Sunday, January 30, 2005

Looking To The Stars: The Best Laid Plans...

had been planning to write about the Batman: The Animated Series Season 2 and Superman: The Animated Series DVD sets that came out this week. But since I ordered them as I was ordering textbooks for the new semester and since UPS apparently refuses to honor my request to leave deliveries with my apartment's office manager because I'm at work until 8pm most nights... well, to belatedly cut a long story short, I have no DVDs to watch and then write about for your amusement.

Thankfully, I am not without opinions or news to write upon. But then, when am I ever?

1. Of Pros and Cons

My hometown of Dallas has been, until recently, Con deficient. Conventions for any geeky interest were few and far between. Imagine my shock on Wednesday when my comic shop got flyers to hand out for not one but TWO conventions. Both are in February, one right after the other. Sadly, it appears that one con has a whole lot more to offer than the other. Ironically enough, it does this by offering less.

All-Con appears to be setting out to prove the truism that by trying to make something for everyone, that nobody will be happy. By creating a Con for everyone, everyone will get shafted. But ignoring this philosophy, this Con has other obvious problems. For one thing, has no one considered the potential riot likely to be caused by cramming all the various elements of Fandom into one hotel?

Take it from a guy who works in a comic book and gaming store. You think your parents give you a hard time? There is nobody, but NOBODY less tolerant of a geek obsessed with a hobby than another geek obsessed with a different hobby. The Trekkers toss insults in Klingon at the Jedi. The card gamers are hated by the d20 players. The D&D players are mocked by the Vampire LARPers. The Vampires are hunted down by the good ol' boy war miniature gamers. And everyone stays far away from the Furries.

And let's look at the events list for this Con. Stand-up comedians, martial arts demonstrations, Tai Chi demonstrations, a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing, a Moulin Rouge with live actors ala Rocky Horror, a Super Bowl party on Sunday, a masquerade ball, a Miss Star Wars contest and a belated Mardi Gras party.

Even Igor from Dork Tower would think this all a bit much. About the only thing they don't have is dancing girls, Shriners and bears driving little cars. And it wouldn't surprise me if that's just not on the website.

The Dallas Comic Con by contrast, is much simpler. While named as a comic convention, it boasts a lot more, hosting the usual hodge-podge of retailers, writers, comics, artists and actors. Not as showy, but a lot more focused and likely a lot more enjoyable for the comics enthusiast.

And the final test of a good con: guests.The Dallas Comic Con boasts as its' big celebrity guests: Thomas Jane (Frank Castle in The Punisher), Sean Astin (Sam in Lord of the Rings) and Patricia Arquette. All-Con's biggest guests of honor are the guy who was one of the space squids in Return of the Jedi and the woman who was one of the background bar patrons in the cantina in A New Hope. There is a slight disparity in the level of quality there.

Of course this is all moot to me anyway as I have to work weekends. But it is amusing to me none the less. Still, if you live in the North Texas area and are looking for a good convention this month, remember that less is more.

2. Web Comics Galore!

One of my favorite web comics is coming to an end soon. I've reviewed it in the past, but if you haven't had a chance to read the wonder that is Queen of Wands yet, do yourself a favor and click the link to go to the very beginning.

Two people in my gaming group recently introduced me to a strip called The Order of the Stick. The comic, centering around a group of medieval adventurers, is one of the few strips devoted to mocking D&D style gaming that actually is funny. Art lovers will want to look elsewhere; the title refers to the fact that all the characters in this are stick-figures. Still, while some of the comics are a little in-jokey and depend upon a basic knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons (i.e. how the dice-rolling system can cause you to be unable to see or hear the obvious in front of you) others are just downright hilarious and can be enjoyed by a more general audience. Still, if you're a roleplayer, you'll likely love Order of the Stick.

More enjoyable for a general audience is a new comic, titled Punks and Nerds. It is, as you may guess from the title, about a bunch of punks and nerds. The humor is sophomoric and old-school gamer, but enjoyable to anyone who remembers having to blow into an old Nintendo cartridge to get a game to work properly or any geek grrl who knows the pains of dealing with guys at Cons.

That's all I've got. Tune in next week when, hopefully, I will have my DVD goodness.

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

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #6 - A Review

Written by: Joe Casey
Art by: Scott Kolins
Colored by: Wil Quintana
Lettered by: RS & Comiccraft
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I’ve never been a big Avengers fan. Oh, I read the odd issue when I was first getting into comics and discovered the wonders of Kurt Busiek’s run with George Perez’s artwork. But I didn’t really start reading it until Geoff John’s all too brief run. So I’ve never had the deep-set emotional attachment to the team that many who are now ranting and raving over the aftermath of Disassembled.

Oddly enough, for all the talk of the classic Avengers, I’ve heard precious little talk about this series, which retells the story of how the team was founded: from the first incarnation with The Hulk up through (as of this issue) Thor and all the rest of the original squad save for Captain America all but leaving the team and the stage being set for Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye to join up.

The comic fleshes out a lot of the finer details of exactly HOW that change came about and modernizes the creation of The Avengers for the modern world. Still, I wonder if this story really needed to be told. That is not to say I don’t like it: I do. There are a lot of noteworthy elements here, such as Jervis being responsible for Hawkeye’s approaching the Avengers and giving him the kick-in-the-pants needed to truly make an attempt at redemption. Still, for every nice touch like that there are touches like the characterization of Captain America here. While not as annoying the “drill-sergeant-from-Hell” of The Ultimates, the flash-back haunted, revenge obsessed Captain America here is still far and away from the original concept of ol’ Cap.

Scott Kolins artwork is sketchy and under-inked, looking much like a more-detailed and less dark Bryan Hitch. In an odd-way, this approach to the book coupled with the pastel coloring lends it a look that makes it seem somewhat like a faded book of the 60s, where there was precious little inking and fewer shadows.

Army of Darkness: Shop Till You Drop Dead #1 - A Review

Written by: James Kuhoric
Penciled by: Nick Bradshaw
Colored by: Etienne St. Laurent
Lettered by: Josh Johnson
Editors: Kerry Schindl & Shawn Spurlock
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

So did you like the last five minutes of Army of Darkness?

Good. Go watch it again and you’ll get about as much as you do from reading this book.

Somewhat fresh from his battle at the end of “Army of Darkness: Ashes to Ashes”, Ash returns home to find out that his boss has billed him for all the product used and damages incurred during the battle with a zombie at the end of Army of Darkness: The Movie. Also, Shelia (the buxom babe from said film) has come forward in time (thanks to the events of a story yet to be told, according to the editor) and taken a job in Toiletries at the same S-Mart where Ash works in houseware and… well, debt aside it’s good to be the King.

