Saturday, December 29, 2007

Figure I Might As Well Link To This Too...

Apparently this is already making the buzz on scans_daily, Girl Wonder and a lot of the usual suspects for When Fangirls Attack... but hey, Randy's a bud. I'll gladly join in the general cheering and celebration. :)

I've also taken the liberty of e-mailing it to Gail Simone. I'm sure somebody else probably already has if she hasn't seen it already herself... but why take the chance?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking To The Stars: Ode To A Small Town Comic Book Store

The very first comic shop I ever called home is dead.

I found this out last week as I went to visit my parents for the holidays. Gold Mine Comics was it's name - now vanished even from the Internet, save for a passing mention on a website listing places to buy Transformer toys.

It was, as I recall, a bit of a dump. And before anyone starts to think I'm coming down too hard on the old homestead, let me say that I've seen comic shops that are far worse and had far worse employees. That being said, Gold Mine Comics was an ironic name even at the best of times in those heady days back when the Internet was still young and Wizard Magazine the only way to get reliable comics industry news. It was a hole in the wall but it was a homey hole. And because it was the only comic shop in a rough 100 mile radius, it survived and in a fashion, thrived.

The very first regular article I ever wrote (See The Mount in Fanzing #26 - we'd put up a link, but their site is down!) was about the signs that you are in a bad comic book store. And although I didn't name it then, "Store A" - the source of most of my signs - was Gold Mine Comics.

75 Copies of the latest Danger Girl Special and yet not a single copy of Detective Comics or Wonder Woman? Special Orders that took months to arrive, assuming they ever did? Quarter Bins containing more comics than the Archive Section? The Gold Mine had all of this and more.

Then again, I did wind up getting most of the Mike Grell Green Arrow run from those quarter bins for ten bucks. So it wasn't all bad. And for all it's faults, the shop did have a lot to redeem it.

For one thing, you never paid extra for bags and boards when you bought a comic off the shelf. Granted, this was because they had everything bag-and-boarded to stop people from treating the place like a library on new comic day but that's hardly the point.

The place also did have one crackerjack staff back in the day and while I sometimes got ribbing because I was the only customer who had heard of Birds of Prey much less subscribed to it, I could always count on the guys there to keep me informed on stuff that was coming out that I'd probably be hip to.

It was their staff who - on one of the rare occasions my special order got filled - got me the silver Green Lantern ring that is my lucky charm, constant companion and most frequent ice-breaker at social gatherings. I

It was there that I picked up my first autographed comic - a copy of Clerks: The Comic Book #1 signed by Kevin Smith himself, which the owner had picked-up on one of his frequent trips to a convention in Houston.

It was there that I got my first "geek-grrl" crush on a redhead named Lucy, who changed me from a superhero-reading fanboy into a man of the world after exposing me to the works of Neil Gaiman.

And yes, it was there that I first got the nickname of Starman, as my friend Cody stumbled across an issue a copy in the back-issue bin and said "You should read this. This Jack Knight guy sounds like you".

Yes, the place was a pit. But for the three years before I moved back home to Dallas, it was my pit. And I stopped by there at least once a year whenever I came to visit, just to see how the place had changed. And changed it did. The owner changed at least twice over the years. The staff somewhat more frequently than that. And the last time I went in the shop had branched out and become equal parts comic shop, skate store and weapons dealer.

Only in America, ladies and gentlemen, could you get a custom skateboard, a pair of nunchucks and the latest issue of Action Comics in one store. Maybe such a thing is only possible in Texas, for that matter.

But that was after my time. And though there is supposedly a new comic book store in Victoria, near the long-abandoned Dunlap's department store, I didn't stop in to check it out. My memories - and a little bit of my heart - are further east. They can be found in a strip-mall two blocks from the high-school, near the abandoned dollar theater where I saw Dogma and South Park: The Movie after the big chain theater refused to show them in a building where now stands a used-electronics store.

Rest In Peace, Gold Mine Comics. You will be missed.

Two Weeks Worth of Fast Thoughts - 12/19/07 & 12/28/07

Limited to one paragraph per book because Lawd-A-Mighty we has stuff to catch up on!

BIRDS OF PREY #113 - A promising first issue from Sean McKeever. He has all of the Birds and their personalities down-pat but his take on Superman seems way off the mark. Or am I alone in thinking that Superman is acting like Batman here in his lecture to Oracle about operating in his town and how he won't tolerate failure?

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #9 - Of course with Waid and George Perez on this book, you know things are going to be excellent - but did you know that the HERO Dial works on robots or that the Boy Commandos and Blackhawks both have Frenchmen named Andre among their members? We find out all this and more in a trio of short-stories framed by the continuing story of the Challengers of the Unknown, this issue deserves credit for teaching us several things about the DC Universe that only Mark Waid would think of and only a handful of trivia buffs outside of Mark Waid are likely to recall in ten-years time.

CONAN #47 - A simple set-up issue, but it looks to be leading into one heck of a battle next time. If nothing else, this issue is amusing as we see how Conan the Thief first fell in with a soldier group and became Conan the Mercenary by accident, after sneaking through a Corinthian patrol with little effort.

DAREDEVIL #103 - This is your basic house-keeping issue. A lot of talking heads. A lot of recapping for people who may have missed the first few issues of the current story. And generally a lot of things that don't really do a lot to advance the story, giving this issue the feel of a typical "I had four issues of story, but the editor insisted we needed six chapters for the trade" comic. Despite this, Brubaker does keep things moving and it is interesting to see Brubaker expand and improve upon the ideas that Brian Michael Bendis introduced and then ignored, such as this issue's logical conclusion that if illegal vigilantes need a doctor than super-villains almost certainly need the same thing.

EX MACHINA #33 - The inclusion of the supernatural to what has been - for a comic book about a man who can talk to machines, anyway - a relatively science-based book is one heck of a rabbit to let out of the hat this late in the game. Still, if anyone can make the idea that Mitchell Hundred talked to God work, it is Brian K. Vaughan.

GREEN LANTERN #26 - Despite what the cover says, this issue tells us nearly nothing about the Alpha Lanterns. So what do we get instead? A lot of material about Green Lanterns besides Hal Jordan and John Stewart - enough that I had to double-check and make sure that I wasn't reading Green Lantern Corps. And that's no bad thing, with an issue that features Hal confronting Sinestro, John Stewart usual method of "celebrating" victory, Hal's more conventional methods involving fellow pilot Cowgirl, the Guardians returning to their old secretive ways and The Lost Lanterns dealing with the loss of one of their own. The Sinestro War may be over, but this book isn't slowing down at all.

GREEN LANTERN/SINESTRO CORPS SECRET FILES - Are you a Green Lantern fan? Do you have $4.99 American? Than you simply must get this book which is easily the finest print reference for Green Lantern trivia I have ever seen in print, containing a list of dead Green Lanterns as well as information on all current, living members of the Green Lantern Corps who have been profiled - however briefly - in the current volume. There's even profiles of a few of the more obscure Lanterns from previous volumes such as Raker: The Forgotten Green Lantern of Apokolips and Perdoo The Mad of Sector 2234.

HELLBLAZER #239 - One issue away from John's 20th Anniversary and Diggle has returned John to his roots... literally, in this case. This story centers around an African mystic, whom John met way back in his first monthly adventure in Hellblazer #1 - trying to get a memory encased in a root to John Constantine in order to thwart the machinations of a warlord/dark magician who also has some business with John. All pun-ishment aside, this is one heck of an issue and a good jumping-on point for any readers who might have just crawled out from under their rocks, missed the first two decades of Hellblazer and are curious to see what the fuss is about.

JACK OF FABLES #18 - As a librarian, I should probably be relieved that after a year and a half of a book in which the main bad guys were all evil-ish librarians that this issue introduced an even more evil librarian named Burner. Guess what he does to the books in his zombie-populated town? Still, my personal issues with the maligning of my profession aside, this is one of the best books out there.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #16 - Can we please, please, PLEASE let Dwayne McDuffie start writing his own stories instead of having to do introductions and fill-in-the-blank tales for every other stupid crossover that is coming down the pike? Don't get me wrong - this issue is far from bad, as we get more off the no-nonsense ass-kicking Black Canary and (thank you) a Roy Harper who isn't just Green Arrow lite. But I'd rather not settle for merely "good" stories that set-up a Tangent Universe crossover in the Superman books when I could have great stories akin to what McDuffie has been doing with Fantastic Four in recent months.

RED SONJA #28 - I've said it before and I'll say it again - DITCH THE STUPID SUPPORTING CAST AND LET SONJA GO IT ALONE! Nobody cares about the lion-man, Osin the Beefcake or Valera or Valerie or whatever the pirate chick's name is (no Howard fans - it ISN'T Valeria) and this plot with Gath has dragged on for far too long. Sonja, like Conan, while being an epic figure is better suited to brief, episodic tales rather than large written-for-the-trade stories spanning twelve issues. Take an example from Savage Tales - keep it short and sweet.

