Friday, March 30, 2007

Looking To The Stars - A HEROIC Theory

With three weeks to go until the airing of the last five episodes of the first season of Heroes, I find myself jonesing for a fix like Isaac Mendez (My apologies to those of you who have not seen Heroes yet, who do not get that joke).

This past weekend, I found myself trapped at home by a terrible storm. I wound up catching a Heroes Marathon on TV while talking to a friend in Germany who had not even heard of the program, much less seen it. And as she asked me for details and I found myself telling more and more of the story to her... I had something click in relation to recent revelations. Things I hadn’t considered that suddenly made sense in relation to other things.

With that in mind, I present this theory as to where the major plot thread of Heroes, dealing with a nuclear explosion in New York City and the efforts to stop it, is going. If you are not a Heroes fan – and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be – or just haven’t seen it yet, I bid you come back next week.

“Save the cheerleader. Save the world.”

Those were the words that a future version of time-traveler Hiro Nakamura left a confused Peter Petrelli with. These words held the key to stopping a nuclear explosion in New York City that was foreseen by the precognitive painter Isaac Mendez and by the present-day Hiro Nakamura. These were the words that the Future Hiro emphasized above all others. But Future Hiro said more – much much more – in his brief conversation with Peter while time was stopped...

HIRO: Peter Petrelli?

PETER: What?! Are you doing this?

HIRO: You look different without the scar.

PETER: I don’t know you...

HIRO: Not yet. My name is Hiro Nakamura. I’m from the future. And I have a message for you. I don’t have much time. I’m risking a rift just by coming here. The girl! You have to save her!

PETER: What girl?

HIRO: The cheerleader. It’s the only way to prevent it.

PETER: Prevent what?

HIRO: (pause) Everything. Listen to me. She must live! The painter. Isaac. Go to him. He will know. When I call you, you must tell me where we meet! (pause) You told me many times how lost you felt when it all started. This is what you’ve been waiting for. (pause) Be the one we need.

PETER: (nods silently)

HIRO: (turns around and starts to walk away)

PETER: Wait!

HIRO: Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

PETER: Wait! Hiro! I don’t understand-

This scene gives us five important facts but also raises a number of other questions.

1. Peter is physically scarred by some incident in the future.

It is worth noting that in all of the 18 episodes of Heroes thus far, Peter and the Present-Day Hiro have never met face to face and they spoke on the phone only once. Given Future Hiro’s apparent shock at seeing Peter without a scar on his face, it is apparent that Hiro met Peter for the first time after he was scarred.

There has been much fan speculation on this point but it seems likely, given the end of Episode 118 (Parasite) that Peter gets the scar during a fight with Sylar; a super-powered serial killer who somehow steals the powers of other individuals through a process that involves telekinetically cutting his victim’s heads open while they are still alive.

2. Claire Bennet’s survival is the key to stopping the future from going bad.

Save The Cheerleader. Save The World. It doesn’t get much plainer than that. But if Claire was originally killed by Sylar, then how did Future Hiro find out about Claire and her powers and determine that she was the key to where things went wrong?

3. Peter and Hiro are friends in the future.

The first sign is Future Hiro’s shock at seeing Peter without a scar. If seems unlikely that Future Hiro would bother to note this unless he was used to seeing Peter with a scar. Another hint lies in Future Hiro’s attempts to comfort Peter and his mention that at some point Peter would tell him of how lost he felt after discovering his powers. Given that, it seems likely that Peter and Hiro become friends at some point in the future.

More importantly, Future Hiro’s comments suggests that Peter survives the coming nuclear explosion – given that the current timeline of the show’s final few episodes would require them to form this bond over the course of a few days. But how is that possible if Peter is the explosion, as his visions of the future since Episode 111 (Fallout) indicate?

4. The destruction of New York is the first of a series of bigger disasters that change the world for the worse.

Hiro does not say that saving the cheerleader will prevent the disaster. He says that it will prevent “everything”. Clearly, things only get worse from there. But how exactly will things get worse? And how will Claire’s living change that?