At least until the walking dead show up and Ash finds out that for about the third time now, he’s totally screwed up destroying the Necronomicon. That’s the evil book responsible for raising the dead, killing his girlfriend and generally making Ash’s life a real pain in the neck for… well, a relative few months if there’s any kind of cohesive timeline to be had here. From there, we get a re-hash of the ending of the movie, with Ash blowing away one zombie at work and getting ready to do more of the same.

Maybe it’s wrong of me to expect more of a franchise that was built on parodying gratuitous action flicks to have a little more substance than is apparent here. But the humor that filled the films and Ashes to Ashes is sorely lacking here. Just set-up and action, that’s it.

At least the artwork, again by Nick Bradshaw, is manic enough to draw attention. His cartoonish style is perfect for depicting the wildness of the universe involved: where none of Ash’s co-workers question him upon his iron hand nor why his girlfriend shows up for work in a purple medieval dress. Still, purty pictures cannot disguise a lifeless narrative.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Mike Carey, He's So Very...

Mike Carey is fast on the way to becoming the best writer working in comics today.

An explanation: When I say best, I mean most versatile. The position of "favorite writer" is not one that I have ever been able to fill, simply because there are so many writers I like for many different reasons. I like Gail Simone for her humor, strong characterization and ability to write a good action sequence. I like Brian Vaughan for his creativity, concepts and unusual dialogue. I like Geoff Johns for his use of history and ability to weave new tales seamlessly into history. I have yet to read a bad story by any of these writers and yet I can't name a single one my favorite, because it is impossible for me to quantify goodness in such terms.

But Mike Carey, by sheer dent of versatility is proving himself to be a great writer of whatever book he works on. I was first introduced to him through Lucifer and that was enough to get me to try any project his name was on. It was enough to get me to read Ultimate Elektra, which was a minor miracle considering how odious I found Greg Rucka's Ultimate Daredevil, which the former book at spun-off from. But it was good. And though it doesn't sound like my kind of book, I'm going to give the upcoming Spellbinders book a shot simply because of Carey's good name.

This week, I read two Carey stories and heard word of another new project he has in the works. All of these only show the great versatility of Mike Carey; one of the few comic writers who can handle action, romance, horror, drama and comedy with equal skill.

Hellblazer: All His Engines

This hard-back graphic novel came out this week and proved to be quite the potent antidote to extensive exposure to more and more bad news regarding the Constantine movie. Ironically, the story of All His Engines puts our favorite bastard in the setting of the bastardized film based upon him: Los Angeles.

The City of Angels, ironically enough, is under siege by several demons. The demons are turning Hell into a franchise business, creating their own small hells within the city. John Constantine, con-man and magician, gets involved after the granddaughter of long-time sidekick Chas Chandler is kidnapped by one of these demons. The demon, it turns out, knows about John and wanted to enlist his cooperation in eliminating his business competition.

Neil Gaiman says it best, in a blurb on the cover of this book.

"Mike Carey has written the quintessential Constantine story. If you want to see what all the fuss is really about, you should read this book."

This is a great Constantine story. Maybe not the best, but it is the only story I have seen that has totally summed up one of the most complicated characters in graphic literature in one go. It has all the hallmarks of your typical Constantine story; an innocent endangered, a dangerous enemy and John Constantine having to save the world through his own personal magic combining slight-of-hand and true magic.

While Carey's writing is the highlight for me, the artwork by regular Hellblazer artist of Leonardo Manco is a perfect complement to the disturbing story told by Carey. Overall, I'd say this book is well-worth the $24.95 price tag and that it will make a worthy gift for anyone who has not yet been exposed to the wonderous world of Hellblazer and those who will need proof that there is something good about John Constantine after the film comes out. Those of you who like number ratings can call this one a perfect 10.

My Faith In Frankie

Frankie Moxon is a blessed young woman. Literally. She always seems to come out on top, no matter what disasters occur around her. Indeed, she only has one problem; she can't get a boyfriend. The cause of this disaster is the same thing that has steered her through so many disasters before; her own personal god, Jerivan.

Jervian, a teenage god himself, found Frankie at infancy and has been watching over her ever since. An all-too real imaginary friend who is all too jealous of any other man, divine or otherwise, getting near the woman he is totally devoted to. But things get more complicated for the unlikely duo, as one good deed comes back to bite them both in the ass.

I meant to read this one when it originally came out as a monthly comic, but my comic shop kept selling out of it before I had a chance to read it. But with the recent release of a Manga-size graphic novel, I finally got my chance to see how well Mike Carey can write a comedic romance.

Pretty darn well, it turns out. And I applaud the decision to publish My Faith in Frankie in a Manga-size format, as this story is perfectly suited to the genre. Twisted romance, supernatural powers and a whole lot of love triangles abound, with a suitable Vertigo twist added to the proceedings and Carey waves this tapestry of story beautifully.

True, the format does cramp the artwork and requires the loss of some color, but the story still comes across despite that problem. That said, I'd still like to see a full-color, trade-paperback printing of Frankie in the future. Let's call this a 7.5 out of 10, with lowered score due to the format cramping the style of the art.

Red Sonja

With the stellar success of Conan, it was only a matter of time before the comics community would look to adapting the other works of fantasy writer Robert E. Howard once again. And the most obvious choice of the next character to be adapted is also one of the most controversial; perhaps the most famous literary amazon of all time, Red Sonja.

Most fans are familiar with Red Sonja through her three comics series and a spattering of one-shots written by comics legend Roy Thomas over the last thirty years or from the infamous B-movie starring Brigitte Nielsen. The roots of the character lay further back, with a Howard story called "The Shadow of the Vulture". In this story, one of the characters was a red-haired warrior woman known as Sonya the Red of Rogatino. This was the only story Howard ever wrote with the character and it was likely she would have been forgotten except to Howard scholars had it not been for Roy Thomas.

Originally intending to adapt Howard's original Conan stories and then spin-off into his own tales, Thomas began looking into adapting Howard's stories outside of the Conan canon into stories for the comics. Permission was given, and Thomas was given freedom to take stories that had that special Howard spark and adapt them into tales of Howard's most famous heroes.

It was in this way that Thomas turned "The Shadow of the Vulture" into a Conan story and introduced Sonya (or Sonja as it would be spelled) to Conan. An aloof mercenary, Sonja has little interest in the barbarian hero outside of using him as cannon fodder in battle and a distraction in her own daring acts of thievery. She escaped from their first encounter with all of Conan's loot and perhaps a bit of his heart. Fans loved the character and this being at the time that Marvel was attempting to create more books with strong female leads, Red Sonja was given a chance at the lime light after several more appearances in Conan's comic.