SAVAGE TALES #5 - Now this is what I'm talking about! Part Two of a Red Sonja story from last issue features Sonja rescuing a bunch of kidnapped women from a demon while dealing with a lecherous hunter who wants to test that "I may only give myself to a man who can best me in combat" oath. Sure, the first part of this story opened with Sonja holding the dope's severed head, making this tale anti-climactic in the extreme. But it's still the best Red Sonja story since the Red Sonja Annual earlier this year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nice little present to come back to.

It occurs to me I forgot to link to this before the break.

SOURCE: Atheists Outraged By Film Trailer

I felt inspired to satire after some of my kids at the library and I were discussing The Golden Compass and why Atheist Parents don't feel inspired to protect their children from the "evils" of the Narnia books and movies.

So I wrote this in an hour. And despite my request that it be posted to the movies section of Inside Pulse, it was posted to the comics section.

However, this hasn't stopped two things from happening.

1. It hasn't stopped my article from being found. According to my editor Manolis, that article is the most-read article in the history of however long Inside Pulse has been keeping track of site hits.

2. It hasn't stopped various conservative types from thinking the article was real until someone with half a brain pointed out that none of the organizations quoted in the article exist.


You'd think that the fact that the atheist organizations acronyms being L.O.S.T and D.A.M.N.E.D would be a dead giveaway that the whole thing was a joke, even ignoring that this article is on a Comic Book News site.

You'd THINK that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Going On Vacation!

Due to my writing time this week falling in the zone I plan to spend driving to see my folks and then driving back from seeing my folks, I'm closing up shop until next week.

Have A Happy Holiday Season!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ammusing Typo

I'm in the middle of writing up awards notices for the Comics Nexus 2007 Awards.

As I was trying to type "Al-Queda", I typed "Al-Quesada".

Joey Q's terrorist brother? :)

I toss this idea out to the Internet. Do with it what you will.

Looking To The Stars - Green Lantern: Sinestro War Conclusion Round-Up

The end of 2007 is upon us and it seems fitting that The Sinestro Corps War - for my money the best multi-issue crossover mini-series all year - should end with it. I'll admit to being biased, though. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan in specific) was my favorite superhero as a boy and still holds a special place in my heart. And in he ten years that I've been reading comics, the mythos of the Green Lantern Corps have become just as near and dear to me.

It's no surprise then that a story like this - in which an all-star team of Green Lantern villains are united under the banner of their greatest foe - the rogue Green Lantern Sinestro - would appeal to me and every-other red-blooded Green Lantern fanboy. Indeed, the only flaw The Sinestro Corps War has as a whole is that much of the subtleties of the story can be lost on someone unfamiliar with the history of the Green Lantern Corps. At the very least, one must be familiar with the events of the last two years of Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and the Ion mini-series.

Despite this, the series has been a critical success for DC Comics as well as a high-selling book. And polls on Newsarama named SCW the best crossover of the year with two out of three correspondents voting for it. So why has SCW succeeded where Countdown and Amazons Attack failed? Well, I think there are several reasons for this.

First, where these other crossovers have been stretched out across multiple titles with numerous tie-ins, SCW has been completely self-contained to the Green Lantern monthly titles and a handful of specials. Apart from one issue of Blue Beetle, the storyline has been completely untouched by the rest of the DC Universe and vice-versa.

Also, despite being a tough slog for some newer readers, the history and back-story inherit to Sinestro Corps War has given the series a sense of urgency that these other crossovers have lacked. One may not understand the full significance of The Prophecy of Blackest Night or have read the original stories regarding the prophecy written decades ago by the legendary Alan Moore in order to enjoy it. Your enjoyment of the depth of the story may be improved by this knowledge but it is not required.

And ultimately, that is why I think that Sinestro Corps War has been successful. At its' heart, it is a simple and basic story which has everything a good superhero story should. Action. Revenge. Miracles. Hubris. Even True Love Conquering All in the form of a romantic subplot between two of the Guardians.

The double-sized Green Lantern #25 was a fitting conclusion to this epic tale. The artwork is handled by two artists but their work blends together so seamlessly I had to double-check and make sure that my memory was right and that there really were two artists at work. And Geoff John's writing is a strong as ever. There are many great moments in this issue I could use to illustrate just how great it is. But I chose this one simply because I think it best exemplifies not only the greatness of this story but the superhero genre in general.

A faction of The Sinestro Corps is in-route to Coast City - the hometown of Green Lantern Officer Hal Jordan. Destroyed once by alien invaders and recently rebuilt, the town was nicknamed "Ghost City" due to the difficulty the local government had in convincing anyone to live there. With Sinestro himself leading the charge against his city, Hal Jordan uses his ring to command the airwaves and tells everyone in town to flee the city, just in case he can't save them. Hal's own family - led by his brother - refuses to leave despite the danger. And it is then that Hal's fellow Green Lantern Officer Kyle Rayner enters and tells Hal he needs to come outside and see something.

Mark Twain once said "the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great". In this moment, Hal Jordan becomes "really great" as he inspires the people of his hometown to the same standard of courage and willfulness that are the hallmark of the Green Lanterns. They refuse to run and choose instead to trust in faith that their hero will save them as he has time and time again. They chose to light a candle - literally in some cases - rather than curse the darkness.

To see the common people - the ones who don't have super-powers or fancy power rings to protect them - show such bravery in the face of adversity is rare. But it is even rarer these days for them to be seen viewing their super powered protectors as heroes rather than an annoyance or a menace. Even in the relatively brighter universe of DC Comics, this show of respect and confidence is depressingly infrequent and it lightens this old fanboy's heart to see it here.

This tone continues into the epilogue for the series in Green Lantern Corps #19, which shows how several of the members of the Corps are spending their time in the days following the conclusion of the war. There's not as much action and the pacing is a little bit slower than in Green Lantern #25 but that suits the issue just fine.

There are a lot of great character moments in this issue and while the critic in me appreciates the skillful writing the historian in me wonders about certain scenes. For instance, we see Green Lantern drill-sergeant Killowog enjoying a dinner with his family and it is a beautiful scene marred only by the fact that Killowog was the last of his alien race the last time I checked. I'm willing to admit I might be wrong but it was still jarring for me to see.

I also wonder how Kyle Rayner - recently appointed to the Honor Guard of Oa - can be looking for a job on Earth when Honor Guard membership requires that Lantern in question be based on Oa to aid in the training of new recruits as well as handling special missions for The Guardians of the Universe who run The GL Corps. Even with a ring that allows one to do the near-impossible, Earth to Oa is a heck of a daily commute.

But as much as I may nit-pick, even I cannot find fault in the scene where Guy Gardner tries to romance his recently resurrected lost-love Ice. I hadn't been reading GL Corps on a regular basis before SCW but this - and the revelation at the end of the issue of another old villain who will be returning with the power of Sinestro behind him - is enough to keep me reading this despite the end of the crossover.

Even the Ion special is an enjoyable read, despite being somewhat superfluous to the main storyline of The Sinestro Corps War. It is meant to take place between the events of Green Lantern #25 and Green Lantern Corps #19 but there is no indication of this anywhere in the cover and only the fact that the book concludes with Kyle Rayner's promotion to the Honor Guard allows the time of the story to be set.

This issue was written by Ron Marz; forever famous as the creator of Kyle Rayner and the author of the previous Ion mini-series as well as the Parallax special that was part of SCW. As in Ion seems to have been stuck with the task of explaining away the various inconsistencies that have sprung up regarding The Ion Force as described by Judd Winick, Dave Gibbons and Geoff Johns. In this issue, he does this in an amazingly simple manner, with the short version being that The Guardians weren't telling the whole truth... Again. He even manages to tie-up some lose ends involving long-time Alex Nero; a mad-artist with a fear-powered yellow ring and long-time Kyle Rayner villain.

This is all incidental to the main thrust of the story but it is a credit to Ron Marz's skill as a writer that he is able to smoothly fit the explanation for these details into his narrative even while spinning a tale that centers upon Kyle Rayner playing mentor to Sodam Yat; the new possessor of the Ion Power. While the action of the issue is nice and well illustrated by Michael Lacombe, the meat of the issue lies in Kyle - who knows full well what it is to be inexperienced and entrusted with great power regardless - trying to lessen the burdens of the intense Sodam Yat.

The conclusion of The Sinestro War promised that an even greater crisis awaits the Green Lanterns. Far beyond even the upcoming Final Crisis looms an even greater disaster. And a prophecy foretells of an unthinkable yet necessary alliance of the fear-empowered Sinestro Corps and the willpower-enhanced Green Lantern Corps in order for all that lives to be saved. The future may be dark in the DC Comics Universe but if this upcoming storyline maintains the same high level of quality we have seen in this story, I foresee nothing but a bright future for DC Comics in 2008 and 2009.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 12/12/07

All Green Lantern Books will be fully reviewed in an extra-long Looking To The Stars this weekend.

FABLES #68: Still the best book on the stands, period.