5. Peter has to “Be the one we need.”

It has assumed by most fans that when Future Hiro says this, he means that Peter must be the one to save Claire. Certainly when it comes time to save Claire, Peter is the only one in position to do anything. But what if Hiro meant that Peter had to “be the one we need” at another time and another place? A place relating to stopping the nuclear disaster in New York and not saving Claire?

Now, let us ponder those questions.

1. If Claire was originally killed by Sylar, then how did Future Hiro find out about Claire and her powers and determine that she was the key to where things went wrong?

In considering this, we have to remember who else knew about Claire’s powers before Sylar’s attempt on her life and who would be likely to give Hiro that information in the future.

a. Sylar - While he could probably rattle off a list of people he killed and who gave him what power, it seems unlikely that he would ever do this except under duress. And as we’ve seen, it is very difficult to keep Sylar contained for long.

b. Mr. Bennet and his team - Mr. Bennet certainly knew about Claire’s exact powers and given his general attitude toward trying to protect and help powered individuals, it seems likely that he would work with Hiro – particularly if he had a chance to save his daughter’s life.

c. Mohinder - Within a matter of weeks he was able to determine Peter Petrelli’s exact powers as well as the possible abilities of other people on his father’s list whom he had not met. It seems likely then that he would be able to do the same for other people on the list... including Claire. Given Mohinder’s general desire to use his father’s research to protect and help people, it seems likely that he also might work with Hiro in this manner.

2. How is it possible for Hiro and Peter to become such close friends in the future if Peter IS the nuclear explosion?

One unspoken rule of the show so far that seems to have been forgotten in pondering Peter’s death by explosion is that a powered individual cannot be harmed by the effects of their powers.

• Meredith Gordon, Claire’s fire-starter mother, was not burned by the flames she created.
• Nathan Petrelli did not appear to suffer any physical damage despite flying at supersonic speeds that should have broken his bones in Episode 105 (Hiros)
• Ted Sprague, a man who naturally emits radiation did not experience any ill effects from his powers despite his footsteps killing grass and his powers slowly killing his wife – even after being shot in the Bennet household in Episode 116 (Company Man) and nearly causing a nuclear explosion, Ted did not get radiation burns or radiation sickness.

This last one is particularly noteworthy given that Peter’s glowing hands in his vision before exploding resembled the way that Ted’s power appeared when he nearly melted down in the Bennet house.

Assuming Peter’s copycat powers allow him to mimic another person’s superpowers exactly, he should get all of the related benefits and drawbacks of those powers. We know for a fact that Peter gets all the drawbacks, as when he met mind-reading cop Matt Parkman in Episode 111 (Fallout), Peter copied Matt’s telepathy and also gained the headaches that are a side-effect of Matt’s power.

Given this, it seems likely that Peter will – at some point – gain Ted Sprague’s ability to emit radiation but lose control of it. This will not kill Peter though as Peter will also have Ted’s immunity to radiation.

3. How exactly will things get worse after the New York Nuclear Explosion?

Four Words: Nathan Petrelli for President.

In Episode 118 (Parasite), Nathan met with Mr. Linderman – a casino-owing crime boss with long-lasting connections to the Petrelli family through Nathan’s father as well as several other characters in the series. While the exact nature of this connection and Linderman’s own stakes in the game are unclear at this time, one thing is certain – Linderman knows the coming disaster and wants it to happen. Further, he has the means to see that Nathan will become President of the United States within a very short amount of time.

Perhaps Linderman is scared of the threat super-powers pose to the world and hopes the disaster will expose them as a threat and force the American government to work against powered individuals. Perhaps Linderman is a super-powered individual himself and he hopes the disaster will expose the existence of powered individuals to the world and allow him to come out of hiding. Or perhaps he is merely hoping to exploit the disaster to further increase his own power base.

This last theory seems the most likely, given this portrait.