Under Thomas's direction, Sonja took on a totally different history than the brief one given to Sonya. Sonja would be given a rougher past; her family killed and herself raped and left for dead in a fire. She would escape and be visited by a goddess who promised her magical sword-fighting skills if exchange for a vow of celibacy, save to the man who could beat her in a fair fight. This element, the vow of celibacy for power, while often a theme in mythology, was actually taken by Thomas from one of W.B. Yeats' Cuchulain plays.

Despite most of her titles lasting for only a year or two, Sonja still proved popular enough to continue on in solo works into the mid-80's and managed regular cameos in Conan until the early 90's when that title was canceled. The 90's were a lean-time for the Henna-Haired Harridan. She managed one Image-artwork heavy one-shot from Marvel and a Thomas-penned one-shot story from the Howard-devoted Cross Plains Comics in 1999.

Sonja has remained popular despite her various critics. Many Howard purists see Sonja as a corruption of Howard's work and are rather annoyed that a background character from a non-Conan story has been transmogrified into a warrior every bit the equal of the famous barbarian and indeed the second-most popular of Howard's creations. And while she wore the costume in relatively few of her comics, Sonja's chainmail bikini costume has become a universal joke in comic-book, gaming and fantasy art fandom as the ultimate piece of impractical and uncomfortable armor.

Still, you can't keep a good woman down and Red Sonja will soon be riding into adventure once again. Dynamite Entertainment, flush with success from their recent Army of Darkness series, has acquired the rights to publish a regular, monthly, Red Sonja comic book. And just when I, old-school Conan comic fan that I am, didn't think the news could get any better, it did.

One of the co-writers for the new series is Mike Carey. The other, Michael Avon Oeming, is more famous for his artwork on Powers but is reportedly wanting to start working as a writer. Carey, for his part, is trying to break his image as being "just a Vertigo writer". I, for my part, can't wait to read it.

As hyped as I am about the writing, I can't neglect to mention the all-star art team as well. The regular illustrators will be Mel Rubi (penciler on KISS & Aliens Vs. Predator), Ceaser Rodrigez (inker on Scion) and Richard Isanove (colorist on Marvel: 1602). If this weren't enough, Michael Turner, JG Jones, Joseph Michael Linsner, John Cassaday, Adam Hughes, Alex Ross, Art Adams and Michael Kaluta are all signed on to do covers for the book at some point in the future. Land has already finished the cover for a special Zero Issue to be released in April for just 25 cents! This special issue, with 15 pages of introductory story will be a teaser for the first issue, due out in June with an Alex Ross cover.

And for those of you hoping for more Sonja-related merchandise, wish no more. Dyanmic Forces has won the rights to create and produce trading cards, lithographs, giclees, acetate lithos, wall scrolls, statues, busts, bookends and other items based on Red Sonja and have reportedly already begun production on a few surprises. Keep an eye out at the Dynamic Forces Website for more goodies.

Previews of the Land cover, the first page of #0 as well as more information can be found here.

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

Birds Of Prey #78 - A Review

Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Tom Derenick
Inked by: Bob Petrecca
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

So here’s the story so far. Pissed off and snubbed by Batman for the last time, hacker-extraordinaire Oracle has taken her act on the road. Set up in a stealth jet piloted by Lady Blackhawk (a WWII heroine, in our time thanks to some considerable time-warping), Oracle is now on the road along with long-time crime-fighting partners Black Canary and Huntress. The Fab Four are currently traveling around the country, following reports of super-powered vigilantes who are using their powers to kill criminals rather than bring them in peacefully.

Last issue, the Birds wound up in Kansas, tracking an urban legend known as The Harvest. Tale says that if you call to the full moon, Harvest will hear you. She can be called to heal the sick or to punish the wicked. The wicked, as the Birds find out as they track Harvest down, is generally anyone who has murdered and gone unpunished; a definition that certainly includes the militant Huntress and Black Canary, who killed the men responsible for torturing long-time lover Oliver Queen to near death. Harvest also, it seems, has the power to take the skills of another person in addition to their life force, stealing the knowledge of a very rare attack from Canary and using it against her.

Simone dances along a very difficult balancing beam with Harvest. Introducing a new villain is always a trick, especially in a team book where a villain who can challenge an entire team often becomes little more than a deus ex machine. Simone manages to keep Harvest grounded, though still shrouded in mystery. I’m still curious as to how she kept escaping unnoticed as well as how she could hear ANYONE who called to her even across a small Kansas town. Of course, all this could be explained away if Harvest’s powers are truly magical but the issue keeps this point vague enough to be uncertain. Thankfully, the ending is left open enough to suggest that we will see more of Harvest in the future and hopefully, get some more answers.

Tom Derenick and Bob Petrecca are the artists this time around, replacing the usual team and they do a credible job. While I still prefer the work of Benes and Lei, Derenick and Petrecca do the characters justice. All the women are drawn to be beautiful, but capable fighters and the artwork never descends into cheesecake territory; a minor miracle considering they are still using Jim Lee’s “Huntress the Hoochie” costume. The action is portrayed beautifully and there is enough variety in the supporting cast that there is no trouble telling characters apart; a problem all too common in action/adventure books like this.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Looking To The Stars: The Elektra Movie in 5 Minutes

Terrence Stamp: Since the dawn of time, there has been a war between good and evil. Sometimes the battle is large. Sometimes the battle is small. Sometimes the battle is within a single person... like a little girl. Pay attention. This will be important later.


Head Security Guard The perimeter is secure, sir.

Some Rich Evil Guy It doesn't matter. She will still get through. She did before.

Head Security Guard Who is that?

Some Rich Evil Guy Elektra.

Sure enough, Elektra gets through, killing several guards, the head security guard and the Evil Rich Guy who has done a whole lot of bad stuff that we'll never hear about now, cause he's dead.


Elektra's Agent: (watching Elektra scrubbing the floor) Why do you do that?

Elektra: Because I'm borderline obsessive/compulsive, although this won't be mentioned until later in the movie and then only as an inappropriate joke. Also, it provides me with yet an opportunity to bend over on all fours, distracting the fanboys even further by how far and away this movie goes from the original comics.

Fanboys: Hee-hee. Boobies!

Elektra's Agent: I've got a job for you.

Elektra: I need a vacation.

Elektra's Agent: Take it after this job. It's a lot of money.

Elektra: Well, if it's a LOT of money.

Elektra's Agent: Will you sleep with me?

Elektra: No.


"Starman" Matt Morrison: So, does this movie have anything to do with the Daredevil movie? I mean, Elektra here seems a lot closer to the comic version than she was in that. But why on earth did she become a professional assassin after nearly getting killed by Bullseye?

Director, Rob Bowman: Perhaps THIS will answer your questions!

We get a montage of clips, cut MTV style. Basic gist of which is that Terrence Stamp, in a white robe, brought Elektra back to life after somehow getting her body away from the paramedics who couldn't heal her after having a sai shoved through her heart.