SPIDER-MAN/RED SONJA #5: Am I the only one mildly amused by this story - so dependent upon the unbreakable bond of love between Peter Parker and Mary Jane - coming to a conclusion at the same time that One More Day threatens to forever end that relationship because no good stories can be told about the Peter/MJ relationship after they got married?

Folks, you only need to look at this story - goofy as it is - to see that's not so.

In fact, the only criticism that I can make about this book is that they did not go for the obvious joke and have Mary Jane - restored to normal after New York becomes de-Hyboriified - come to in the chainmail bikini and ask Peter, sternly, why the hell she's dressed like that.

WONDER WOMAN #15: No sophomore slump for Simone, this series continues to get more and more intriguing. I'm grateful for any chance we get to see Hippolyta show off her warrior skills and it's always interesting to see how the other mythological pantheons in the DC Universe react to the natural world. All this, and Wonder Woman beating a Nazi senseless. This would have been the best book all week, had it not been for Green Lantern #25. And even then, it is close.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Atheists Outraged by Film Trailer

A movie based on a children’s book with heavy religious subtext has sparked a major controversy this week. But not the one you think.

Parents at a 12:50 showing of “The Golden Compass” in Fort Worth’s Eastchase district were both shocked and appalled to find that the movie was preceded by a trailer for the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the novel “Prince Caspian”, which some parents fear may cause their children to read a series that promotes spiritual belief and “denigrates Atheism.”

“I just can’t believe this,” said Leah Jones, mother of three and proud atheist. “I can’t believe that they would allow children to be exposed to this kind of thing without warning!”

Actors Liam Neeson and famous dwarf actor Warwick Davis are slated to star in the movie adapted from the from the second novel in a fantasy trilogy called “The Chronicles of Narnia” by noted Christian author C.S. Lewis.

The series focuses on several groups of children who stumble across various portals leading into a world of fantasy and make-believe. This land is called Narnia and it is here that the children meet fantastic creatures, have adventures and learn valuable lessons about life.

In the story, the four Pevensie children return to Narnia, only to find that a thousand years have passed since they first visited. In the time since then, most of the magical creatures as well the human supporters of Aslan (a talking lion and spiritual leader of Narnia) have been executed or forced into hiding by The Telmarines; a race who conquer and “civilized” the land of Narnia, forbidding any talk of miracles and other “nonsense” things.. By the end of the seventh Narnia book, Aslan decides to bring Narnia to an end and take all of his true followers to join him in the paradise of True Narnia. The children go with him and live happily and eternally ever after – except for Susan Pevensie (the oldest girl) who was more interested in boys and make-up than joining Aslan’s crusade against evil once more.

“The movie is made for the books,” said Don Billohue, president and CEO of the Dallas Agnostic’s Metroplex Native Enlightenment Delegation “The Lewis estate is hoping his books will fly off the shelves as soon as school lets out and parents are looking for summer-reading material.”

In the movie, which is being marketed as a children’s fantasy film, many of the direct references to Christianity have been relabeled. For instance, “God” is only referred to as “Aslan”

“They’re intentionally watering down the most offensive element,” Billohue said in a CNN News report.

While Billohue said he’s not concerned about the movie, which he described as “fairly innocuous,” he charges movie makers for engaging in a “deceitful, stealth campaign” to promote the book. “This is not about censorship,” insists Billohue. “This is about the values we don’t want our children being taught.”

However, while Atheist groups have unanimously denounced the English writer’s books, some are waiting to see “Prince Caspian” before taking a stance on the movie.

“Honestly, I don’t think a boycott will be effective,” noted Bob Tomas of The Atheist Television and Movie Association. “The Wiccans complained about all of the elements of their religion being ripped out of “The Dark Is Rising” a few months ago, and it didn’t do a bit of good. Anyway, we’d have to see the whole movie before we started telling our membership how offended they should be by it.”

Other Atheists think the book will inspire readers to question the world around them.

“It undoubtedly makes people question in general but it also inspires them to look harder for real answers on their own,” said Daniel Fitzpatrick, co-director of the League of Secular Thinkers. “Lewis took great pains to portray the dangers of theocracy and in blindly doing what authority figures tell you to do in his books and encouraged his readers to believe their own senses and intuition as to what was really going on. In that sense, I think he did the world a great service.”

Other critics of the movie also include fans of “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Many fear that the pro-religious and pro-Church themes of the book were “castrated” from the first movie in the series, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, to make it more marketable to audiences in the United States and United Kingdom.

“It was clear right from the start that the makers of these films intended to take out the pro-religious elements of Lewis’s books. In doing that they are taking the heart out of it, losing the point of it, castrating it,” said Peri Anderson, president of Mothers For United Church & King Eternal Ruling; a British women’s organization that promotes traditional British values and the reestablishment of a theocracy with a male monarch as head of the British Empire and Church of England.

“It seems that wanton Atheism has now completely conquered America’s cultural life and it is much the poorer for it,” she said in The Guardian newspaper earlier this month. “What a shame that we have to endure such repression here too.”

“Prince Caspian” is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on May 16, 2008.

Looking To The Stars: One More Column On One More Day

In all the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, I somehow neglected to pick up any of the issues containing J. Michael Straczynski’s final story arc for One More Day.

Why bother? I stopped reading Spider-Man comics on a regular basis about the time Peter was recruited into The New Avengers and the book pretty much became a second Avengers title. I flipped through a few of the Back in Black issues simply because I heard Kingpin was in it and I’m a sucker for a good Wilson Fisk story. And the premise of One More Day left me cold.

There’s also the little matter of a promise I made a few months ago to see this thing through to the bloody end.

What can I say? I slow down to look at traffic accidents just to see how bad it is, too.


Now, for those of you wiser than me who have had the good sense not to keep up on the last few years of Amazing Spider-Man, let me give you the quick run-down.

After impressing Tony Stark with some major techno-wizardry under duress, Peter, Mary Jane and Aunt May are allowed to move into Stark Towers following the destruction of the Parker Home by a super-villain. At the same time, Peter is recruited to join the New Avengers.

Following an incident that increases public anger at superheroes in general, Tony Stark begins working with the United States Government on a program that sanctions vigilantes. In a misguided effort to help win support for the program among the heroes reluctant to sign on, Peter outs his secret identity at a press conference.

Shortly thereafter, Peter finds out about some of the more extreme measures Tony Stark has taken to deal with the heroes who won’t sign on (i.e. a secret prison in the Negative Zone) and that super-villains are being given amnesty for past misdeeds if they agree to join a government-sponsored super-team. Unable to talk reason into Tony, Peter joins the resistance against Tony Stark and his associates being organized by Captain America.

Still in hiding with his family after Captain America is arrested, Peter’s whereabouts are tracked by an imprisoned Wilson Fisk –a.k.a. The Kingpin. Kingpin orders that the entire Parker family be wiped out, but only Aunt May is wounded.

Peter and MJ grab what savings they can and get May into a hospital. In the course of covering their tracks, Peter commits numerous felonies - breaking in and entering, impersonating an EMT and forging medical documents among them. Peter goes to Tony asking for help to save his aunt; help which Tony initially refuses, but then provides indirectly.

This brings us to the start of One More Day where we find that even the best medical care money can buy is not enough to save May. The doctor’s prognosis is that she is destabilizing steadily and that nothing short of a miracle will save her.

Peter goes off looking for a miracle, first going to Doctor Strange. The good doctor says there is nothing he can do but he does agree to help Peter question others who might help. Traveling through time and space, consulting with both friends and enemies, Peter receives the same answer – there is nothing you can do to save her. Even Peter’s attempts to try and stop the shooting while traveling astrally come to naught.

As Peter leaves, he is confronted by a various people – an older businessman, an overweight geek and a little girl - all of whom tell Peter the story of their lives. It is then that everyone’s favorite devil Mephisto shows up. He tells Peter that the people he just saw were versions of him who might have come to be had it not been for a key event in his life and that he can arrange for reality to be rewritten so that Aunt May will survive.

Peter is naturally reluctant to sell his soul, even for Aunt May but Mephisto scoffs at this offer, saying that Peter will likely wind up in Hell on his current path anyway and that there are few things less amusing to him than a noble soul, trapped in Hell for a higher purpose. But to destroy something noble and pure – that is a deal that interests him.

And so the offer is made – Aunt May will be saved but at the cost of Peter’s love for Mary Jane. Reality will be rewritten so that the two never met, never fell in love and never married. Nobody will remember anything, save for a small part of the soul that remembers all and will weep at what has been lost.

Peter insists on discussing it with Mary Jane first. Mephisto readily agrees and Peter goes to her, only to find that Mephisto has been there the whole time, making Mary Jane the same offer. He warns them that the only have until the end of the day tomorrow to make their decision – and one more day together if they say yes.


In the four months, since I first wrote about this story-line, the fan community has become even more outraged, if the message boards can be believed.

