Sunday, February 26, 2006

Looking To The Stars - What's in The News?

Don't expect a big focused rant this week, folks. There's big changes coming to the Nexus and I'm too busy cleaning up sawdust and hammering up plywood to pick one big story to focus on.

So what do I have for you this week? A few links. A few rants. And a few quick reviews and odd notes.

Let's get it on, then.

The 2005 Comics Nexus Year End Awards

At the time of this publishing, there is still time to go vote in 2005 Year End Awards . So go vote! It's your patriotic duty! Our voting process guaranteed to be 100% Diebold free!

House of M: Part Four

The final chapter of Matt Gardner's masterpiece parody of House of M is finally up!


Would that it were so...


Read it and weep, Fanboy!

It's going to suck.

Not because Bendis is masterminding it. Not because Millar is writing it. Not because the whole stated purpose of the series is to bring back the unified Marvel Universe Stan Lee envisioned and yet it's being built upon the backs of the two stories that did more to screw up Marvel Continuity in recent memory.

No, it will suck because Spider-Man has a new costume.

Nothing good has ever come of any storyline where Spider-Man gets a new costume. It's like Ted McGinley joining the cast of a show – disaster WILL strike!

Seriously, the stink off this story is so bad that not even a good writer like... I dunno, Paul Jenkins could save this...



*whisper whisper whisper*

You're kidding me!

*whisper whisper whisper*

Seriously? Well,okay...


Damn you, Marvel!


Nothing's happening and...It's over. A lot of people look pissed...

I rag on Judd Winick a lot for this book. And small wonder as Green Arrow is one of my top five favorite characters of all time. Still, I had some hopes that maybe, with the chance to do a fresh start that maybe he could finally do a simple story in less than eight issues.

My optimism seems to have been misplaced. Seven pages here, nearly 1/3rd of a whole comic book and what do we see?

Resolution of what has happened to all of the supporting cast, one of whom has been buried under rubble for three whole issues at this point?

No. We get treated to seven pages where we find out that gangs are robbing people, bullets are scarcer than food and that the crime-lord wannabe Brick has apparently become a hero. And except for one panel, we get no hint that Green Arrow is anywhere to be seen. Still, the conceit of Star City having become a war zone in One Year is a nice, original idea.

Shame it was done already in the Batman books six years ago.

Can you say "Hack" boys and girls? Sure. I knew you could.

Giffen/DeMatteis Give Humorous Exclusive to BOOM!


NOOOOOO! This means no more Giffen/DeMatthias Defenders!

Oh well. Good news, Dan Slott! Until Mike Carey takes over X-Men, you are my only Monthly Man At Marvel. (I also pick up Joss Whedon's books... but those aren't monthly purchases).

REVIEW: Green Lantern #9

I came down kinda hard on issues #7 and #8 a few weeks ago, so I wanted to take this opportunity to say that issue #9 has got me willing to give this book a chance for a while longer. Numerically, I'll give it a solid 8. Worth reading if only for two things.

1. The modernized Tattooed Man – I've been saying they needed to bring this character back with a modern twist for years and Geoff Johns has finally done that thing here.
2. Hal Jordan gets Batman to lighten up. 'Nuff Said!

REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #529

Proof that even a pro like JMS can crank out a bad issue when Editorial forces him to toe the company line. Tony Stark calls Peter and MJ his family, despite them only having lived with him a few months. Peter's new suit is apparently dampening his Spider-Sense as he should have sensed a man drawing a gun and been able to jump-carry a victim out of the way of a bullet easily. Even the humorous acknowledgement of how badly each issue of "The Other" flowed into each other (i.e. the How DID Mary Jane's arm heal so quickly?) isn't enough to save some bad characterization and faulty power portrayal. All for the sake of unveiling... bleh... the new Spider-Suit.


Thanks to all the well-wishers who sent me their sympathies regarding my friend Sam. It means a lot to know that my story touched you. And I think you'll really like something that I'm going to be presenting fairly soon.

So with no further ado, I shall bid you adieu.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Looking To The Stars: Review of Batman: TAS, Volume 4

I came into a slight windfall recently, so I was finally able to complete my collection of Batman: The Animated Series. The fourth and final DVD volume collecting the entire series came out just before Christmas, but I didn't get it in case a friend got it for me. Nobody did. Regardless, this volume collects all 24 episodes (were there really that few?) of the later "Gotham Knights" episodes. I.E. The ones with the streamlined animation and Nightwing.