"Starman" Matt Morrison: That didn't explain anything!

Director, Rob Bowman: Oh. Well, then how about we repeat that throughout the movie and say that she's having visions of the future? Or we can do THIS!


Terrence Stamp: You are the most powerful student I have. But you lack the finesse to learn the subtle, yet really cool ninja tricks like raising the dead, becoming invisible and manipulating time and space.

Elektra: What can I do?

Terrence Stamp: Kneel before Zod! Er, um.. I mean, you must go.

Elektra gets all pouty like she is about to cry.


Frank Miller Purist: But.. Elektra... so tough! So unemotional! And Stick... isn't... British...why?

The Frank Miller Purist's Head Explodes

"Starman" Matt Morrison: Wait. So she died. Then she got brought back by this good group of Ninjas headed by a guy named Stick that look a lot like "The Chaste" but we never hear them called that. So when they kick her out, she just goes and becomes a killer for hire? Why? I mean, she could just become a rogue vigilante if she wants to go fight people and be good. And why does she still have that necklace? I thought she put that on Matt Murdock's balcony in Daredevil!

Professional Critics: GRRR! Someone say Daredevil?! We hated Daredevil! Ben Affleck must stop making movies!

"Starman" Matt Morrison: But he was actually pretty good in that. The movie's faults lay more in the director/writer who turned Daredevil into a stone-cold killer because he was afraid people would confuse Daredevil with Batman and...

Professional Critics: GRRR! Stupid Elektra movie remind us of stupid Daredevil movie! This movie sucks!

"Starman" Matt Morrison: Well... you're partly right.


Head of Hand Clan: Have we procured 'the treasure'?

Business-Suit-Wearing Hand Clan Executive: Not yet. We are trying subtle methods.

Son of Hand Clan Head: Bah. Subtlety. My group of circus-freaks can easily destroy this woman who keeps getting in our way.

Head of Hand Clan: No, I think we shall keep sending men in black pajamas after our targets for the moment.


Elektra: (into celphone) So what am I doing here?

Elektra's Agent: The client wanted you there for a few days before they gave us the name of who you are supposed to kill.

Elektra: I want to get out of here as soon as possible.

Elektra's Agent: Oh yeah. Getting paid to hang around a cabin must be so horrible. And here you were just asking for some time off...

Elektra hangs around for a few days, working out, undressing, going swimming in the 20 degree waters in a bikini, dressing again, working out some more and undressing. This does nothing to move the plot, but it does keep the fanboys distracted a while longer.

Fanboys: Hee hee. Breasts.

Kirsten Prout: Hi! I'm an annoying klepto in serious need of a mother, who will latch onto you, mimic your every move and eventually dye my hair in order to become more like you.

Elektra: I shall call you Mini-E.

Kirsten Prout's Father: And I'm her father. My name is Mark Miller.


"Starman" Matt Morrison: Too easy.


Elektra's Agent: You have a package.

Elektra: About time. Feels like I've been here forever.

Audiences Everywhere: Us too!

Elektra gets her assignment. It is to killer Mark Miller and his daughter. She tries to do this several times, but can't do it.

Elektra: Why can't I just kill these two without thinking about it as I have so many times before? Could it be the annoying girl's hero worship has touched my maternal instincts? Can it be my morals finally coming back to me after the apparent year that I've been a professional assassin?

Director, Rob Bowman: Nope. It's cause if you don't, we really don't have a movie.

Elektra: Oh. Well, that's okay then.

Bad ninjas show up and try to kill Mark and his daughter. Elektra saves them and takes them to go see her old sensei, Stick.

Terrence Stamp: General "you still haven't learned anything" comment.

Elektra: General "I have learned more than you realize." Comment.


Another Frank Miller purist Hey! Stick is in a seedy pool hall cleaning up! Even though he's blind! That's good! And those Hand ninjas dissolved into smoke like the comics! That's good!


Head of Hand Clan: We still have not procured 'the treasure'! Clearly sending a bunch of generic ninjas in their jammies was not a worthy plan.

Business-Suit-Wearing Hand Clan Executive: I will look disturbed at the news of the deaths of my men and leave the room.

Son of Hand Clan Head: Now may my group of scary looking, yet amazingly easy to defeat, circus freak ninjas go?

Head of Hand Clan: Yes! Go Tattoo, master of the living Tattoos. Typhoid, master of plagues. Go Stone, strong as your namesake andâ?¦ the other weasely guy who doesn't seem to have any impressive abilities. Go with my son Kirigi and if you succeed I shall step down and let you take over the clan.


Another Frank Miller purist: But... but... Kirigi is a mindless assassin in the comics! Stone is a good guy and isn't black! And Typhoid Mary isn't a poison-using geshia! She's an actress who can set stuff on fire with her mind!

Another Frank Miller Purist's Head Explodes.

"Starman" Matt Morrison: Dunno why that last one bothered him. That was Ann Noncenti.


Elektra and everyone are safe for a while, until the bad Hand Ninjas show up. They run away and Elektra kills Stone by hitting him with a tree that he is too stupid to move away from. She also kills the weasly guy with no powers. Too bad she gets cornered by Kirigi and Typhoid, who kisses Elektra

Fanboys: Woo-hoo! Slow-mo lesbo action!

Elektra starts to turn cold and sick

The One Fanboy Who Scares The Other Fanboys: All right! Slow-mo lesbo necro action!

Stick shows up with the rest of the good ninjas. The bad ninjas run off and Elektra is fine.


Terrence Stamp: Remember that girl born once a generation I mentioned in the introduction? Turns out it's Mini-E. She is a natural prodigy and destined to become a great master of the martial arts. We hope to train her to join our side instead of The Hand Ninjas.

Elektra: So you were the one who put me on that island and hired me to kill them and this whole thing of sending me away was just part of some big test to see if I would come through for you on this?

Terrence Stamp: Well, it would explain everything except why you chose to become a hired assassin after we kicked you out of here rather than exploring the many options available to a woman good at kicking ass who doesn't want to go on the path of the dark side.

Elektra: Touche.

Elektra reaches out with The Force and talks to Kirigi, getting him to agree to a one-on-one duel "where it all began". It is now that we find out that Kirigi is the ninja who killed Elektra's mother for no readily apparent reason, which set her down the path of being a very disturbed ass-kicking woman. They agree to meet at the now abandoned Natchios Manor. Naturally, he cheats and brings lots of jammie-wearing Norman ninjas as well as what members of his crew aren't dead yet. Elektra blows them all up and Mini-E shows up to kick some butt and need to be rescued.

Kirigi: I will harass you with my amazing sheet-moving ninja powers!

Kirsten Prout: I will run away!