As I noted in that earlier article, a Newsarama poll showed that 2 out of 3 fans were opposed to ending the Spider-Marriage through any means. I suspect the percentage would be higher than 67% if one were to quantify the question; “Are you opposed to ending the Spider-Marriage through magic?” JMS’s run on Amazing Spider-Man has been controversial and the biggest reason for this was his including magic and spiritual concerns in a comic that has always been – for the most part- science based.

From his very first story, Coming Home, JMS was not shy about putting Peter in the unfamiliar territories offered by the magic realms. Coming Home put forth the idea that Peter’s powers, rather than being caused by a radioactive spider-bite, came instead from a totemistic bond to spiders and that a higher power had chosen Peter – one who knew what it was to be prey – to be a predator that would bring down other, more dangerous predators.

While this idea irked many long-time Spider-Fans, it is worth noting that at no time did JMS ever say that the idea was a definitive origin. Indeed, there was just as much evidence introduced to suggest that the theory was hokum (the methods Peter uses to fight totem-vampire Morlun in Coming Home, for instance) and that while totem-empowered characters existed, Peter was not one of them.

Many fans have put the blame for One More Day on JMS, saying this is just more of the same inappropriate magic mucking up the relatively simpler world of Peter Parker. Given the evidence it is not hard to fault their conclusions, save for one reason – JMS hates the idea of One Day More even more than the fans did.

This shouldn’t be any surprise, really. When JMS took over Amazing Spider-Man, Peter and Mary Jane were separated – the result, ironically enough, of the last failed attempt by Marvel Editorial to break-up the Spider-Marriage. JMS spent the first few years of his run trying to reestablish and strengthen the bond between MJ and Peter. For what one man’s opinion is worth, I think he succeeded and the issues leading up to their reunion in Amazing Spider-Man #50 were truly touching and among some of JMS’s best work in any medium. Given all the hard work he put into reinvigorating the character of Mary Jane and her relationship with Peter, I can’t imagine he would willingly scrap all of that now unless he were being forced to.

And sure enough, according to a recent web-posting by JMS, he pretty much was being forced to.

In the current storyline, there's a lot that I don't agree with, and I
made this very clear to everybody within shouting distance at Marvel,
especially Joe (Quesada). I'll be honest: there was a point where I made the
decision, and told Joe (Quesada), that I was going to take my name off the last
two issues of the OMD arc. Eventually Joe(Quesada) talked me out of that
decision because at the end of the day, I don't want to sabotage Joe
or Marvel, and I have a lot of respect for both of those.

As an executive producer as well as a writer, I've sometimes had to insist
that my writers make changes that they did not want to make, often
loudly so. They were sure I was wrong. Mostly I was right.
Sometimes I was wrong. But whoever sits in the editor's chair, or the
executive producer's chair, wears the pointy hat of authority, and as
Dave Sim once noted, you can't argue with a pointy hat.

J. Michael Straczynski has found himself in the ultimate no-win situation. Refusing to write the story apparently wasn’t an option, since Joe Quesada was so insistent on ending JMS’s “legendary” run on Amazing Spider-Man with a big bang. Pulling an Alan Smithe and taking his name off of the book wasn’t an option since the Marvel Hype Machine has been plugging this issue as JMS’s final story for months and, as JMS noted, he respects Marvel Comics and the chain of command too much to risk hurting it over bad feelings. And raising a big stink about the whole thing would do little save hurt his career and give his critics more ammunition against him.

Not that it matters. The trolls will do what they will and not let the facts stand in the way and these people hound with a relentlessness that would make J. Jonah Jameson proud.

Some accused JMS of cowardice for deciding the company is more important than his own opinions. Others have accused him of greed, wanting nothing more than to take the money and run. Still others have taken his comments as signs of insubordination and have demanded he be fired from Marvel Comics.

I don’t think that any of this is likely. Because whatever your opinions of the man and his talent as a writer, J. Michael Straczynski has been a professional writer for nearly three decades. He created, executive-produced and wrote most of the scripts for one of the most ground-breaking science-fiction shows of all time. He has written scripts for numerous animated series and television shows and continued to find work.

As such, I trust that he knows the business and the rules of decorum better than nearly anyone I am likely to meet on a comic book forum. And even though I’m an amateur writer, I know that the first rule of working anywhere is that you don’t bad-mouth your boss no matter how much of an idiot they are. I know that the pay for comic book writing compared to Hollywood writing is chicken-feed, so any idea that JMS is trying to milk the Mighty Marvel Money Machine when he could probably make more money doing more direct-to-video Babylon 5 movies is laughable.

And as for JMS’s comments being disrespectful for Joe Quesada…

Well, personally I didn’t see anything disrespectful in JMS’s comments. He didn’t even bad-mouth Marvel Comics or say anything other than that he has disagreed with many of Joe Quesada’s decisions but that he wants to be a good soldier, whatever his disagreements with The Powers That Be.

That, to my mind, is not disrespectful.

Saying that Joe Quesada is an idiot with a god-complex, so blinded by his own gargantuan ego that he’ll ignore the instincts of one of his best employees and the will of the people is disrespectful. It is also, from where this fanboy sits, a lot more accurate than a tenth-part of what others have said of JMS.

There is only one thing I’m sure of in all of this – I won’t be reading Part Four of this story. Even though I thought the first three books were written well, I don’t think I can bare to see just how well JMS can write something he really didn’t want to. I’ll give him full credit for bravery under fire and honoring his commitments but just because he doesn’t want to see Marvel’s sales hurt by his opinions doesn’t mean I have to further encourage a company that is apparently run exclusively by editorial-mandate.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 12/05/07

No Fast Thoughts this week as I only had one comic to read and I felt up to writing a full review for it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

JLA #15 Review

For the past two issues, plus the JLA Wedding Special which he wrote, all had some great dialog but little of the amazing action or stunning twists in the plot that made his work on Justice League Unlimited so great. With this issue, that has changed and Dwayne McDuffie has seized control of Justice League of America and made it his own. Oddly, he's done this by doing something that few DC writers and editors seem to bother with anymore; acknowledging past characterization and continuity.

Case in point: it has also been noted that despite being voted JLA Chairperson during Brad Meltzer's run on Justice League of America, Black Canary's "leadership" was limited to a bit of con-fabbing with Power Girl during The Lightning Saga. We also frequently saw Dinah playing second-fiddle to Superman, Batman and even Black Lightning in books such as Amazon's Attack and Countdown in situations where she should have been field-commander of the JLA during a combat situation.

McDuffie, however, does not make this mistake. And while I should note that every character is given a chance to shine throughout the course of this story, it is McDuffie's portrayal of Black Canary that really stood out in this issue. For the first time since Gail Simone left Birds of Prey, we have been given a vision of Dinah that not only suggests that she be leading The World's Finest Heroes - it demands that she do so.

Here's the panel-by-panel list of just how Black Canary kicks ass and how much Black Canary SHOULD kick ass when properly written.

Kick-Ass Moment #1 - Dinah is using her signature super-power, The Canary Cry. Old-school comic fans might remember her having this ability. The Canary Cry is a sonic attack capable of disabling or unbalancing most beings. Black Canary frequently used this power at the start of battles in order to weed-out the weaker foes so she can focus on more dangerous targets.

Kick-Ass Moment #2 - Dinah is a mentor. Even as she is trying to rip off Cheshire's head, she always has a moment to give a less experienced hero advice on how he may better aid his comrades.

Kick-Ass Moment #3 - Black Canary giving Wonder Woman orders. Like a leader.

Kick-Ass Moment #4 - Dinah is portayed as being smart, competent and funny. She knows she can't fight Giganta on her own terms and makes light of the fact. She then uses her martial arts knowledge, albeit on a larger scale, in order to dislocate the thumb of her enemy in order to win a temporary distraction.

Kick-Ass Moment #5 - The bigger they are, etc. Despite facing a relatively over-powered enemy, Black Canary wins using her wits, experience and substantial skill.

Kick-Ass Moment #6 - Dinah stares down Batman after he disobeys her orders. Rather than waste time arguing the point with him there, she says only that "we'll talk about it later". From the dialog and even the art, it is clear that by no means is Batman off the hook and the the only reason she doesn't give him the ass-kicking/tongue-lashing he deserves is because they have bigger concerns i.e - a group of unconscious baddies to lock-up before they wake-up.

Even Ed Benes' usual cheesecake work can't diminish the greatness of this comic. I think it's more than fair to say at this point that Dwayne McDuffie has finally restored Justice League to the high standard set by Mark Waid and Grant Morrison.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 11 - Powerless

This week's thoughts done as I watch the show.

Oh gods... Maya finally wakes up to the psycho killer thing only to wind up in a Mexican Stand-Off. Here's hoping Sylar finally loses his patience and kills her later.

The Hiro/Peter fight went longer than I thought. Give Hiro credit for knowing how to stick and move. He still needs to work on that whole "know when to kill the guy and know when to slit their throat" thing. Still, looks like he's gotten Peter to start thinking a bit.