Taken from The Linderman Archives, hidden within the fake website for Linderman’s Casino, this Easter Egg portrait is titled The President Stands Alone. The man pictured, standing in the Oval Office of the White House, looks a good deal like Nathan Petrelli.

Nathan, it should be noted, has the distinct dishonor of being both the most actively evil character on the show and being the person least enraptured by the idea of super powers.

The short list of bad things Nathan has done includes cheating on his wife, abandoning the woman carrying his child when he was younger, painting his brother as a suicidal lunatic in order to make himself look good and working with a crime boss in order to attain political power.

Never mind that Nathan has always appeared to have regretted these choices after the fact. Whenever he has been offered a choice throughout the course of the show, he has always taken the most selfish route. Indeed, he stated on one occasion that if it were up to him he’d take all the people with powers and put them on an island in the middle of the ocean.

We also know, thanks to Hiro’s first trip to the future, that Nathan is pre-destined to win his Congressional election and that the disaster is going to happen on November 8th, 2006. The day after Election Day in the USA.

So imagine this scenario – a huge disaster happens in the wake of an election. A heroic young Congressman - his own district destroyed and his family killed in the wake of this disaster - struggles to rebuild in a brave new world. Milking the sympathy vote, he is put up as a dark horse Presidential candidate in 2008 and is indeed President within two years.

It doesn’t seem like it would bode well for any powered individuals if the first exposure the world had to them was a living Human Bomb. Having someone as adamantly anti-powers as Nathan in the White House would be even worse. The problems this might cause in the future are too numerous to contemplate.

4. How will Claire’s living prevent the New York disaster?

Let us first consider what Claire’s death would have prevented from happening in the episodes following Episode 109 (Homecoming).

• Peter would never have been in Odessa.
• Peter never would have been questioned by Matt Parkman, who would never have then been told to protect Claire Bennet.
• Parkman never would have interviewed Mr. Bennet and become suspicious of him.
• The Haitian would never have gone on the run and would still be employed by The Company.
• Mr. Bennet never would have had to go rogue regarding his daughter and would still be employed by the Company.
• Meredith Gordon would never have found out her daughter was still alive and would never have tried contacting her daughter’s father (Nathan).
• Assuming the stand-off with Matt and Ted Sprague at the Bennet house still happened (Hana the technopath still could have found Ted and contacted Matt, telling them where to find Mr. Bennet) it would have ended in a much more violent manner and there would have been a nuclear disaster in Odessa before there was one in New York.

Clearly there are many events that Claire’s presence has influenced. But what, exactly, wound up causing the disaster? This far, Peter has not made contact with Ted Sprague, The Radioactive Man. Given Ted’s current status as a captive for The Company in Odessa (along with Parkman and, probably at this point, Bennet) it seems unlikely that he and Peter will meet without some manner of escape occurring – an escape that, ironically, would never have been neccesary had Claire Bennet been killed earlier.

The assumption by many fans has been that Peter, in order to survive the disaster, would need to have Claire alive and in close proximity so that he could copy Claire’s regeneration powers. But in Episode 114 (Distractions) it was revealed that Peter can recall the powers of anyone he has met by thinking of that person.

Unless Peter is pulling an Animal Man and drawing off the connection between all living things, he wouldn’t necessarily need Claire alive to use her powers provided he had met her once. And if he has Ted Sprague’s immunity to radiation along with his power to emit it, he wouldn’t need the power to regenerate...

... unless it was to close up a wound that prevented him from being able to control the nuclear powers he copied from Ted. This would explain why Future Hiro went to Peter in the past and told her that he needed Peter to “be the one we need” in order to save Claire. Without that one-time contact with Claire, Peter would not have the power he needed to contain the explosion.

Or would he? Peter does not appear to be wounded in the visions he had of the disaster. So perhaps he needs Claire’s powers at some other point in the future?

5. What if Hiro meant that Peter had to “be the one we need” at another time and another place?

There is only one part of Peter’s visions of the future disaster that we have seen in any clarity – a conversation that Peter has with an eerily calm Nathan as his hands begin glowing.