Disc One

1. Holiday Knights

Cute if flawed in some respects, this episode suffered from being the first of the new batch shown as, chronologically, it follows other episodes. So viewers were lost as to why Clayface was still alive, why Robin was so much younger and why Joker looked like a Grey Alien. Still, it is a serviceable Holiday special. 3 Stars.

2. Sins of the Father

A flat introduction for Tim Drake, with the Jason Todd origin. It's far too sedate and indeed the only really exciting moment comes at the end when Dick Grayson returns just after we find out he was gone. 2 Stars.

3. Cold Comfort

I may stand alone on this, but as far as Mr. Freeze goes, they should have stopped after the classic Heart of Ice. The preceding episodes with the character were horribly inferior, although the Sub Zero Batman movie which preceded this episode concluded the character's story nicely. And then we have this episode... where we find out that after saving his wife's life and recovering his emotions at the end of Sub-Zero... she ditched him, Mr. Freeze regressed into being a cold, emotionless SOB and now he's devoting his life to destroying what matters most to random people. Pointless and Depressing. 1 Star.

4. Double Talk

Created because apparently every one of the major villains had to have a new episode devoted entirely to them, this was a very lackluster Ventriloquist story that just goes to show that a block of wood is more interesting than Arnold Wesker's insanity. 2 Stars.

5. You Scratch My Back

Oddly flat, the plot here is twist upon twist, double-cross upon double-cross and yet you can still see the ending coming about 5 minutes before any of the trained detectives. 2 Stars.

6. Never Fear

I hate the new Scarecrow design, but must admit to this being the best story done with the character since Nothing To Fear. The twist of Scarecrow operating outside his normal MO (making people fearless rather than attacking through phobias) is a novel one. 4 Stars.

Disc Two

1. Joker's Millions

Based off an old Detective Comics story, Paul Dini neatly turns in another episode that is short on Batman but long on laughs. 5 Stars.

2. Growing Pains

What I said about Mr. Freeze and how nothing should have been done after Heart of Ice earlier? The same goes for Clayface and Mudslide regarding this episode. Still, this at least explained why Clayface was back from the dead even if it took its' sweet time in doing so. Painfully slow. 2 stars.

3. Love Is A Croc

Steve Gerber has done a great many things for the comic book industry. His script for this episode was not one of them. While nobody can do a tale of weird romance quite like him (Howard the Duck, anyone?), trying to create twisted romantic comedy starring he annoying Baby Doll and the increasingly feral Killer Croc proves even beyond him. 1 Star.

4. Torch Song

Another one I stand alone on, but I liked this episode even if it did feature one of the lamer Bat-Villains. Rather than being a pyromaniac with a lot of toys, Firefly is portrayed here as a jilted lover who uses his pyrotechnic know-how to get revenge on his singer ex. 3 Stars.

5. The Ultimate Thrill

I don't know how Timm, Dini and company got a villainess who flies around straddling a giant rocket yelling "Yeah! Oh Yeah!" sensuously past the Kids WB censors. I'm just glad they did because Roxy Rocket rocks. 4 Stars.

6. Over The Edge

One of the best. On the odd chance you haven't seen it, I'll say nothing lest I spoil the twist ending. 5 stars.

Disc Three

1. Mean Seasons

One of the two episodes that plays like an Adam West Batman episode. In this case, it's a good thing. Worth seeing just for the satire of WB programming. 4 Stars.

2. Critters

One of the two episodes that plays like an Adam West Batman episode. In this case, it's a bad thing. Easily the worst of the New Batman Adventures, this one is Strike 2 for episode plotter Steve Gerber. 0 Stars.

3. Cult of the Cat

A serviceable Catwoman story, but not much else. Shame she never appeared again after this. 3 Stars.

4. Animal Act

What's the first rule of Batman: The Animated Series? Any episode with animal men or trained animals can be skipped. Not really bad, persay, but very slow and plodding. 1 Star.

5. Old Wounds

Finally, an explanation as to why Dick Grayson disappeared. Probably the best Nightwing origin ever, this was also, in my humble opinion, the best of the new batch of episodes. 5 Stars.

6. The Demon Within

The Kirby enthusiasts will cream their shorts, but everyone else will be bored stiff as The Demon refuses to terrify and Batman is forced into unfamiliar territory in a magic-heavy story that really doesn't suit Batman at all. 2 stars.