Matt and Nathan know where to go now. Nice. Figure Matt will go for an non-lethal way to bring down Adam and Peter while Nathan tries to talk more sense into Peter.

Claire is so adorably idealistic. Mama Bennet is showing some steel too.

Micah and powerless Niki as the calvary. Saw that coming too.

Awww.. I was hoping Bennet would use the rubber ball to take down the electric girl somehow. He could do it, too. :) I hope Elle doesn't die though. Even though it seems likely she's about to do a redemption thing here, I love Kristen Bell too much as this character to see her die now.

Speaking of which... she just spotted Sylar in New York. Please don't let Sylar kill Elle. At least without killing Maya first.

Hee. Micah kicks ass. "I told them to."

Hee hee... Matt's riding Nathan.

Hee hee hee. "Flying Man!"

Geez. Bennet couldn't have shown up two minutes sooner before West flew out of Claire's life and out of the series?

Oh, god... Maya, you are SO stupid to not have figured out that your brother is dead without a clairvoyant. Just die already...


That was fast.

That noise you just heard? 8.2 fanboys and fangirls cheering. Thank you Sylar!


"The heal anything blood?" Good idea, Sylar - kill her so you can kill her again! And make it more painful this time.

Damnit. Bennet kicks so much ass.

Okay... I know that we need to build the dramatic tension but Dammit.. let Hiro at least stop him and take the sword away!

Also, I call total bullshit on Peter being able to resist Matt. Matt took down a telepath with 30 years more experience under duress. Emo McPatsy should have been cake.

Hey... why didn't Peter just walk through the vault door? Oh yeah... telekinetics looks cooler. I guess.

Huh. Another press conference to out the Company.

Oh damn. Now Elle is going to get killed and Maya is probably going to recover. Damn you, Jeph Loeb!

And... *sighs* I saw this coming. But damnit... not Niki. I guess we never will get an answer on that shifting tattoo. Unless... wait... she already has a healing factor, like Peter did and that's why his tattoo didn't stick!

Please don't die. Please don't die. Please don't die.

Damn. Hiro is hardcore AND a genius. Bury the man who can't die alive. Only shouldn't he run out of air eventually? Guess the healing factor keeps you from needing to breathe too.

I saw this one coming too but... damn. Just as Nathan became a cool character. So who was the assassin? I'm thinking Bennet and the Haitian, simply because Matt looked shocked - like he knew who the assassin was and Haitian could keep both Matt and Peter from using their powers in case one of them got the idea that "Well, Nathan can't fly... but I can shoot sparks out of my hands.."

So yeah... great episode. Yay Kristen Bell not being dead! But damn...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 11/29/07

BATMAN #671: The best issue of The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul so far. That's not saying a lot, mind you, but at least I was clear on the action and we finally get an explanation of who is fighting who and why.

The short version? It turns out that Sensei - a very old school O'Neil/Adams Batman baddie (not to be confused with O Sensei, who is a good guy) - is Ra's Al Ghul's father and that he's been leading the faction of martial artists out to stop Ra's - currently a slightly more articulate zombie - from regaining true life again. Batman - in an effort to stop Ra's from killing either Tim Drake or Damien Al' Ghul (Ra's Grandson, Bruce's apparent son by Talia who has been hidden all these years) to get one of their bodies - agrees to guide Ra's to Nanda Parbat - DC's Shangri-La equivalent and home to The Fountain of Life, where Sensei and his assassins are already lying in wait.

Yes, that's the short version. You don't want the long one.

Grant Morrison is true to form here, balancing the exposition with a fair helping of action and writing Batman with the same skill he showed a decade ago in JLA. And artist Tony Daniel had managed n this issue to do something every artist on this mini-series has failed to do so far; draw a Ra's who actually looks like Ra's.

I'm glad to see the greatest Batman villain of all time (literally) returned. I just wish he had been given an epic worthy of him to mark the occasion.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #18: I note a disturbing trend with this issue that seems to have become a habit at DC over the past few years. This marks yet another comic where we finally are given a sympathetic and interesting portrayal of a new or long-neglected character only to have them die at the end of the issue. It happened in Identity Crisis with the Ralph and Sue Dibny relationship being highlighted in a way that hadn't been done since James Robinson's Starman. It happened at the start of the new JSA with the introduction and immediate death of Mister America. And now it has happened - apparently - with newbie Green Lantern and newly dubbed Ion, Sodam Yat.

This issue, split between a fight between a hyper-powered Yat and Superman Prime has been built up to with a number of recent comics. And while Writer/Editor Peter Tomasi does an excellent job with the story here, it still seems severely anti-climactic for The Guardians to remove the Green Lantern's restriction on killing, reveal the ace-in-the-whole that they have in Yat (as a native of the planet Daxam, he has powers equal to Superman's on a planet with a yellow sun) and given Yat a connection to the Green Lantern energy source that basically makes him a walking power-battery... only to have the issue end with his defeat and apparent death.

This is all the more shameful as we are finally given a damn good origin story for Sodam Yat in this issue. We learn of his troubled childhood on Daxam and how he dreamed of a live for himself in the stars - almost a high crime on the isolationist Daxam. We see him befriend a shipwrecked alien and see him defy his parent's attempt at reprogramming him into an alien-fearing drone like themselves. We see him plot to escape his stifling world, knowing not where he is going but knowing he can't stay home. We see all this and how he came to be chosen as a Green Lantern. It is wonderful. It is inspiring. And it is apparently pointless.

The art by Gleason and company is as good as ever, but it's all pretty frosting on a rather tasteless cake.

JACK OF FABLES #17: The cover of this issue is pure win.

That's all I can say except... READ THE BOOK!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daredevil #102 Review

Has any creative team been better suited to the book they were assigned than Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Matt Hollingsworth are to Daredevil? None that comes to mind as easily or as immediately.

I've written a lot of words praising Ed Brubaker's writing skills in he past but nothing I can say is ever enough to do him justice. What he does in this issue - and has done in every issue of this Without Fear storyline - is expanded a character who was at best a joke and a worst a thin rip-off of another established character from the "Distinguished Competition" of Marvel and changed him into something unique and truly frightening. I refer to Larry Cranston a.k.a. Mister Fear and how this storyline has turned him from a poor man's Jonathan Crane into a true menace and credible threat to Daredevil.

How? In much the same way that Frank Miller transformed Wilson Fisk (a.k.a The Kingpin) into a credible threat nearly thirty years ago - by sticking with the main idea behind the character that worked and developing that to its' logical end. Fisk was stronger than a normal man and possessed a keen tactical mind. Just ditch the gimmick canes and the death-trap lairs and you have one heck of an serious enemy.

Brubaker has done the same with Mister Fear, allowing his power over fear to become more varied and more powerful. He keeps a trio of beautiful women waiting in his bedroom by exploiting their fears of abandonment. He keeps an entire hotel staff at his beck and call by exploiting their fear of disapproval. And he's making Matt Murdock's life a living hell having used his enhanced fear powers to trigger a homicidal rage in Matt's wife Milla.

Brubaker manages a neat balancing act here, splitting his focus - and Matt's - between a meeting with a judge to try and get his wife moved out of prison and into his care before her trial and a street brawl between the minions of Mister Fear and aspiring crime-lord The Hood. All of this is perfectly captured by the art team, who are as adept at showcasing superhero action as they are the quieter scenes of Matt's day-job.

Consider the above scan, in which the grittiness of Hell's Kitchen is perfectly captured and how Lark is able to easily move between the offices and courtrooms and their respectable officers of the law and the city streets with its' colorfully costumed criminals with equal ease. Note the slightly washed-out colors used by Matt Hollingsworth that give everything a feeling of being faded and worn. Other heroes may live in a world of momentary brightness but Matt Murdock's works is forever muted in shades of gray in contrast to the deep, defining shadows of Gaudiano's inks.

Together, all of these artists and Brubaker have made Daredevil their baby. They have made this the most consistently enjoyable Marvel Comic of the past few years. Daredevil hasn't been this good since the days of Miller and Janson and given another few years, I think Brubaker and Lark might just well surpass Frank and Klaus.

For the love of Pete, what more do I have to say to get you to read this book?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 10 - Truth and Consequences

Peter - I guess I shouldn't be to upset by this, seeing as how Peter's memory is all swiss-cheesed to Hell... but it seems like his common sense/basic decency should have kicked in by now. Granting that everything he's seen of The Company is enough to convince him they're all-out evil and that he's just barely getting an inkling that Adam might not be being totally straight with him either... you'd think Hiro showing up and saying "Adam is a bad guy" might be enough to make him at least say "Okay... let's talk." rather than going Super-Sayien with the electrics.

Sure, he and Hiro met all of two times - and one of those doesn't count as it was Hiro from an alternate timeline - but Hiro has never given Peter any reason to think he wasn't trustworthy.

Mohinder - I had hope for a moment. We all knew after last week that Mohinder had to be the one to save Bennet. And when Mohinder mentioned the plan to bring down The Company and how it was Bennet's paranoia that brought them to that point... I thought that Mohinder's next words were going to be something like...