PETER: I took his power, Nathan! I can’t control it!

NATHAN: Let me help you, Peter.

PETER: You can’t!

NATHAN: I’m not leaving you.

In this vision, we do not see Peter himself actually “explode”. Indeed, despite the presence of numerous other characters around them, we only see two people die; Nathan and Simone – Peter’s love interest.

Simone has already died, however and it was indirectly Peter’s fault. As Peter confronted Isaac over his working with The Company, Peter attacked Isaac with the telekinetic powers that he copied from Sylar. A panicked, gun-wielding Isaac – looking for an invisible Peter – shot at the first bit of motion he saw out of the corner of his eye. It turned out to be Simone entering his apartment.

Given the metaphorical nature of Peter’s dream visions (we see a panicked Isaac trying to pull Simone away from the obviously dangerous Peter), it seems likely that Peter is foreseeing that he will be indirectly responsible for killing two people close to him.

Perhaps this is what Hiro means when he says they need Peter to “be the one they need”. Killing Nathan before he becomes President would certainly prevent “everything” bad that might happen as a result of a Linderman puppet President. And if Peter was able to contain the blast but emitted enough radiation that somebody close to him was killed...

So here is my theory. Linderman intends to use Nathan as his puppet in the White House, for his own nefarious ends. Using the New York disaster as a means of getting Nathan national attention, Nathan will be elected President and be responsible for a long series of disasters. This causes Future Hiro went back to the past, seek out his friend Peter and give him vague instructions on how save the life of a woman, giving Peter the powers he needs to contain the first disaster while still indirectly killing his brother and thwarting Linderman’s plans.

As always, my e-mail is open for your comments.

Tune in next week! Same Matt Time! Same Matt Website!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 3/28/07

BATMAN #664 - I am deeply ammused by the thought of a hooker offering Batman a freebie and deeply touched to see that someone remembers that Batman does just as much to fight crime in ways that don't involve punching thugs, as witnessed by Bruce offering a woman with no education a job in a call-center. Of course now I know that any good Bruce does as Batman is negated by the fact that he willingly employs telemarketers...

CONNOR HAWKE: DRAGON'S BLOOD #5 - Sometimes, it's nice to read a book that doesn't have any point to it besides a lot of fires and wanton destruction.

DAREDEVIL #95 - Good to see someone doing something with Gladiator. He always was one of my favorite Daredevil villains, especially after he reformed and opened a costume shop. Something always struck me as funny about how one of the men with the worst costumes in history got a job making them for other people. I mean, look at this...

This is not a man who needs to be giving anyone fashion advice! Then again, it works in the same way as the urban legend that Shel Silverstein started doing children's books when he couldn't sell his cartoons to Playboy because they were too filthy. Untrue, as far as I can tell, but a good story. And this is a good story too!

FABLES #59 - For those of you who remember Bill Willingham's classic Sandman Presents one-shot Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams But Were Afraid to Ask, this was a real nostalgic treat. And for those who don't it was a regular treat. Answering several questions that some readers asked about minor characters (such as what happened to a now unemployed bodyguard from the 'Arabian Nights" story) or unimportant bits of trivia (such as how Buffkin the Flying Monkey keeps getting liquor) this is a wonderful little break in the action of the war-preparations storyline.

GREEN LANTERN #18 - Okay. Carol Ferris back as Star Sapphire. That's good. Having her fighting and then possessing Hal's new girlfriend, Jillian? That's better. Hal Jordan actually getting to use the phrase "There's plenty of me to go around"? Priceless. The art has taken a turn for the worse though and I'm inclined to agree with a thousand feminist comic bloggers that the new Star Sapphire costume is bad. Not because it is sexist and scanty and skimpy - it just plan looks terrible. Of course I've never been a fan of the "wrap around, leave as much skin in the middle of the body as exposed as possible" look...