Tattoo: I will make many snakes chase after you both!

Kirigi: I will move really fast at you!

Elektra: I will kill you!

Kirigi: ARRGH! I die!

Tattoo: I will kneel in one place and make myself an easy target.

Elektra: I will kill you and not even slow down!

Tattoo: ARRGH! I die!

Typhoid: I will poison Mini-E.

Kirsten Prout: ARRGH! I die!

Elektra: I will suddenly gain a clearer insight into my ninja powers and throw my sai through twelve bushes that are conspicuously thick for a mansion in disrepair with no groundsskeeper.

Typhoid: ARRGH! I die!

Elektra: I will use my new sense of purpose to bring you back from the dead!

Kirsten Prout: Yay! I live!

Kirsten Prout's Father: Thank you very much!

Elektra: How did you get here?

Kirsten Prout's Father: Apparently the Dojo is not too far from your father's mansion somewhere around New York, presumably... though it looks like it is somewhere in Japan.

Kirsten Prout: Thanks for saving my life!

Elektra: You saved mine. Well, so long.

Kirsten Prout: You're leaving?

Elektra: Well, what else am I going to do? Settle down with you and your dad? Not a very interesting sequel.

Kirsten Prout: Will I ever see you again?

Elektra: Even if they make a sequel? Probably not.


"Starman" Matt Morrison: Well, it wasn't THAT bad. I mean, sure it ignored most of the elements of the comics outside of the names and Elektra was nowhere near the amoral assassin she has been through most of her comic book life. Still, this movie did capture the spirit of the more recent books where she was trying to be a more ethical person and ignoring that it wasn't that bad of an action flick. Overall, I'd give it a solid 5 out of 10. The production values aren't bad though it can't seem to decide between being an action movie or a slow romance flick.

Professional Critics: GRRR! Still too much like Daredevil! Worst movie since Daredevil! Or Gigli! Or Jersey Girl!

"Starman" Matt Morrison: Oh come on! It was better than Catwoman.

Professional Critics: GRRR! Critics STILL hate Ben Affleck!

"Starman" Matt Morrison: But he wasn't in this movie!

The Professional Critics Heads Explode

"Starman" Matt Morrison: And here is why I don't consider myself a professional critic... still, while I wish I had waited for it to come out on video, at least this movie let me finally see the Sin City trailer.

Frank Miller: A movie based off one of my stories that will be worth paying eight bucks to see it!

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

Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid #1 - A Review

Written by: Dan Slott
Penciled by: Ty Templeton
Inked by: Nelson
Colored by: Sotocolor’s F. Serrano
Lettered by: Dave Lanphear
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I think I owe Dan Slott my life. Had it not been for this book, I may well have had a rage-induced heart attack. At the very least, I would have said “To Hell With Spider-Man” this week after the latest Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, where Mark Millar proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he had no idea how to write Spider-Man as anything other than a bumbling imbecile who is just there to prop up the “uber-kewl” villains.

Dan Slott knows these characters. He knows them. He loves them. And he knows how to write them. And that love and knowledge is evident in every panel of Spider-Man/Human Torch. From the introduction, we know this is going to be a tribute to the Marvel Comics of yore…

Friends. Rivals. Brothers in arms. Separately, they are formidable. Together…they’re a pain in the butt. Case in point…

We come in on the tail end of a battle with Mole Man, won thanks to a brilliant plan by Johnny Storm. Naturally, Johnny is thrilled that he managed to win using his brains for once, proving everyone wrong about how stupid he is. Not only that, but he’s sure to make the front page of the papers for this. Or so he would have, had Spidey not bumped him off the front page.

Figuring that what he needs to make the front page is some snazzy pictures, he tracks down the guy who takes those really good pictures of Spider-Man and makes him a better offer. And so it is that Peter Parker reluctantly takes a job as the Human Torch’s personal photographer. Partly because the money is a lot better than what Jolly J. Jonah Jameson pays and partly because he can’t say no in front of Aunt May, who wishes he’d stop following around that dangerous Spider-Man. And where it goes from there, I shall leave it for you to discover.

It’s rare in these days of decompressed writing to get a story that features three super-villain encounters, one random bank robbery and numerous scenes that all take place on just one or two pages. What Slott has written here is a valentine to the hearts of old fanboys like me who wish for a little more heart to our heroes and a little more bang for our buck. It also helps that this is easily the funniest book I’ve read in the last month, with several laugh-out-loud moments and a classic “Peter as the Heroic Trickster” moment for all you mythology buffs out there.

The artwork is, as the title says, picture perfect. Templeton has proven himself to be a talented mimic in the past working on the “Batman Adventures” line. He does an excellent job in capturing the styles of Kirby and Ditko while making something all his own here.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Looking To The Stars: The Third Annual Starry Awards

The Golden Globes. Mr. Blackwell’s Best & Worst Dressed List. And now (once again), it is time for The Starry Awards. Because it’s just not the start of a new year, without us yammering about the best and worst of last year.

In any case, welcome to what has become a yearly staple of the Comics Nexus: The Starry Awards for Excellence and Disgrace in Comics Writing.

Hey everyone. Tim here. Just wanted to note that this ISN'T annual. Okay, he DID do this before at 411 Mania but this is the first time he's ever done it here and we really wish he'd left this lame thing behind. But we didn't have anything else to run except Jesse Baker's review of New Avengers #2 and we thought this was less likely to get us sued. So, we apologize in advance for… everything.

Of course it has been pointed out that the comic industry already has the Eisners, the Harveys, the Eagles and the Wizard Awards. Why on Earth 2 then, these alleged people ask, do we need another damned award?

Because this is easier than doing real work?

The Starry Awards were started so that I, the ever humble author of this column, might dispense awards to those I felt were most worthy of praise or damnation based on their works in the past year.

Oh, and we are sooo grateful for you to do that. Like we need your divine wisdom to tell us that John Byrne has been phoning it in since 1989?

The Starries name ten stories in total. Stories, for the purpose of this award, can be single or multiple issues of one book or multiple books relating to one plot-line. The Starries are based solely upon the personal opinions of Matt “Starman” Morrison and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else.

No, they really don't. Not a one of us. You wanna complain or sue someone, e-mail him!

Five Staries are awarded to stories which, more than any other stories this year, made me stand up and cheer, burst into tears or just stopped me in the middle of reading to say “This is damn good stuff.” Five Staries are awarded (if you can call it that) to stories that, for some reason, I found disappointing. Stories that left me feeling that a mark had been missed and missed badly. Some of them are stories that, in fact, I think are just plain terrible.

That said: Here are the winners and losers!

