referred to only as “Fatman’.) Batman’s dialogue and character here is more fitting those legendary detectives than The Dark Knight. This is not to say that it is not enjoyable… but neither does this really feel like Batman.

The artwork is something of a contrast from the clear and clean yet highly detailed style used by Jim Lee. Risso’s work is more abstract, darkly colored and heavily inked… resembling a cleaner Frank Miller, particularly in the scene in which Batman fights Fat-man and his partner “Little Boy”.

Overall, this isn’t a book I’d care to read again. I’ve never been a fan of 100 Bullets, but that’s more to the subject matter than any dislike of the team. And while this is a good detective story, it is just that… a detective story that any detective hero could be plugged into with his regular rogues gallery plugged in place of the villains here. For now, I think I’ll stick to Superman/Batman.

Green Lantern #174 - A Review

Written by: Benjamin Raab
Penciled by: Jamal Igle
Inked by: John Dell
Colored by: Moose Baumann
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

This book is filled with something of a sense of futility. After one more issue, Ben Raab will end his run on this title and Ron Marz, who created Kyle Rayner, will return to do a brief run on the book which will bring Kyle back from Deep Space and return him to Earth to find how things have changed in his absence. This news has been greeted with much joy by Marz’s fans who have argued that the book has suffered in his absence and by Marz detractors (including the inafamous HEAT) who will be glad to have him to kick around once more.

This all distracts from the fact that as everyone waits for the return of the Marz, Raab has done quite a lot to restore that which HEAT complained of the absence of. There is now a Corps, of sorts, though they lack rings at the moment. Kilowog, a fan favorite GL, who gave his life trying to stop Hal Jordan during his time of madness, has been restored to life. And in these last few issues, he has restored the epic “space-opera” storylines for which Green Lantern was famous, which were for the most part neglected during the Marz run on the book. More, he has restored a classic Green Lantern enemy, bringing The Qwardians race back into active duty alongside his own creation: The criminal syndicate known as The Black Circle.

Raab develops all these plots of his own even as he expands and even closes off those plots that were left for him to solve in the wake of Judd Winick’s departure from the title. This issue, for instance, lets us see Kyle’s assistant Terry attempting to make peace with his family before moving to California with his boyfriend. I don’t know if Raab is working Terry out of the title or not, but it is nice to see SOMETHING being done with the character, who lay by the wayside in the wake of the “Hate Crime special.” We also get an update on Jade and how things are going with the man whom she started seeing after her boyfriend went into deep cover in order to destroy the Black Circle.

Still, the issue proper does center upon Kyle, the new Corps, and their storming the Black Circle’s main base in an effort to stop an attack on the planet Oa itself. Fans of the old Hal Jordan Corps stories will love these scenes, including Kilowog and company blowing a blast door down and his line: Knock Knock, Poozers.

The book has lacked a steady art team in the last year while Raab has written the title. Still, this issue’s team of Ingle and Dell do the title proud. Indeed, I didn’t notice the change in the artists until looking at the title page to write this review! While Kyle doesn’t get much chance to use his ring this issue and doesn’t use it much in the way of creating projections (the usual measure of an artist on this title), we are treated to some wonderful images in the form of a sun going to pieces as well as a bevy of exotic alien foot soldiers.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Looking To The Stars: One Ring To Confuse Them All - Part Two

When last we left off our discussion of Ring Lore, we discussed the differences between the three various recorded types of Green Lantern rings and Kyle Rayner's development as a ring bearer.

* Alpha - The Standard Corps Ring
* Beta - The Alan Scott Ring
* Omega - The Kyle Rayner Ring

While we're on the subject, one error from last week I should note: due to a production error, the list of powers for the Beta ring was not printed. However, since the list was going to be exactly the same as the Alpha Ring plus a note that "Aside from being vulnerable to Wood, Alan has shown no limits at all". So there.

Getting back to the topic at hand, the Alpha Ring, as we discussed last week, had a wide variety of powers that the Omega Ring seemingly lacked.

Alpha Ring Powers

* Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
* Flight
* Limited Healing
* Protective Shields
* Space Travel (Produces whatever gases and temperature the bearer needs to breathe and live)
* Universal Translator
* Invisibility
* Astral Projection (through an energy double of the bearer)
* Mind Tampering
* Communication Device (with standard transmissions 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.

