Monday, November 28, 2005

Looking To The Stars: The Future of DC

Just when I try and get out, they pull me back in.

No, I'm not still going on about my job with the comic store. I'm talking about DC Comics. My abandonment of most of Marvel Comics is well known by this point. And with all the upcoming news about bold new directions and characters dying and bland non-specific hype coming out of DC recently, I wasn't seeing myself buying much more from DC either.

And then came the good news. A whole spattering of good news, in fact. Good news that has assured me that I won't be completely turning into an indy comics guy anytime soon.

1. Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns writing Superman.

I've never been a big Superman fan. As a kid, I always preferred the more cerebral heroes who didn't punch their way through everything. And back then, Superman didn't do much but punch his way through every little thing. More recently, but rarely, many writers have been able to balance the simplicity of Truth, Justice and the American way with more complex storylines that tested Superman's spirit as well as his muscles. And with two of the writers who are the absolute best at maintaining the mix of Silver Age sensibility with modern storytelling at the helm, it looks like Superman will be a very good book to recommend to new readers when the new Superman movie hits the big screen this summer.

2. James Robinson on Batman.

My favorite Batman story of all time is a little story called Blades. Barely a story about Batman at all, the focus is upon a new Gotham vigilante dubbed The Cavalier who winds up teaching an inexperienced Bruce Wayne something about good intentions and heroism. It was the first thing I ever read by a writer who would quickly become one of my favorites and the indirect source of my nickname.

So it is with a good deal of joy that I can note that Starman author James Robinson, after an extended stay in Hollywood, is apparently returning back to DC to write not one, but two titles; Batman and Detective Comics. Batman has suffered from some truly horrible writing in the last two years and I haven't bought a Batman book since the time when Jean Paul Valley was still up and kicking because of it. So yeah... I'll be giving both these titles a shot.

3. Ron Marz on Ion.

Longtime readers will know that it was Green Lantern, and Kyle Rayner in specific, that got me into reading comics as an adult. Now as much as I am loving Geoff Johns bringing the GLC back, and what he is doing with all the characters... I've been kind of sad seeing Kyle shoved to a supporting role, even if he does hold a post as teacher in The New Corps. And a lot of people, who STILL can't get over the fact that Kyle still draws breath even though they have Hal back in a position as a respected hero AND a Green Lantern, are still insisting that Kyle will die during Infinite Crisis.

So here, in order, is my news for anyone who is a fan of Kyle Rayner.

GOOD: Kyle will be surviving Crisis.

BETTER: Kyle will be getting his own solo title under the nom de plume Ion.

BEST: Ron Marz is coming back to write it.

In short: Eat it, H.E.A.T.!

4. Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes.

On that note, not only is the new, non-confusing REAL Supergirl going to survive Infinite Crisis...

Not only will her book be continuing...

But she will be getting a second title, apparently paired with The Legion.

Hmmm... come to think of it, isn't Superboy Prime still alive and kicking and just begging to go to a place where heroism as an ideal is very much needed?

I'm not suggesting anything here... save that this may be a very good time to be an old-school Silver Age comics fan.

5. Keith Giffen on Blue Beetle.

Rumored for a while, but now confirmed. Glad to see there's still some room at DC for a little levity. I'd hate to have the only thing I see from Giffen be the amusing, but impossible for me to get at my store Defenders.

So yes. I'll be around a while longer. Much to the chagrin of El Editor Grande Daron, who will be quite disappointed to know that despite his predictions of doom last week, I did not get a single bit of hate mail in the past week over my statement that Gail Simone has the best grasp of the Ollie Queen/Dinah Lance relationship of any writer at DC and that anyone who dares disagree with me is arguing against solid fact, not opinion.

Hey that wasn't Daron, that was ME, your most vertical editor, Kevin S Mahoney! I write in a thick blue font, very unlike Daron's!