The Best of 2004

Best Moment All Year: Colossus Lives!
(As taken from Astonishing X-Men #4-5)

Understand this. I am not, by training, or inclination an X-Fan. I do not subscribe to any X-Men books. I try to avoid reading most of the titles in the series and my hand starts to smoke whenever it is placed on anything written by Chris Claremont. Had you told me a year ago that the best moment in the coming year would come from an X-Men book that I would actually enjoy, I would probably laugh and say "I thought Grant Morrison was quitting X-Men?"

Joss Whedon needs to apply for sainthood, because he has performed a miracle and gotten me to enjoy an X-Men book. And the moment I realized that it was actually good was the moment in Issue 5 of Astonishing X-Men when I read the conversation between Kitty Pryde and Peter Rasputin. Even more impressive, is the fact that he handled the resurrection in a very tasteful manner without totally destroying the memory of his death story; one of the few stories most agree was a good one in the last ten years. The series continues to promise good things through 2005 and… as hard as it is for me to say this… I can't wait to read the next Astonishing X-Men.

Funniest Read All Year:Conan #9

Usually this award goes to a book that is meant to be funny, but Conan has a humor all his own that Kurt Busiek has captured beautifully in the first year of the new Conan title. And nowhere was this humor better captured than in the issue "Two Nemedians Walk Into A Bar".

In this frame story, Conan is in a bar, enjoying a drink when he sees two thugs picking on a helpless merchant. He laughs and the would-be thieves ask if he has issues with their robbery. Conan's insulting response, that he enjoys seeing two puppies pretending to be wolves as they scare a chicken, provokes an easily won fight and then inspires Conan to play the bard as he tells everyone present his own humorous tale of true bravery. Where the story goes, I will not say here. Suffice to say, all ends happily for once with Conan having free drinks for the night, a wench on each arm and a whole night to tell more tales.

Best Team-Up:Spider-Man and Wolverine

Is there anything more dreadful than the editorially mandated team-up? What of the unwritten law that Wolverine and Spider-Man must have a cameo in every Marvel title at least once a year? And what happens when the two big-cash cows of Marvel Comics get together?

Usually, something awful. And yet, this year, two stories showed how the odd-couple of superheroism can actually work well in a non-contrived way. Robert Kirkman got the new Marvel Team Up off to a flying start with his team-up story involving Spidey and Wolvie dealing with the same problem (an X-gene positive student turned serial killer) for different angles and managed to make it suitable creepy and funny at the same time. Perfectly conveying the horror as Peter discovers the dead bodies in the house of the student he was trying to help and the humor as Spidey asks Wolverine for Nick Fury's phone number.

Funnier than this, but of no lesser quality was the story "Even We Don't Believe This" in Ultimate Spider-Man. In it, the Marvel Universe went 'Freaky Friday' as Wolverine and Spider-Man had their bodies swapped by an angry but later apologetic (to Spidey at least) Jean Grey. They may not be the world's finest team, but this year they were the most entertaining.

Best Make Over: Conan

Not really a make-over, but more of a rediscovery of a lost friend. Busiek's writing has resurrected Robert E. Howard's greatest character for the comic world and Cary Nord's art has captured the world's most famous barbarian in a way that will long stand aside masters like Frank Frazetta and Barry Windsor Smith.

Best Retro Tale:JSA: Strange Tales

A classic trip back to the Golden Age of comics, this is the best vintage JSA story since James Robinson's "The Golden Age". Centering around a supposedly benevolent man known as Lord Dynamo, the world's first superhero team must choose between the loss of their two heaviest hitters (Starman and Green Lantern) and the gaining of amazing new technologies to better mankind. All this, and a humorous yet oddly touching subplot where Johnny Thunder tries to become a pulp writer, and you have one fine bit of pulp writing.

The Worst of 2004

Most Likely To Cause Continuity Robots Heads To Explode:Marvel Knights: Spider-Man

I've written enough about this book in the past, so I'll just say "'Nuff Said"

The “What The Hell Just Happened?” Award: What If Charles Xavier & Magneto Had Created The X-Men Together

What if Magneto had a goatee? What if Kitty Pryde had blue hair? What if this story had any real difference than the regular X-Men universe? What if I had some idea of what was going on at any point in this book?

The “I Waited For This?!?!” Award: The Ultimates, Volume 2

They delayed it for a year so that Bryan Hitch would be sure to be on-time with the artwork and it was still late. And like Volume One, it still wasn't worth reading.

Worst Makeover of the Year: Ultimate Fantastic Four

There's a lot to be said for the philosophy that less is more. And Warren Ellis, the master of decompressed writing, proved that saying true as it took him six issues to do what Stan Lee did in a few pages: introduce Dr. Doom and establish him as a major threat. Woese, Doom is no longer the armor-clad master of science and magic but a teenager who got morphed into a metal-bodied, poison-breathing whinny little puss. Bah, says I to that.

The Worst Comic Of the Year Award: Green Arrow #44

Let me say something right at the start. I believe that controversial topics should be addressed in comics. I believe that comic books can be a great informational tool when used properly. That said, I cannot support what Judd Winick has done with Green Arrow. And it is for that reason, and that reason alone, that I have dropped Green Arrow from my subscription until such time as he is no longer writing the book, though I am one of the most devout Oliver Queen fans out there.

Why? Why do I think that this story was the worst one all year? For the simple reason that I do not think that it was written to educate. I do not think it was written to make a point. I think it was written only for the purpose of increasing the sales on a failing title and stirring up attention because there was no way the writer could think of to improve the quality of the title. So they went right for the easy way out.

I'll credit them with noble intentions, at least. But this is about the fourth time that Winick has milked the circumstances of his friend's life for details for a story. Pedro and Me was a very fine book. And Winick's "why gay-bashing is bad" stories in Green Lantern, while a bit preachy at times, had the decency not to hit the reader over the head with statistics.

That is what happens in the opening of this book, as Oliver Queen professes total ignorance as to what AIDS is. We then get into after-school special territory, as we are given a laundry list reading of everything you need to know to combat HIV. Ignoring the idea that Ollie "In Like Flynn" Queen could have gone through the past he did and the times he did without learning something about why sailors buy those special balloons, the rest of the issue seemed seriously stilted as well. And the ideas to come forth in future issues... including Mia becoming the new Speedy. Well, they just reek of an effort to create gimmicks to reel in the suckers rather than an effort to tell truly engaging stories.

The sad thing is that Mia was a great character and that she really came alive during the Kevin Smith run on the book. She was all but ignored by every writer afterwards. Including Winick, who kept her strictly in the background until this recent crisis. It seems that nobody really knew what to do with the girl who was there merely because underneath the heroism and bluster, what Oliver Queen wanted most was to be a father. A father with an unusual day job, sure. But still the dad who could come home and find the loving family waiting for him.