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #107 - Nice to see that the whole world ISN'T revolving around Peter, no matter how much me may think it at times and that Kitty Pryde suddenly showing up after his school after his suddenly deciding he didn't want to date her anymore is just conincidental. Also, Wilson Fisk - from this day forth - will be "Fatty McEvilstein" to me.

WONDER WOMAN #6 - Diana Prince realizes that she is kinda out of touch with the modern "real" world. Good point. Needed to be addressed a while ago. But can we please retire the cliche that a person is clueless and out of touch simply because they do not know how to order coffee at a Starbucks? And why is it we laugh at the people who just want black coffee in a small cup and insist that they are the idiots? Why do we not laugh at the Starbucks people who insist that we must order a Venti coffee instead of a large coffee? They know what the small, medium and large cups are! Is it really that important to the Starbucks branding scheme that they cannot just get people the appropriate size cup without making a big to-do about it? "Oh, we do not serve small coffee here... we serve Tall, Grande and Venti". Oh yeah. Well you can serve it to somebody else pal cause I'm going to get my coffee from someplace where they don't push customers over tiny details!

Well, everyone ELSE is doing it...

Taken from Ye Olde Comick Booke Bloge

Said gentleman has provided an self-portrait image of Jack "The King" Kirby for people to write their own humorous sayings onto. His favorite will be used to make a t-shirt for wearing at ComicCon.

Here is my own entry.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On Ice.

Got an e-mail from a colleague asking for more details on Ice.

He doesn't get what the big deal is about her being alive and... oh yeah... thinks that maybe she's more interesting dead if she got a big tragic death.

Buddy, the only thing tragic about Ice's death was the fact that anybody ever felt the need to make it happen.

Mark Waid, who wrote the story, says it's the biggest mistake he ever made as a writer. His exact comments can be found on Gail Simone's Women In Refrigerators site at:

Here's the quote: "I'm responsible for the death of Ice. My call, my worst mistake in comics, my biggest regret. I remember hearing myself ask the editor, "Who's the JLAer whose death would evoke the most fierce gut reaction from readers?" What a dope. Mea culpa. But I've learned my lesson."

He also wondered if it wasn't a matter of plot convenience that Huntress knew who Ice was. After all, she's never been the most social of superheroes. In fact, she makes Batman look like the life of the party when it comes to playing well with others.

Still - as shocking as this is - Huntress and Ice were teammates. Huntress was in the Justice League from issues #26 - 35 of the 1987 Justice League of America Series while Ice was on the team. Ice had an open identity so it seems likely that Huntress knew her first name was Tora, though given Helena's secret identity issues at the time is is unlikely that Ice knew Huntress' real name.

And to answer said colleague's note that "there are lots of other cold-powered characters in the DCU", I would like to note that, as Stan Lee was once reported to say, "The Powers Are Not the Person".

Yes, there are other ice-powered characters in the DCU. But as a certain famous writer is fond of saying - The Powers Are Not The Person. By that logic, Captain Cold and Mister Freeze are the same guy but if you tried making that case to a Flash fan, you'd get laughed out of the park.


Quick comic reviews later, when I have more time to write. Promise.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I still hate Civil War, but...

... it occurs to me that some of the few good writers at Marvel may be able to build some good stories out of the wreckage.

I am looking forward to Dwayne McDuffie's Fantastic Four. The man's a diva for classic characters and I love his take on The Thing and The Human Torch so far. To say nothing of the fact that we're talking about the main man behind Milestone Comics writing Black Panther and Storm.

I think Ed Brubaker will continue to make Daredevil the best book Marvel has to offer on a regular basis.

And this image has given me hope that there's at least one person working on Spider-Man who is going to try and clean that mess up.

(EDIT NOTE: Sorry kids. This image got lost by and did not save it...)

Not only am I digging the reference to Amazing Spider-Man #50 - to say nothing of the fact that Peter is the person most visibly honoring/mourning Captain America... but take a look at how unusually dark the alley is and how Peter is exiting into the light.

Hopefully that's an omen of better things to come. Hopefully...

Random thought on intergalctic age of consent laws...