But more on that, and how Gail has indirectly made my life as a Green Arrow enthusiast much more difficult, next time...

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Snap Shot Reviews

Robert Burns once said "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Well, that's what happened this week. No sooner do I say farewell to my life as a professional comic book guy am I informed that my refusal has been rejected... at least until after the holiday season is over. Apparently they are a bit more willing to work with my schedule having realized how hard it would be to train someone new in the middle of the busiest shopping time of the year. So for a while, I shall be librarian and comic book guy.

So much for a smooth and graceful exit, eh?

Ah well. While my occupational transition has proven less peaceful than I had hoped, I can promise a much smoother and more amusing bit of reading for you all this week. Though I haven't had the time to start the first special project I promised I would start once I had more free reading/writing time, I did manage to read quite a few of the hot and new titles this week. And for the sake of brevity, I shall handicap myself and limit myself to two sentences to describe each book. All the better to speed you along to reading the good stuff for yourself.

All Star Superman #1 - Superman as he should be. All the classic elements of the character are balanced evenly with a wacky Grant Morrison plot, wrapped in a Quietly shell that makes the whole thing one sweet piece of candy.

Books of Doom #1 - Finally, Dr. Doom done right! If this is any indication of the future quality of his work, I can't wait for Ed Brubaker's Daredevil.

Birds of Prey #88 - While I'm still a bit hazy on the recent timeline involving the Ollie/Dinah relationship, Simone is the only author who has accurately captured the dynamic between the two since Kevin Smith's run on Green Arrow. That is fact, not opinion, and I will gladly explain why to any who dare challenge me on this point.

Do you REALLY want to challenge the hate mail gods in such a cavalier fashion Matt? Are you SURE? -Editor K.

Fables #43 - So good I got my girlfriend into regular comics fandom on this book alone. Worth the price of admission just for the joke on respecting the customs regarding the treatment of slaves and the treatment of slavers.

Fantastic Four #532 - JMS continues to be the only writer at Marvel who can deliver a consistent level of quality across multiple books. A notable issue, if only for being the first time I think it was outright stated Reed Richards uses his powers in the bedroom.

Green Arrow #56 - The good news is that we only get to see Winick mangle Ollie's character for two pages. The bad news is that he and the editor STILL haven't been corrected on the fact that Killer Frost's powers absorb heat (so fire arrows won't hurt her) and they spend the Ollie-Ollie-free rest of the issue screwing up Mia and Connor.

Green Lantern #5 - Johns is building things slowly here and I wish he'd speed up a bit. This issue is amusing superhero fare, but hardly as filling as his usual works.

Hellblazer #214 - The beginning of the end for Mike Carey's run as he takes away a major part of the Constantine mythology. I can't wait for next month to see what else goes up in smoke.

Jon Sable Freelance #5 - Why must every other book I read this week torment me with images of the days when Green Arrow was under the hands of a competent writer and artist? If you aren't already reading this series by old pro Mike Grell, do yourself a favor and track down the back issues.

Supergirl #3 - For fans of old school comics with a sense of fun, this is one of the best books on the market. Ignore the haters on the message-board who dismiss this as fluff.

The Thing #1 - Leave it to Dan Slott to give me some brief hope that there may be someone else besides JMS at Marvel who gets it. This book is a treasure, with a sense of fun that is all but dead at Marvel and starting to be revived at DC.

One final review, but not a comic book one. If you were planning to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but haven't or if you weren't planning to see it., go see it. Now. Um, sorry to butt in again Matt, but as I work in a movie theatre, I must advise people to hold off seeing HP:GoF for at least a few days. Most theatre workers are coming off three days and four nights of double shifting just to keep up with the demand for the nearly three hour film. If you viewers put off seeing the movie until say Wednesday, the theater will be quieter, cleaner, and its staff will be more helpful. And the film won't get pushed to the slightly smaller theatres until Friday at the earliest. Sorry to barge in again M-Money... -Editor K. If the fantasy isn't your thing, it's worth the price of admission just to see the trailers for Superman Returns on the big screen. Of course if you can't wait that long... check this out.