Omega Ring Powers (that Kyle showed in his first appearance)

* Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
* Flight
* Protective Shields

This makes Kyle look severely underpowered. However, lacking the advanced training that a Corps Member usually received, Kyle was forced to learn some of the power and abilities he had on the fly. Indeed, it didn't occur to him to use the ring to fly until his girlfriend Alex recognized his costume as that of a Green Lantern and told Kyle that the ring he was given should let him fly. He figured out how to make simple shields and energy objects shortly after that.

Going down the list of Alpha Ring Powers and consulting the handy Guide To Kyle Rayner as well as my own collection of all things Green Lantern related in the last few years, we can make a reference list of when Kyle used his ring to replicate certain powers.

* Limited Healing - In JLA #17, Kyle says he can use his ring to heal a bullet wound after being shot. Also, it would explain his quick recovery from other various cuts and scrapes that would have required explaining.

* 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 Terry, in prison.

* Astral Projection - JLA #15, where an energy projection of Kyle's face warned Superman not to destroy the Philosopher's Stone. Also, in last week's GL #174, where 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.

* 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 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. Also, considering how many times Kyle has been fatally 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 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.

As for the emergency power supply, no logical answers can be determined from the text. Perhaps this is tied into the removable yellow impurity (see GL #19, where the yellow weakness is confirmed as being removable) or perhaps it was, like the Ring AI, tied to the Central Power Battery, whose network could have had the capability to monitor every individual Green Lantern 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)

However, things changed again in the wake of Green Lantern #150 and "Legacy: The Last Will And Testament Of Hal Jordan". The latter of these stories restored the planet Oa and its' Central Power Battery in physical form, though the
Battery itself lay dormant. Kyle Rayner recharged the Battery and restored the Guardians to life, giving up the power he had gained as Ion, after absorbing the power that Hal Jordan had taken to become Parallax. At the end of the same issue, Kyle revealed a new costume and two changes that he made to his ring before giving up the Ion power...

"This bad boy can't get away from me anymore. Anyone takes it off, it comes right back."

A seemingly needless addition if Kyle can simply will the ring back to his hand at will already. Though ill-defined here, perhaps he has simply made the process automatic, so he can focus all his will on using the ring from a distance while the ring itself comes home.

"It also doesn't need to be recharged. I do have to charge it to get it to full power, but it always has a reserve amount. More than enough to get me out of almost anything."

Ill-defined and, to put it in the terms of a gamer, "twinkish", this power as given eliminates one of the weaknesses of a Green Lantern. Indeed, the only one Kyle had left - the fact that his power was limited. Then again, taken in another tact, might this mean that Kyle restored the Emergency Power Supply that powered the ring's Protection From Mortal Harm and Life Support features as well as allowing himself the ability to tap into this reserve in an emergency?

The restoration of the Central Power Battery raises another question; with Ganthet once again on Oa and the battery operational (Kyle did recharge his ring from it GL #169), is it possible for the Ring AI/Database to be restored? Presumably if the ring is "smart" enough for Kyle to program it to return to him automatically, it can still support the feature and the Central Power Battery, as far as we know, is no different than it was before.

And here is another question; even if Kyle IS unable to copy his ring now, there is one Alpha Ring that should be able to copy itself that is still active and on the hand of John Stewart. What then, is to stop Kyle from mass producing the rings again and giving them out to new recruits… such as the old GL's recruited at the beginning of Ben Raab's run? If nothing else, Ganthet is there and can probably make some new rings when he isn't busy watching the Guardian children. Kids have to sleep sometime, right?

In conclusion, it appears that we are upon the verge of having a new Green Lantern Corps just as it was ten years ago, before Hal
Jordan's madness. The capabilities are there, even if the writing team has yet to achieve them. Still, it cannot be denied that while we GL fans may lack the Corps we have long wanted, Judd Winick and Ben Raab have done much to take things in that direction. But will the Corps fly again sometime soon with new rings, free of the Yellow weakness and unburdened by the need to recharge their rings completely? Only time will tell.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.