"You're lucky that I still know who my friends are. And that the one person they suspect less of being a spy than a humble doctor is the humble doctor who ratted out their old agent, who they now think is dead. They won't see either of us coming, now."

Because figuring out a way to make the paintings come true and then exploiting that to fuck The Company over... that's something a SMART person would do.

Where the hell is Bennet being held that The Company won't find him, anyway?

Claire - I don't know if Hayden Pantierre is just talented enough to bring the full 9 out of everything she is given or if the writers just like the character of Claire so much that they give her the best lines... but DAMN, solid scenes all around.

Sylar and the Wonder Twins - One Down. One to Go. Please?

Everyone in New Orleans - You know what? I liked this whole bit. Much as I hate the WiR moment with Monica, a part of me is glad that photographic reflexes aren't being made out to be the be-all/end-all power like they are in certain comic books. Being able to memorize a Bruce Lee kata doesn't really help much if you don't have the tactical mind to be able to improvise the moves.

Hiro - Best cliffhanger of the year, even if the fight is going to be ludicrously one-sided.

So... the ads after the show has promised us that two heroes will die. But which two?

Well, it depends on who we consider a "hero". Powered people? The actual good guys? Is something going to happen that will redefine who all the good-guys are? Well, assuming that we aren't going to have any "don't count" deaths (i.e. Claire's blood bringing people back) and that all powered people are included...

Pros: Minor character, already injured, looking to prove herself - possible martyr
Cons: Too cool to die, no obvious method for her to die in next episode
Odds: 10 to 1

Pros: Minor character, Company Founder, also seems to be seeking some degree of redemption
Cons: No obvious method for him to die in next episode
Odds: 20 to 1

Pros: Main bad guy for this Series, Has it coming, Has one of the most powerful people on the show after his head.
Cons: Near impossible to kill
Odds: 10 to 1

Pros: Weakened condition, has threatened Molly, actor has to go on hiatus for movie role
Cons: Death now after last season would be real cheap, adverts have all but said he survives, death depends on Mohinder doing smart thing.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: None, save that The Company may want to silence her before she outs herself to the world as she threatened Elle.
Cons: Most popular character on show, most popular actress outside of show, near impossible to kill.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: None really. Everyone already thinks he's dead and he's being held captive in a Primatech facility.
Cons: Cheap to have him die so soon after a fake death, no obvious means of death other than anti-climactic one being shot escaping from Primatech
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Spends next issue facing off against two heroes who have best shot of actually doing it, according to previews.
Cons: Near impossible to kill.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Has been becoming more heroic all season - sacrifice here would mean redemption
Cons: No obvious means of him dying in the next episode, so far.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Apparently will be involved in fight at Primatech according to adverts - could get killed by Peter easily if caught off guard.
Cons: With warning, could use his powers as a good defense even against Peter, popular actor/character.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Noble sacrifice to save world totally in character, was last seen charging most powerful metahuman on the planet with a sword the last time we saw him
Cons: Most popular male character on show, most popular actor outside of show, will piss off too many fans.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: Suffering from Shanti virus and Mohinder isn't on the way with his promised cure, about to go into fight to save cousin in-law from gang-bangers, not a popular character
Cons: Ali Larter brings in horny 20-something male viewers
Odds: 5 to 1

Pros: Was in clutches of Sylar last time we saw her.
Cons: Unbelievable shit-storm if young girl is killed in this show.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Was getting ready to go into fight against gang-bangers last time we saw him
Cons: Unbelievable shit-storm if young boy is killed in this show.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Was seen being carried off by gang-members the last time we saw her.
Cons: Unbelievable shit-storm if first black female hero on the show is killed in the same season that introduced her after failing her first mission as a superhero.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: No powers, going into confrontation with Sylar, no common sense
Cons: Tim Kring has stated Mohinder is one of few safe characters since he needs an everyman, God doesn't like me enough to smite Mohinder, Sylar needs him alive.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: Sylar's plaything, no common sense, most hated character introduced this season and possibly of the entire show's run
Cons: The writers have shown an annoying tendency to not give the fans what they want and we all want Maya dead.
Odds: Even Money

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 11/21/07

Very, very fast thoughts as I picked up a lot of books this week and only have so much time to write before I have to hit the road for Thanksgiving Dinner.

BATMAN ANNUAL #26: I don't care what you Greg Rucka fans say - killing off Ra's was a mistake and thank goodness Peter Milligan is here to correct it.

BIRDS OF PREY #112: I'm going to miss Tony Bedard on this title. Hell, I'm already missing him on every title he's helped write in the past six months. What's wrong with nice, fun stories like this where nobody dies and there's cute cameos by Hal Jordan and Cowgirl?

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #8: The first issue of this comic I didn't enjoy completely. Then again, I've never been a huge fan of The Flash or The Doom Patrol. And yet I have to ask...since when has Elastic Girl been a stretcher instead of a grower? I trust Mark Waid to know what he's doing in keeping track of these things but still... I always thought she was a giantess.

CONAN #46: This issue seems a fitting contribution to the mythos, for while Howard said that Conan was inspired by his grandfather's tales of far away lands and was easily bored by his own people, we have never been told of the impetus for how Conan came to leave home. This story, which Kurt Busiek ties into some of his own tales of Conan, seems a fitting answer to that question.

DETECTIVE COMICS #838: Even if you're not collecting this for the Return of Ra's, this issue is worth grabbing just for the scene where Ra's tries to win over Tim Drake. Some of the best verbal sparring in recent memory.

EX MACHINA #32: Should I feel ashamed that I found myself more interested by Mitchell Hundred's nightmares and the visions of supervillains fought in the past rather the current storyline involving a plot to turn Mitchell into a living weapon against The Pope?

HELLBLAZER #238: One of the best one-shot Hellblazer stories ever, with John reluctantly going on a rescue mission to save some urban explores caught in a shadow London where urban myths are real. Great story though a part of me wonders... wasn't Map killed off in the Mike Carey run of this book? Ah well... set it before that and it works just fine.

NIGHTWING #138: I look at Tiger Moth, Dragonfly and Silken Spider... and I think about how much I miss The Ravens and The Body Doubles, who were very much the same concept but not nearly as much of a joke, even when they were jokes.

RED SONJA #27: I'm still trying to figure out how an infamous evil wizard got elevated to godhood and wishing that Sonja would ditch the idiot millstone crew she finds herself saddled with. Still, this book is not a bad read though I suspect it reads better in the TP.

ROBIN #168: Tim is too smart to be this stupid. A rare miss from Milligan.

Gone on vacation from comics. I'll see you all in a week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Looking To The Stars: The Final Word On Batman and the Outsiders #1

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Partly because - this being Thanksgiving week in the United States - my schedule is full of activities with friends and family that do not involve reading comics or writing about comics. And partly because there's only so much breath I'll waste on this particular scandal.

You all likely still remember last week's Batman and The Outsiders #1 and these two pages, which inspired more than a fair amount of annoyance in the comics community this past week.

The GLBT fans were insulted by Batman referring to the lesbian relationship between superheroines Thunder and Grace in such a derogatory manner. Bat-fans took umbrage at the idea that a master detective like Batman would be unable to tell the difference between close friends and lovers. And the continuity cops took offense over the idea that Batman didn't know about the Grace/Thunder relationship despite having clearly been in the room when Thunder and Grace made their relationship pretty plain (the words "girlfriend" and "baby" were used) in Outsiders: Five of a Kind - Wonder Woman/Grace #1. But all of this offense paled in comparison to the annoyance that came later, when Chuck Dixon tried to justify himself on The Comic Book Resources board.

I'll avoid quoting the whole speech here. You can read it for yourself at the link above. However, I would like to make three points regarding Mister Dixon's comments.

1. Deliberately writing a story and then having the preview cut in such a manner as to inspire complaints from people who think you're homophobic doesn't prove that people are out to get you, Mister Dixon. All it proves is that you are out to get your critics. This kind of behavior on a message board would be considered trolling. This kind of behavior in a criminal case would be considered entrapment. This kind of behavior should be beneath an alleged professional writer like yourself.

2. You contradict yourself by saying that "the man doesn't care" regarding Batman's view upon same-sex relationships and then saying two sentences later, saying that you believe "Batman shares my personal views here." Your own personal views, Mister Dixon, being on record as being one who is firmly anti-homosexual. It is one or the other, Mister Dixon. You cannot have it both ways.

3. I have always thought you an intelligent man based on your writing, Mister Dixon. That being said, freely insulting your potential readers after releasing a new title is not an intelligent thing.

In the past, I have always respected you as a writer, Mister Dixon. You have always been a reliable scribe when it came to writing a good action yarn. Your Nightwing series was one of the books that got me into collecting-comics as a serious hobby. And you will always deserve high-praise for having come up with the concept for Birds of Prey.