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

Monday, November 14, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Comic Book Guy No More!

It's been quite a week. Got a bit to discuss, so let's get to it.

First; regarding the appraisal of Liberality for All #1, written last week by this author. Despite expectations of the greatest outpouring of hate-mail in recent fan mail, I got not one e-mail, heated or otherwise, regarding the aforementioned review. I can only conclude one of three things from this.

1. The comic book industry really does cater to a liberal elite who would never consider such a book worth reading.
2. All of you out there reading my column trust my judgment and opinions well enough to take me at my word that the book was not worth picking up.
3. All the conservatives who would argue the point about the book being a poorly-drawn, badly written waste of a tree are too busy trying to get the drink holder on their computer fixed to trade angry flames with me right now.

I did, however, get an e-mail asking why I hadn't written a thing about Wizard World Texas when said convention occurred within my backyard; this author being a Dallas boy.

The sad truth is that I didn't go for two reasons. The first was that a recent death in the circle of friends that week left us with little desire to go cavort and make merry in the geeky fashion. The other is that aside from Summer Glau of Firefly fame, there was nobody at Wizard World Texas I wanted to meet for any reason outside of giving them a good-size boot to the head and none of those in attendance were worth doing time over.

Sorry, Rob Liefeld. I hate and despise you but I ain't going to Huntsville over the likes of you.

So for those of you who enjoyed my last few convention reports (both of them), my apologies for not having another one for you. There's always next year, though.

Finally tonight; the biggest bit of news and one that inspires quite a lot of nostalgia on my part.

As most of you know, I got my start writing with the late and lamented DC Comics fandom site Fanzing way back in 1999. That came to a close in early 2003 when Fanzing published its' last issue. It was not too long before the last issue was to be published however, that I got a faithful e-mail.

A guy by the name of Ben Morse wrote me and several other Fanzing writers, saying that he liked our work and that he was inspired to start his own fandom magazine. He said that there were posts waiting for us if we were interested. Well, I was just starting up graduate school and trying to find a job so I had a lot more concerns on my mind at the time. But given that one of my few complaints about working for Fanzing was that I read a lot of independent titles I never got to discuss because of the magazine's focus, it occurred to me that I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I've been here ever since. Ben Morse has gone on to fame and fortune (well, as much as you can get as a guru for Wizard Comics anyway) and I've had the chance to work with a sleigh-load of talented folks ever since. But something funny happened that same month; I got my other dream job, working as a salesman in a comic book store.

It is now nearly three years later. Three years ago, I was just starting graduate school. Three years ago, I was just starting a new job. Three years ago, I was just starting a new magazine.

Now, I've got my Masters. And now, after months of searching, I'm starting a new job. To hundreds of people in the DFW area, I shall no longer be the comic book guy. I won't be there every Wednesday morning, ready to offer poly-bagged goodness and the word on whether or not you really need to buy Nightwing if you are reading Villains United. I will no longer be the happy uncle, passing out free comics at the library and the movie theater.

Does this mean I'm quitting the magazine too? Make a complete circle on all those changes three years ago? Not on your life!

True, without that discount I once had and without having all day to read comics when things are slow, I won't be covering quite as much material as I once did. In fact, this new position is going to give me a lot more free-time but a little less pay. The list of what I actually buy on a regular basis is going to cut back considerably.

So in the coming weeks, expect a lot more look-backs at classic material. More reviews of classic trade-paperbacks. Maybe even an episode guide or two akin to what I did with my Green Arrow Reading Guide and The Green Lantern Reading Guide Part One and Part Two.

But that's the next few weeks. This week, I'm done. So let's just end it by saying thank you all. For the last three years and the next three, it was and will be memorable.