Of course all that has been shot to hell in the wake of the Winick run, but maybe we can get Gail Simone or someone to finally get Ollie to propose to Dinah as he was ready to do at the end of the Phil Hester run. Heck, bring Mike Grell back to do a Wedding Special and have Count Vertigo crash the thing. Anything to spare me another "very special issue" of Judd Winick's Green Arrow.

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

Swamp Thing #11 - A Review

Written by: Joshua Dysart
Penciled by: Enrique Breccia
Inked by: Enrique Breccia
Colored by: Martin Breccia
Lettered by: Phil Balsman
Editor: Jonathan Vankin
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

And lo, it was said by a Vertigo editor, “Why don’t we bring back that ‘Swamp Thing’ title, which did in part lead to the creation of our Vertigo line.

And so it was that Andy Diggle, of Losers and many a Vertigo special was given chance to restore Swamp Thing to his (pardon the pun) roots. And for the most part he did succeed, taking the uber-powerful god-like being with a nearly as powerful teenage daughter and did fix things and create much drama. And John Constantine was in there too. And it was good.

But lo, it was not to be a lasting thing. For after but six issues, Diggle did leave. And Will Pfeifer, he who wrote the Aquaman did begin to write the title. And things were okay. The tales of reality TV shows and big game hunters attempting to track the Swamp Thing were amusing, if somewhat predictable. And they did raise questions as to why, if the Swamp Thing’s wife Abby Holland were so upset over what had happened and desired to get a normal life, she might have considered settling herself somewhere besides the first city outside the swamp where Alec Holland died and the Swamp Thing lived now. Still, the writing was serviceable enough and the artwork had muchly improved in the hands of Richard Corben.

But alas, this too was to change. With the regular and far more inferior artist Enrique Breccia returning with issue #9. And with him came a new writer: Joshua Dysart. Writer of many a violent independent title and most recently The Demon: Driven. And lo there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the critics. For that series was, in their humble opinon, not worth the death of so many trees.

Still, one critic was not so jaded as to not give the man a fair shake. And so it was that he read Swamp Thing #9 and #10 with much dread. Dread, it seemed, which was much justified. For the books were a confusing mess, with muddy artwork and random events with seemingly little relation between them. And lo it was obvious that long-time villain Arcane had been sent forth from Hell with a demoness and that something worm-like had been sent after him. And somehow Swamp Thing sensed all this and apparently his daughter is still screwed up. And his wife has had yet another change of heart about her feelings for her husband the swamp monster.

And the one critic was heard unto say, ‘To heck with this!’

Monday, January 3, 2005

Looking To The Stars: New Years E-views

A new year is upon us. And with it comes new comics.

New comic previews, to be exact. I was recently contacted by two people; one author (Tom Waltz) and one editor (Mike Penny), both of whom wondered if I would be interested in being the first to see their new works and the first critic to be given a chance to write about them. Free comics in exchange for some free press.

They had me at free comics. Of course, there is always a danger in making deals such as this. What if the books I get aren't any good? What if they think that sending me free books entitles them to positive commentary? Can I compromise my ethics as a critic and soften my blows so as not to seem ungrateful for the chance I have been given to be the first to see something new?

Thankfully, that hasn't been an issue so far. And it wasn't an issue this time as both of these books were great stuff.


Yet another superhero team book. Doesn't sound too exciting on the surface, does it? That's what I was thinking until I saw that the writer of this little book was Jason Rand of Small Gods. That was the first hint that Helios was to be more than "just another superhero team book". And boy, was it ever!

What Small Gods has done for police comics, Helios does for the superhero. Yes, the book does deal with a trio of super-powered heroes known as Neo Force, but it goes beyond the base concept with a little twist. As we enter the title, we are told that Neo Force, the world's main defense and containment force for super-powered criminals has fallen on hard times. With only three super-powered agents left (the fire-blasting Sunstrike, shape-shifter Façade and strong speedster Blur) and a handful of specially trained and armored agents, the program is barely scraping by.

As some top brass are touring the team's facilities, some unscrupulous military types make suggestions to Colonel Shiels, the team leader, that their funding situation might be improved. All that is required is a shift of focus from criminal containment and incarceration to reapplication of misused resources to military forces. In short, turn the rogue super-powers imprisoned by Neo Force into soldiers for an army to protect American interests. Naturally, Colonel Shiels is completely against the idea and is given one heck of a justification when the super-villain Hate escapes from his cell and proves unable to be a resource that cannot be "reapplied".

Rand's writing is top-notch as per usual. The plot of superhumans being used as weapons by the military is nothing new, but Rand puts a more realistic spin on it here than any author before ever has. Despite getting relatively little time with the characters, we do get a strong sense of personality among all of them. And the artwork by Gabe Pena and Chris Drier is perfectly in keeping with the neo-Silver Age feel that the whole book inspires. A solid 9 out of 10. If you like Small Gods, you'll love Helios too!

Helios #1 is currently on the stands. A preview of Issue #2 can be found at the Dakuwaka website.


Children Of The Grave introduces us to The Orphans: a special military team made up of men with no family, who are sent into the danger zones first. Lieutenant Michael “LT” Drake is the leader, spiritual heir to Sgt. Rock and Sgt. Fury. He is followed by Sergeant Reginald “Shiv” Reese (a knife-man from Detroit) and Sergeant Pedro “Lil’ Pete” Rodriguez (a sniper who joined the military figuring he was safer in Sarajevo than East L.A.).

The Orphans' latest mission has just taken them into the Middle-Eastern country of Stinwan; a place torn apart by civil war between the Stinwanese and the Kilipanese. Though the war is over and Sitwan is enjoying an uneasy peace, Colonel Akbar Assan has gone rogue and taken many like-minded troops upon a campaign to continue the war. His most bold move, the announcement of a plan to kill thousands of Kilipinese children, has attracted the attention of the international community and resulted in The Orphans being sent out to investigate the rumors of ethnic cleansing.

When The Orphans arrive, they find the proof they need: thousands of graves in the desert; child-sized yet oddly empty. This is enough for their commanders to give the go-ahead order for The Orphans to track down Assan and deliver a most bloody justice to him and his men. With the mystery of what happened to the bodies hanging over their heads, along with a series of disturbing dreams and mysterious visions of dead children begging for help, the three soldiers move deep into enemy territory knowing not what awaits them…

As a rule, I'm not a big fan of war comics or horror comics. That's not to say I don't enjoy the genre on occasion. I loved Garth Ennis' War Stories and I'll give a peek at anything Steve Niles has written when I'm in the shop. But as a rule, I don't get too excited about any story written about soldiers or the walking dead. Ah, but what if someone were to combine the two? What then?