I find it ironic then, Mister Dixon, that as the man who created Birds of Prey - a book which did so much to bring more female readers into the hobby - that you are now responsible for alienating so many of those same readers with your current behavior.

Are there people who jumped to conclusions following the preview of this book without reading the whole story? Yes.

Are their conclusions born out by the whole story itself? I have to say yes, yes they are. As you say, Mister Dixon - you believe that Batman shares your views on homosexuality. But I believe that Batman - whether he approves of girls dating girls or not - should be smart enough to tell the difference between "close friends" and "lesbian lovers". And I am hard pressed to think of any way - in the context of the story - for the phrase "special relationship" not to be a slam of homosexual unions.

By your actions, Mister Dixon, you may have caused your critics to jump the gun in calling you a homophobe. But by your actions, you have also proven them right and proven yourself a complete jackass in the process. As such, Mister Dixon, I still respect you greatly as a writer. But I don't respect you at all as a human being. And I won't be purchasing any book with your name on it ever again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wizard World Texas 2007 Report

Looking back on my report on Wizard World 2006, it occurs to me that something I said last year was double true this year; Often times, all the fun in a convention is there for the making... it's about the people you meet and the experiences you share with your fellow fans.

This occurred to me after reading a report on this year's Wizard World written by my close friend and writer/artist of Deranged Comics; Don Cook.

Don noted in his personal journal that it seems like fewer and fewer guests of note come to Wizard World Texas every year. The first year, we had the likes of Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes for media stars and legends such as Kurt Busiek and George Perez striding among us mere mortals and our $5.00 hot dogs. This year, we has some woman whose biggest claim to fame is being a MySpace babe and Lou Ferrigno. Three guesses who had the busier booth.

Granting that Don has a point on how Wizard World Texas in particular and Dallas Comic Cons in particular don't usually get the A-List in terms of professional support/attendance, I still stand by the idea that you can have fun at a convention with one vendor, the guest of honor is CarrotTop and the hot rare collectible being the first batch of fliers where CarrotTop was spelled with one 'r'.

Why? Because I had fun this year, despite the lack of any writers I cared about (well, writers I cared about who were advertised - nothing I read about the Con in advance mentioned that Jack of Fables co-writer Matthew Sturges would be there), only five artists I cared to get an autograph from and failure in my yearly quest to find a Starman Jack Knight variant figure. I got to meet a lot of very cool people; fellow stargazers all.

Some were established writers and artists with an independent published work, hoping to expand their fanbase. Others were aspiring talents, looking for a publisher willing to give them a chance. And then there are the common folk; the fans who just enjoy dressing up and sharing their love of a character and the joy of living every day like it's Halloween. Many fans, but all with a deep love of the genre no matter how they choose to express it as they journeyed through the World of Wizard.

Accompanying me on this journey was my good friend Halo Husberg - artist/photographer and probable Costume Contest Winner if I ever get her to show up at one of these things in her White Queen outfit. What follows is a brief photographic chronicle of where we were, who we met and how utterly cool a convention can be even when you are just there to work.

Writer Devin Richard & Writer/Artist Mike Charles of Angel Comics - a new Indy company based out of Houston, Texas.

Artist & Angel Comics CEO Roderick E. Thornton.

Artist Michael Brooks of Angel Comics

Some bloke whose name we didn't get who has a comic published by Drunk Duck! - a web comics community which hosts over 8,000 web-based comics.

Chasen Grieshop of Particle 9 Productions, hard at work on a new piece.

The gear table for Wrestling Wear Galore - the only place that I know of where you can get a real Iron Man, Iron Fist and Nacho Libre wrestler's mask!

Rowan Of The Wood author Ethan Rose, dressed as his own titular character.

A fearsome barbarian, on-call to train aspiring heroes courtesy of Barbarian Battles

The Barbarian tests his metal against young warrior Connor Yarbrough.

(from left to right) Jack of Fables co-author Matthew Sturges, DC Comics VP of Sales Bob Wayne,
DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio, Justice League of America artist Joe Benitez & Action Comics artist Adam Kubert.

The Scottish Batman, Quinten McKinnney. (Didn't Grant Morrison just do a comic about this?)

Fat Momma; first runner-up on last year's Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

Feedback; the winner of last year's Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

The Defuser (winner of this year's Who Wants To Be A Superhero? and Major Victory honor us with a pose.

Aspiring artist Marshall Wilson checks his portfolio.

1st Place Costume Winner - Toney Dempsey as DC Comics' Scarecrow

2nd Place Costume Contest Winners - Ryan McKinley and Matthew Ham of Central Oklahoma Ghostbusters.

3rd Place Costume Contest Winners - the husband and wife team of Ned and Margie Cox, here dressed as Hal Jordan and Katma Tui.

Costume Contest Finalist Chris Newman as Grim Girl

Costume Contest Finalist Mike Bartosh as Gambit.

Gemini Force model Amber Emery. She poses for her boyfriend's comic. Lucky guy!


President Nelson who did a great portrait for me in a short amount of time and refused to take extra payment for the rush.

Humbert Ramos, who stayed a little late to get through the line of fans who had been waiting for a while to get autographs.

Joe Jusko, who not only allowed me to get the perfect Christmas present for my girlfriend but also gave me the good news that the Sheena mini-series published by Devil's Due is indeed going to continue as a monthly series!

Phil Hester, who gave me an autograph and a quick Ollie Queen sketch in record time.

Michael Lark, who couldn't stop to talk but ran his booth with a sense of elegance, despite his speed.

Mike Hankins of Dorm Dorks, who had what is easily the funniest new web-comic I've seen in a while. Expect a full review later.

The gents at Cat Torpedo Comics, who remembered me from All-Con 2007. A fact which is nearly as impressive as their stellar work on WonderTeddy and The Silver Spectre.

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 9 - Cautionary Tales

Line of the Week: Did you pack Mr. Muggles doggie bath?

Hiro: Nothing surprising here - Hiro tries to do something and changes his mind when he realizes the damage he might do. And I think we all figured out by now that Adam/Kensei was the one who killed Kaito. I would have liked to have had Hiro mention Charlie and how trying to go back in time to save her didn't work. Don't get me wrong - I loved his speech at the end, but it seems to me like Hiro has already learned this lesson.

Matt: Figures - the minute Matt starts becoming a bit less of a tool they have to make him start going evil.

West: I still like him. I don't know why everyone else is so down on the guy although I have noticed a co-relation between the people who read the on-line comic liking West more than the ones who don't. The first comic of the new year centered on West and was just about him taking joy in the freedom his power gives him.

Claire/Bennet: Pure Grade A awesome. Jack Coleman (Bennet) needs an Emmy nod for this episode. SERIOUSLY.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DCU: Counting Down To Final Crisis Special Report!

I'll have a full report on Wizard World Texas with lots of pretty pretty pictures later this week. Right now, though, I have some exclusive news on various DC Projects that I thought you all would like to hear about A.S.A.P.

* Keith Giffen has just signed an exclusive contract with D.C. Comics. Amazingly, he did not have a rider in his contract that he is allowed to sneak Ambush Bug into anything he writes although the possibility of more Ambush Bug stories in the future is not out of the question.

* Long-time Green Arrow artist Phil Hester will be the artist on a new El Diablo title to premiere in 2008.

* Western fans rejoice! There will also be a new Bat Lash series in 2008.

* A future issue of Countdown will feature a battle between Superman Prime and Mister Mxyzptlk.

* Countdown: Arena will feature characters from at least 26 of DC Comics 52 multiverses.

* Final Crisis will be a stand alone title with no "required" tie-in books.

* In a future episode of Booster Gold, Booster will act to save Barbara Gordon from the attack that ends her career as Batgirl and leads to her becoming Oracle. There will also be a special #0 issue coming out between issues #6 and #7 that will tie in to Zero Hour.

* Green Lantern #25 will be a double-size issue and it will contain a preview of the last part of the "trilogy" by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver - Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro War being Parts One and Two.

* In answer to a request for more kids books that aren't a spin-off of a cartoon, DC is releasing three new children's titles. Tiny Titans - a book based off of a popular children's cartoon in the DC Universe which is based on the Teen Titans; a new Superfriends comic that will tie-in to a new action figure line by Mattel; and Shazam! - a new Captain Marvel series in the spirit of Jeff Smith's recent mini-series.

* Fans of James Robinson's Starman who have wondered why the remaining uncollected issues haven't been collected in a TP Format, wonder no more. Starting early next year, DC will be re-releasing Starman in an Absolute format. The first volume will collect the first 17 issues of the series.

* Blue Beetle #26 will be written entirely in Spanish.

* Sadly, the JLA/Hitman series did not sell well enough to draw consideration to an immediate re-collecting of the entire original Hitman series in TP format. However, The Powers That Be have not ruled out finishing collecting the series at a future date.

* DC Comics Editorial has no new information regarding a DC Comics MMORPG or the JLA Movie.