Disc Four

1. Legends of the Dark Knight

Doomed to be forever known as "The One With The Dark Knight Returns Scene", this one starts strongly but has a rather weak ending. Still, it's enjoyable enough even without the joke about how flamingly gay Joel Schumacher is. 3 Stars.

2. Girls Night Out

Goofy? Yes, but that's not the problem. For an episode meant to showcase all the "girl power" characters, this episode was subtly sexist. And I'm not even talking the ending where the heroes return home to give each other makeovers. I'm talking the bit where two professional superheroines get pissed off about not getting the respect of fat slob detective Harvey Bullock. It's sad that even Harley can't save this one. 2 Stars.

3. Mad Love

The story that won Paul Dini some awards and some credibility as a comic book writer, this was the perfect balance of horror and comedy as we get the true origin of Harley Quinn. Has possibly the highest "I Can't Believe They Got Away With This" factor of any Timm/Dini produced cartoon, what with all the scenes of violence and Harley prancing around in a nighty asking Joker to "rev up his Harley". 5 Stars.

4. Chemistry

Not a bad story, although the "Bruce Wayne gives up his quest for love" angle was handled a lot better in "Mask of the Phantasm". Still, not bad for the length involved. 3 Stars.

5. Beware The Creeper

Proof that Steve Gerber had at least ONE good episode in him, it's a shame they didn't keep the show going another season or ever use The Creeper in the new Justice League. And his attempts to romance Harley were perfect. 4 Stars.

6. Judgment Day

A much better Two-Face story than "Sins of the Father", the introduction of the overzealous Judge vigilante was well-executed. 4 Stars.

Special Features

The features are somewhat limited with this set, presumably there being very little left to say. Still, the commentaries on this DVD set are the best yet though we are limited to three episodes. Over the Edge, Legends of the Dark Knight and... CRITTERS?!?!

Yes, as a chance of pace, Dini, Timm and company decide to tackle an episode that was... not very well received. And even as Timm talks about the concept and how he thought it would be funny in an Adam West Batman, 3rd Season kind of way... by halfway through the commentary, he is joining the rest of the crew in laughing at the twisted animation and the bad puns. (Holy Cow, indeed Robin...)

The only other Special Feature is an "interactive Arkham Asylum", featuring brief video clip profiles on various villains and comments by the writers, directors, voice casters and other professionals. This only serves to demonstrate what I've said in previous reviews of these episode collections - it would be much better to have footage of Mark Hammill acting out Joker with his body while recording his lines than to have footage of Andrea Romano talking about how great it is. Lets call the extras a solid 4.

All in all, I'll give this set a solid 3 out of 5 stars. It's typical of the WB DVD collections of late and fails to be the sum of its' parts. Still, if you're a completist like me, you'll get it regardless. It's worth it to have the animated version of Mad Love.

One final note: If you haven't already, go and make your voice heard in the nomination process for this year's Comics Nexus Best of 2005 Awards

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

Friday, February 10, 2006

Green Arrow #59 - A Review

My first actual review in some time.

Written by: Judd Winick
Penciled by: Paul Lee
Inked by: Dan Davis
Colored by: Rob Leigh
Lettered by: Guy Major
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

Before we get started on this, let us agree to one ground rule thus far. Granting that this is a comic book and that the laws of physics are not necessarily that of the real world, Green Arrow has usually been a realistic (not grim and gritty) title which has been somewhat grounded in reality.

That being said, I do not buy certain things presented in the on-going action of this comic.

I do not believe that Black Lightning can continue to stand and use his powers with a collapsed lung. I had a friend who once had a collapsed lung and he could barely walk with aid. And I see no way that electricity control powers would allow someone to ignore a collapsed lung.

I do not believe that Connor Hawke, no matter what Buddhist Monk training he might have had that would enable him to ignore the effects of chemicals on his body, would be able to throw off the effects of morphine within the short span of time shown here and be able to overpower two paramdedics and be able to run his way down the street after jumping out of a moving (presumably quickly) ambulance.

This is ignoring the fact that Connor was diagnosed with a concussion and that the standard procedure for this is NOT to dope the patient up so they go unconscious. Indeed, you're supposed to fight against the patient going to sleep or so my first aid instructor told me.