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

Monday, November 7, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Liberality Defined

Think back to a simpler time. You were a child. You had a bad day. The bully got your clothes dirty and took your lunch money. All the popular, pretty people laughed at you. And the teacher gave you a bad grade. You were mad. You were upset. And you needed to vent.

So you fantasized. You created a story. One where there was a vast conspiracy against you. How all the pretty, popular people formed a unified front; all part some evil group dedicated to keeping you down. The bully was their main assassin and the teacher their insidious leader. But you were stronger. You were faster. You were able to beat them all in a horribly bloody and ironic manner that would make Quentin Tarantino vomit.

We all have had these fantasies before. The more artistically inclined of us may have taken up pen and tried to make our fantasies more substantial. And nearly always, these written or illustrated fantasies of persecution are discarded embarrassedly by the artist. This catharsis can be cleansing, but a serious belief in the underpinnings of such a fantasy suggests an attitude that is childish at best and insane at worst.

Why do I bring this up? Because the above analogy is the best way I can think of to describe what reading Liberality for All #1 is like. In terms of art and writing, it seems like the sort of thing that Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) would have created, only with G. Gordon Liddy on a Harley instead of a dinosaur flying a fighter-jet.

The plot is pretty standard alternate history science-fiction, like a Harry Turtledove novel but not nearly as well researched. In another world where Al Gore wound up in the White House in 2001 and the Democratic Party gained control of United States Senate and House of Representatives, 9-11 happened with very different results.

We find out that in the course of 20 years, Usama Bin Laden has become a United Nations ambassador, conservative talk-radio has been outlawed and the United States is almost entirely under the control of the United Nations (a move facilitated, we are told, by President Chelsea Clinton and Vice President Michael Moore). The only thing that has any chance of saving the world from Usama's latest plan to destroy New York City with an Iraqi-designed suitcase nuke, is an organization known as F.O.I.L. and the cyborg-limb enhanced trio of Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North.

Honestly, I find myself hard pressed to describe the book past being a childish persecution fantasy. There are several different ways I could take this book apart, but none of them seem particularly constructive.

I could pontificate on the irony that this book, meant to be the first attempt to create a neo-conservative comic, was delayed until this week, when the neo-conservative movement took some serious hits with several prominent conservatives being investigated or indicted on various charges ranging from insider trading to money laundering to obstruction of justice and perjury.

I could focus upon the fact that the three big heroes of this book include two convicted felons and one of the most unashamedly biased talk-show hosts in any media.

I could discuss the author's complete inability to grasp global politics past an elementary school level. Because the book does seem to hinge upon the fact that nobody in the world outside of the conservatives in the United States would ever have a problem with an anti-Western terrorist becoming a respected world leader. (Israel? United Kingdom? Spain? Never heard of them.)

I could even dissect the entire book and pick apart every single factual inaccuracy and questionable conclusion. One particularly glaring example I noticed came during one of Sean Hannity's radio broadcasts, in which he says the country started going downhill after "God" was removed from our money and the Pledge of Allegiance. As any student of American history can tell you, "In God We Trust" and "under God" were not added to either our money OR the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950's during the height of McCarthyism. In other words, we did just fine without "God" on our currency for nearly 200 years and "The Pledge" in its original form was written by a Socialist with no mention of God and meant to be used by all nations.

Yes. I could do all of these things. But I won't. Because this book isn't worthy of such consideration. It isn't worth anything.

If you are a fan of quality comics, it is not worth reading. It's not even worth buying to laugh at.

If you are a liberal, it is not worth getting offended over. This may be insulting to your intelligence if not your beliefs, but if you get pissed off over this and try and lodge a protest, then the conservatives will laugh at you. So will I, for that matter. It's just a comic book.

If you are a conservative, it is not worth citing as a justification of your viewpoint. One might venture that if you're using science-fiction to justify your political views, particularly a work such as this which is as poorly thought out as it is drawn, you might need a reality check.

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