* Dan Didio shot down any suggestion that DC Comics would consider doing an on-line archive service similar to the one which Marvel Comics announced this week - one which allows fans access to read comics on-line but not download them for a monthly fee. Didio's reasoning? "We want people to actually own the comics they're paying us for."

* There may be plans in the future to use Terry McGinnis (the Batman of the Batman Beyond future) in a story.

* There may be a mini-series centering upon the new Ion (Sodam Yat) in the future.

* Grant Morrison is signed to continue writing Batman into 2008 and beyond.

* Adam Hughes is still at work on All-Star Wonder Woman. Beyond that, the only thing that can be said about the All-Star Line is that "books will continue to come out".

* Regarding plans for any future Green Arrow stories by Andy Diggle, Dan Didio said "Not yet".

* All-New Atom still not in danger of being canceled, according to Dan Didio.

* Manhunter WILL return.

* Breach (the Captain Atom of Wildstorm Comics) will return in Countdown: Arena.

* There are more DC Comics straight-to-video movies on the way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wizard World Texas- Friday Report

I was at work all day, so naturally I wasn't at the convention.

However, my good friend Don Cook, author of Every Day is Halloween, did go. He has a report on his blog that is quite amusing. You should go read it. And while you're there, read his comic and tell him how much you like it. He could use the pick-me-up after being snubbed by the Suicide Girls.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I just got forwarded an e-mail from the head editor at Comics Nexus.

Seems somebody has become so offended by my Titans East review that not only does he refuse to get comics news from us anymore (which is odd as the site switched to a mostly-reviews/criticism format a LONG time ago anyway) but he is going to "have us added to the corporate block site at work".

That's probably for the best, anyway. Unless you work for a comic company, you probably shouldn't be reading about comics at work. I know my workplace frowns upon such things.

I just can't help but reflect upon how funny it is I only ever hear this boo-hoo-hoo stuff from Judd Winick fans and not... oh... say... Chuck Dixon fans.

I'm going to bed. Work tomorrow and then.... Wizard World.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 11/14/07

FABLES #67 - This book becomes more and more difficult to review with every passing issue. The English language allows me only so many words to describe the exact greatness of Willingham and Buckingham's Magnum Opus. If Fables has a flaw, it is that it is so complex and so epic that it is impossible to begin reading in the middle of an arc.

It has been particularly difficult to review The Good Prince - the storyline which has taken up the book for the last half-year - for this reason. Unless one has been reading the book since the very first issue, one cannot really appreciate the story and the grand transformation that has made the comic Flycatcher (aka Ambrose, The Frog Prince) into an epic hero, great leader and all around bad-ass.

If you've been reading Fables, this issue is a perfect 10. If you haven't, I fear it will be too easy to be lost and confused as to who is fighting who and why reading this issue, though the heroes and villains are made plain. Still, there is quite a bit of good action here and Buckingham's art does not disappoint, as per usual. So if you haven't been reading Fables - and I can't imagine why you wouldn't be - do yourself a favor and pick up the first few trades before catching up on the recent issues. I promise you'll be glad you did.

SPIDER-MAN/RED SONJA #4 - You either hate this book or you love it. Me? I love it.

Yes, I know that the covers by Michael Turner are - even by the lax standards of Michael Turner covers – abysmal. By Crom, Sonja appears to be a ballerina stretching on a pole rather than a warrior maiden wielding a sword!

Yes, this book is based on an unmitigated silly concept. It’s centers around the concept that an evil wizard is awakened, transforms New York City into a Hyborian metropolis, everybody but Peter Parker is changed along with it and Mary Jane is possessed by the spirit of Red Sonja.

Yes, I know that the fact that it is an unmitigated silly concept that has its' roots in a story that was created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne back when they were both at the top of their game excuses nothing.

Yes, I know the fact that this book is being overseen by Mel Rubi and Michael Avon Oeming – the team who brought Red Sonja back to greatness in her only monthly book – also excuses nothing.

And yes, even I admit that Kulan Gath being possessed by the Venom Symbiote is probably one of the stupidest things I’ve seen in comics all year.

And yet, I don’t care.

Because all is shattered by the sheer unadulterated awesome that is Joeseph, Son of Robert; Rebel Leader!

Seriously. You do not get better comics than the Joseph “Robbie” Robertson speaking faux-Shakespeare wielding a sword and getting ready to put the smack down on a group of trolls without help. And if you can’t appreciate that, then you really can’t appreciate this book.

Yes, this book is a bit silly. But it is unashamedly silly, like a child with a towel tied around their neck insisting in all seriousness while smiling widely that they are in fact Superman. More than a lot of comics today, this book is fun. And that can allow me to forgive a lot these days when so few comics – even the ones I enjoy – are truly fun.

WONDER WOMAN #14 - Gail Simone takes over the title with this issue and not a moment too soon! Of course, it goes without saying that this issue is at least 1000% better than anything done with Wonder Woman since the beginning of One Year Later. But if I don't say it, this will be a very short review.

In all seriousness, this is a stellar premiere issue. Given the problems this title had over the last year, coming into this mess and trying to do anything - much less build upon the generally loathed status quo - would be a daunting task for any writer, even one as experienced and capable as Simone. After Amazons Attack and the farce that was the Jodi Picoult run, I think most comic fans would be happy to have a Wonder Woman book that is readable much less wonderful.

Rest assured though; the first issue IS wonderful. What Simone has done here is captured the essence of everything Wonder Woman is and should be. She is tough. She is smart. She is clever. She has a dry sense of humor. She is more than capable of handling herself in a fight but is always looking for ways to avoid fighting when possible. She is compassionate. She is understanding. She is, in short, every bit the wonder her name implies.

All of this is accomplished through one heck of a fight-scene with the forces of Gorilla Grodd. But apart from giving us talking ape assassins– something which automatically bumps up any comic a full letter grade in my book - Simone has crafted a perfect entry-level story. If you've never read an issue of Wonder Woman before (and given the last year, who can blame you?), you can safely pick this one up and rest assured that the status quo will be made clear. Indeed, Simone manages to give us all the back-story we need and then some without it seemingly like we are being exposited to.

Simone even manages the neat trick of bringing back what appears to be a new Etta Candy, who appears to be a slightly over-weight hardass like her Golden Age predecessor. And yes, even Hippolyta – unseen and forgotten in the months since Amazons Attack – even she is seen to be doing something in the background that will no doubt have major repercussions in the months to come

Coupled with the excellent artwork of The Dodsons, I’d say that Wonder Woman is in good hands. Of course it’s still a bit early to say that Simone can completely undo all the damage that has been done to the mythos of Comics’ First Lady. But I have every confidence that she will. Diana Prince isn’t the only Wonder Woman in comics, after all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Double Review of Titans East Special #1 & Batman and the Outsiders #1

Many of you are probably wondering why I'm reviewing these two books together. Is it because of some compare/contrast essay I wished to pen? Was I trying to create a sort of Zen balance by reviewing one book each by one of the most outspoken liberal writers in comics (Judd Winick) and one of the most outspoken conservative writers in comics (Chuck Dixon)? Did I wish to compare Winick writing an entirely new team book to Dixon taking over the team book Winick left?

These are all very valid guesses, but they are wrong. The main reason I'm combining my reviews for these books is because I can't be bothered to write a full review for both of them. It's more than I can take.

So granting off the bat that both of these books contain a level of hack writing that is becoming increasingly commonplace at DC Comics and that the artwork by Ian Churchill and Julian Lopez is woefully sub-par, which of the following points should we comic fans be most insulted by?

a. Judd Winick and/or his editor failing to do the basic research to learn that Hawk is Dove's younger sister - not her older one. A fact easily discovered after 30 seconds on Google.

b. Cyborg apparently knowing about Power Boy's "run-in with Supergirl" (i.e. the stalking, kidnapping and attempted rape of Supergirl) and not having any problem with this guy being on his team.

c. Yet another Judd Winick one-shot ends in death, in order to promote a new series.

d. Batman making an unprovoked disapproving remark about Thunder and Grace's lesbian relationship.

(The Following Transcript was provided by a man who has asked only to be identified as 'Roy'. He had the issue in question but no scanner, but was none-the-less willing to give me a transcript of the next page of the comic.)

THUNDER: WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GRACE AND ME? Have you been spying on us? You like watching, freak?

BATMAN: You have too many issues competing with your primary role in this group. You have skills. You may be even be gifted beyond your powers. But you're not ready. The simple fact that you would interfere with me while your teammates are in the field proves that. And I surmised that you and Grace were good friends by observing your body language when you're together. I didn't know it was more than that until you told me.


e. The idea that the World's Finest Detective is unable to tell the difference between close female friends and lesbian lovers.

f. The return of generic 'Batman is a dick' characterization.

g. All of the above are so equally offensive, it's hard to pick just one.

Me? I've got to go with G. I'm giving both of these books a 1 out of 10 rating and welcoming you all to record your votes at the Comics Nexus boards . You will need to register to vote, but if you've never been it is a fun little forum with more intelligent conversation than most comics news boards.