I do not believe that with the vast resources at their disposal to say nothing of their desire to make a statement in taking down "the common man standing up to make a difference" that Green Arrow represents, that The Society would opt for blowing up a city with conventional bombs. If they really wanted to make a "Your Superhero Failed You" statement, why not have Dr. Light start raining down unholy laser fire? He's got the power to do it, especially after absorbing the power out of the Good Dr. Light. And it's not like The Society has been all that concerned about being subtle (re: The Nuking of Bludhaven)

But more than that, I cannot believe that two issues after the promised "Shocking Conclusion" to this storyline that we are still limping toward said promised conclusion.

Judd Winick said earlier this week on the DC Message Boards that those wondering about the gaping plot lines... particularly those involving Mia (who is still buried under the rubble with no progress after three issues passing) ... would have to "read (the next issue) and find out".

I don't believe I will. And I don't believe many of those on the DC Comics Boards or elsewhere will be wasting our money on this book anymore.

The Final Word: Not finishing a story after an eight-month span isn't decompressed writing. It is lazy. To do this just to keep people reading is the act of a writer who has nothing left to keep readers on this book but cheap tricks and petty conjuring. The 2 points are for the artist, who shows a greater grasp of human anatomy than the artist on duty the last time I reviewed this title.

Looking To The Stars - How To Train Your Lady To Like Comics

I am something of a rarity in Fanboy circles. Not just because I have a girlfriend. Not just because said girlfriend is a college cheerleader but because I have a girlfriend who is a college cheerleader who reads comics.

Yes, boys. As astonishing as that last statement is, I imaging most of you are stuck on this idea: Women who read comics DO exist.

But I am here to confront you with a sad fact. The number of women who are natural Comic Book Girls is, compared to the number of Comic Book Guys, alarming low. And the ones that exist, who don’t already have some very lucky man in their life, are probably not interested in boys. And do you really want to stoop to picking up women at the Anime Cons who are young enough to be impressed by a guy who has his own car? Like it or not, you're probably not going to be able to find a woman right off the bat among the local fandom base who shares your interest in four-color books in plastic bags.

Thankfully, there is an answer. You can find a girl and turn her into the geek grrrrrl of your dreams. I know this because I managed to do that very thing. When I first started dating Sierra, she didn't know thing one about my biggest hobby. Now, she can't go a month without reading Fables.

Now, I know there are some people out there who may object to the idea that you should enter any relationship looking at the other person as a fixer-upper opportunity. They'll tell you that attempting what I describe here makes you no better than those women who clip articles like "How To Trick Your Man Into Taking You To The Opera" out of Cosmo. But let me tell you something. Most of these people are alone and unhappy, so who are you going to believe?

I thought so.

Here then, just in time for Valentines Day, is a brief guide on how to turn any woman into the comic geek girl of your dreams.

1. Get A Girlfriend

For some of you, this may prove to be the most difficult step. We'll cover this further in later articles, but for now... brush your teeth, shave, wash your hair once in a while, SHOWER and learn how to talk about something besides comics. Or, just tell any women you meet that you're an artist. This will explain away a lot of the times you don't shower and shave, etc. Plus, women think artists are sensitive and sexy, which are hardest things to fake in a relationship.

2. Bringing Up That You Are... That Way

This is very important: DO NOT LET HER FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR HOBBY UNTIL YOU ARE OFFICIALLY DATING. If you tell her later, once she finds out about your other interests (you did remember to find something to talk about besides comics, didn't you?), she'll just think it's one of those crazy little quirks that make you interesting. If you mention it on the first date, you will instantly be forever labeled as a childish weirdo with unrealistic expectations regarding the female form. Never mind if all you read is Vertigo Comics.

3. Finding The Right Book For Her

Once your girlfriend has accepted your hobby, now you can begin trying to point her interest in this direction. There are two tactics you can try here.

a. The Gift

Return from the comic book store with something that "reminded me of you". She'll be so touched by the gift that, hopefully, she will feel compelled to read it and find out that it is actually pretty good. Be sure to come up with a convincing reason before hand as to why it reminded you of her. And remember: Women LOVE complements. Here are some examples...

"I got you this Dawn book, because she has such nice green eyes like yours."

"I saw this book called Death: The High Cost of Living, and her clear, pale skin reminded me of yours..."