As Mr. Burns of The Simpsons once said, "I don’t know much about art but I know what I hate. And I don't hate this." And that pretty much sums up my feelings about Children Of The Grave. By all rights, I shouldn't have enjoyed this book as it stand between two genres I am generally indifferent towards. And yet, I couldn't stop reading the first issue I was given a chance to preview and was well glad to have issue two handy to keep going.

The characterization here is top-notch. I feared that we would quickly fall into the realm of stereotyping that so many war-comics indulge in. I became particularly worried early on when I saw that The Orphans were, numerically, a racially-balanced rainbow coalition of ass-kicking. (Now there's a sentence that has never been used before!) Thankfully, all my worries proved unfounded as despite their general profiles, LT, Shiv and Little Pete prove to be more than just generic soldier #12345. And the villains are appropriately villainous, without degrading into "Die American Pig-Dog!" stereotyping. Writer Tom Waltz, a former soldier himself, deserves great credit for having captured the soldier's life so well and spinning a genre-crossing tale that can interest even jaded "seen it all" critics like me.

The artwork is top-notch as well, though I am at a loss for words as how to describe it. I am reminded of the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words and think how accurate that is. For it would take me a thousand words to fully describe the wonderful work that Casey Maloney has done in balancing the mundane and the mystic elements of this book.

Children of The Grave goes on sale in January. A preview is available at the Shooting Star Comics

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

What If... Karen Page Had Lived? - A Review

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Michael Lark
Inked by: Michael Lark
Colored by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: C.B. Cebulski
Publisher: Marvel Comics


Bald Guy: Greetings! I am the Watcher! Or maybe I’m Brian Michael Bendis. Michael Lark’s dark and spooky artwork makes it hard to tell. At any rate, I am a man with a freakishly large bald head whose duty it is to tell you of tales that might have been.

CUT TO: Kevin Smith’s Study.

Bald Guy: Behold Kevin Smith- filmmaker and comic writer of immense popularity. And yet also an object of vast scorn! Mostly by wannabes, who are jealous of his being a writer of comics, maker of films and his actually having been bare naked with a girl!

Kevin Smith: Dig it.

Bald Guy: Ah, but what if… in some other world, it had been Brian Michael Bendis who had written that most beloved “Guardian Devil” story?

Kevin Smith: Folks, I apologize in advance for this. And for Black Cat being late. And Mallrats. Again.

CUT TO: A Church.

Bullseye: (smoking a pipe) Ah, my dear… tis so sweet this business of murder. To plot and smite my foe such upon holy ground is a great joy to a blasphemer such as myself. Would that the finest port could quell my thirst so well as this, the blood of the fiend Daredevil spilt upon the ground for me. Oh, that I might play with thee further, sweet foe. But alas, my duty is to deliver yon child which thou protectest unto my ungentle employer.

Bald Guy: It was in that moments that things changed. A billy club thrown. A brave woman’s action. A totally unnatural tone of dialogue for a well-established villain. A recap taking twelve pages that Roy Thomas could have managed in three. Yes, what if things had been different? A centimeter to the left. A centimeter to the right. A jump to the left. A step to the right. Hands on her hips, with her knees in tight? What if Karen Page HAD lived?

50,000 Fanboys: GET ON WITH IT!

Bald Guy: Well, not much to tell really. Mysterio still would have killed himself. Matt Murdock would have confronted Kingpin and accidentally killed him. Wilson Fisk, prepared for the unlikely event of his violent death in his life as a gangster, would have the finger of blame pointed at Murdock post-humously. Foggy Nelson would fail to consider an insanity plea and Matt Murdock would go to jail after a trial which was a circus even worse than the one he has experienced having his secret identity exposed in the true Marvel Universe. His trial would be the last time that he would see Karen Page. If he could see… that is, it was the last time they would be in the same room. And he would emerge from jail years later, a broken and depressed man with nothing to live for.

CUT TO: A Bar.

Bald Guy: Rather depressing, isn’t it? I suggest you deal with it the same way I dealt with writing this story: by drinking heavily.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Hellblazer #203 - A Review

Written by: Mike Carey
Penciled by: Leonardo Manco
Inked by: Leonardo Manco
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Jonathan Vankin
Publisher: Vertigo > DC Comics

Wha… where the bloody hell am I?

Easy, Johnny. You’ve been through a lot.

John… is that my name?

John Constantine, yes sir. JC, C of E. Bit lapsed on the C of E, though. Very lapsed, come to think of it.

I… I don’t remember…

Well, that’s to be expected. You did give yourself amnesia trying to stop the end of the world.

I… I did? Am I some kind of hero?

Ha! Not by half, John. Not by half. You know a bit of magic, but get by on wits more than skill. You’ve managed to beat the Devil himself a few times, saved the world on a few occasions and caused a lot more trouble than anyone has any right surviving. But “heroic” is nowhere on the list of frequent adjectives applied to you.

So I saved the world and… lost my mind.

Simplifying it a bit, but roughly yeah.

Ugh… is that why I feel so wonky?

Partly. See, before I found you, you stumbled around a bit homeless and in a daze. Wound up in a bad situation, but a demoness got you out of it.

A demoness?

Female demon, yeah. Her name is Rosacarnis. She’s the daughter of a demon named Negral who… well, the short version is you did a lot to piss him off and eventually caused his demise. She wanted revenge and boy did she plan a doozy…

What… what is she doing? *COUGH*

Here. Take this. Carton of Silk Cut. Should make you feel more your old self.

I smoke?

Like a chimney.

Ah… starting to come back... So what’s this demoness doing?

Well, she offered to save you from certain death in exchange for one day of your life. One day magically became forty relative years, stretched out and she wound up having three children with you while putting you through nightmarish visions of life with three women in your past. Three children are out there now. Your children. Three who reflect the darkest parts of your soul.

Bloody hell, I remember it now… they’re still out there now, aren’t they?

Oh yeah. Trying to hunt down and kill all those you love. Well, all those you love who are still alive. Your loved ones tend to end up burned, stabbed or otherwise metaphysically inert.

Wait a sec? Who are you?

Just a friend. And a fan. Somebody who wanted to fill everyone in on who you really are and what’s going on in your life before it gets erased again…

Erased again? You mean… wait, something else… I’ve got it now! There was something even more twisted. More disturbing than a demoness bent on revenge trying to kill me with my own twisted children.

Got it in one, Johnny. Got it in one.

You mean the movie wasn’t a dream?

No. No, John I’m sad to say that it is not.

They really have Keanu bloody Reeves playing me?!?!

Yes, John. I’m afraid so.

…can I sell my soul to stop that from happening?

Uh… you already have done, John.

I have?

Your soul is on a third mortgage, that’s how much you’ve sold it.

Oh. Well, is there any chance that you could hit me in the head until I forget this again?

Sure. It’ll be the third time this month, though.