"Remember when you beat up that guy at work? Well, it reminded me of this woman called The Manhunter…"

b. The Plant

Start leaving books featuring strong, female characters on the cover around your place when she is over. The sight of such characters as Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Witchblade, Fathom, Lady Death and Vampirella will only serve to pike her curiosity and show here that the comics game is far from a boys club.

You may even want to go as far as to put up a poster of Jennifer Gardner as Elektra or Jessica Alba. In the case of the latter, use your own best judgment as to whether to have a poster of her as Invisible Girl or as Nancy from Sin City based on which she is likely to find more inspiring – wife of a famous scientist or professional stripper. In either case, be sure to emphasize the strength inherit in the character and the strong feminist message inherit in their stories.

Follow these steps and you will soon have a girl who can walk down the aisles with you at Ye Olde Comic Book Shope with an enthusiasm to equal your own.


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

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Looking To The Stars - An Open Memo, Re: Green Lantern #7 & #8

To Dan Dido, The Powers That Be at DC Comics or any fanboy who can bring this to their attention;

Is this how I'm repaid? After months of declaring that Marvel Comics is creatively bankrupt and how out of the Big Two, you have easily won the 2005 Cross-Over Wars in a horse-race against House of M, you go and do this. It wasn't that big a deal when it was just Judd Winick doing it; I can ignore everything he writes easily enough. But then, this week, you had to drag Geoff Johns into perpetuating the lie.

So I have to ask; are you TRYING to make me stop reading Green Lantern or Green Arrow related titles completely?

Green Lantern #7 & #8 could have been a great two-part story. Building off two historically important stories (Alan Moore's For The Man Who Has Everything and the destruction of Coast City from The Death of Superman) this was set up as an epic scene worthy of the first modern Hal Jordan/Ollie Queen Green Arrow/Green Lantern team-up story. And for the most part aside from some shaky dialogue (I wonder why Ollie and Hal continue to talk about their feelings in a sensitive manly way while Hal's ring is trying to warn them about the danger) I was enjoying this story as of Issue 7.

And then, this week, #8 came out.

Don't get me wrong – I liked most of it. I love how it was Ollie who was the first to realize something was wrong even though he's the less willful of the GA/GL dynamic. I loved the whole concept of Mongul the 2nd trying to recreate his father's greatest triumph (coming closer to defeating Superman than anyone else at that point in time) in order to correct his father's biggest mistake (not conquering Earth). And yes, much as I loved the Silver Age cheese involved in the character name, I'm glad to see Mongal dead. Still, I have to ask one question regarding the reemergence of the idea that Oliver Queen knew about Connor Hawke's existence before their chance meeting at the Ashram Ollie retired to post-Zero Hour.

Geoff Johns? Did they have your loved ones at gunpoint? Incriminating photos? A box of kittens over a wood-chipper? Because I expect a hell of a lot better from you than what you turned out this week. You're the man who managed to puzzle out Hawkman and Power Girl's continuity for crying out loud! Surely you know better than to keep basing work off of the half-assed story that turned Oliver Queen into a dead-beat dad.

I'm not saying that Ollie hasn't made some bad judgment calls in his life. But between being a recovering alcoholic, a former rich bastard and an ex-womanizer (I don't care WHAT Joe Kelly says) he's got enough baggage to fill an SUV already.

Not to mention that Ollie's "confession" to Hal over his abandoning Connor and his mother here makes no sense as it was Hal who broke the news to Ollie that Connor WAS his son in the first place. (Green Arrow #96) And if Ollie honestly has been hiding the fact that he knew he had a son somewhere all these years, then he deserves a damn Oscar for the way he expresses his shock to Hal (who was essentially an all-knowing god at this point) and to Connor and Eddie Fyers later.

I know. I know. I realize I sound like a screaming geek. I'm fully aware of that. My disappointment lies in that Geoff... you are so good about these things, usually. I could understand if it was John Byrne or John Arcudi doing this... but you're one of us! You're the fanboy who knows his stuff and made good.

So please... somebody explain this in a formal story. Even if it's just to say that all Ollie's desire to have a family all these years was related to his guilt over what he left behind. Or chalk it up to reality weakening because of the Crisis and it being a flux between Earth 1 and the Vertigo universe. Just don't ignore the fine work that Chuck Dixon and Mike Grell did on Green Arrow during the 80's and 90's. You've got the rep for being the company that actually respects and uses its history now. Don't throw it away now.

Thank you,
"Starman" Matt Morrison