Here’s a story idea I’ll toss out for anyone who wants to deal with this subject seriously.

This week's Brave and the Bold featured a gag about Supergirl crushing on Hal Jordan and Hal having to remind himself repeatedly that she is only 17. This is really funny to those of us who remember a Green Lantern named Arisa.

Arisa was a teenage girl - by the terms of her people - and she had a crush on Hal. She used her ring to accelerate her growth thinking that Hal would be interested and, sure enough, he was. You can read a good article on the whole sordid story here.

So there's already a precedent for Hal having a thing about barely legal blonde alien girls. He indulged it with Arisa once he got convinced it wasn't really an age issue. Kara, it's just as much about the "Clark would kill me" issues as much as the age issues. Still, there seems to be an awful lot of nervousness in Hal for what happened to Arisa to be an isolated incident...

So here's my idea; a story in which Hal Jordan is brought up on pederast charges anyway and he actually does play the “She’s legal in Mercurian years” defense, thus leading to the Guardians creating a standard intergalactic age of consent. Unfortunately, all of Earth goes on trial for violating the rules after the Guardians determine that the 200 standard intergalactic units (one unit being equal to one Earth year) is the age at which a sentient being finally becomes mature enough to appreciate all the issues that come with copulation.

And before anyone asks, yes I am joking. And yes, I'm well aware that the Arisa aging herself storyline has since then been retconned away Geoff Johns and that Arisa is now a spritely 280 years by the reckoning of her people so this is all a moot point.

What, we're not allowed to have fun discussing perversions in comics anymore? ;)

Looking To The Stars: The Week In Reviews For 03/26/07

Birds of Prey #104
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood

I had high hopes for this one from the start simply because of the base concept of the next story arc. Birds of Prey - the team book that Gail Simone saved from cancellation and made into something all her own. Secret Six - a long forgotten team name that Simone took and turned into something very amusing. Pour into bowl. Add plot regarding the recovery of a stolen Rocket Red suit of armor. Measure. Mix. Bake. Watch hilarity ensue.

Yes, we were all expecting this issue to be funny. We were all expecting it to be good. But I do not think a single person was expecting what happened on the last page of this issue when the armor got opened up.

Now for those of you not up to speed, Ice is a heroine from the Justice League International days, back when it was more of a comedy book than an action/drama. Something of an anomaly among superheroines, she didn’t have a big defining tragedy, a checkered past or some big traumatic event that shaped her into a heroine. She was just a very modest (in every since of the word – she wore a tank-top over her spandex bodysuit!), very sweet and very compassionate woman who just happened to have powers. She was so sweet and innocent she made Guy Gardner mushy. Yes, THAT Guy Gardner!

Ice was killed off in a fashion that everyone – even the man who write the story – thinks was a mistake. Despite this and her continued popularity nearly two decades after her death, nobody has ever bothered to bring her back. Until now. The funny thing I distinctly remember Gail Simone saying she was dying to bring Ice back but was just waiting for the right moment. I hope that this is indeed that moment.

So please, please don’t let this be a fake-out. Do not kill her off again at the end of this arc. Do not let this be a clone or an illusion or something equally trite. Because the comic world needs a little more sweetness and innocence in it. And because I wanna see Guy Gardner’s reaction to the news that Ice is alive again. Preferably with Simone writing it.

Grade: A

Brave and the Bold #2
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: George Perez

I was concerned that my opinions upon the sheer awesomeness of this book – for how can anything with Waid’s writing and Perez’s artwork NOT be the sure epitome of raw awesomeness – might have been colored by the first issue starring my two favorite boyhood superheroes; Batman and Green Lantern Such worries have proven unfounded based on the second issue which, if anything is better than the first and an indicator of further good times to come.

What can I possibly say about a story that comes up with a good, logical and completely in-character reason for Supergirl to don a pink baby-doll dress before entering a life-and-death gladiatorial arena struggle? It is silly. It is jaw-dropping. And it is one of the funniest moments in any comic in recent memory simply because of how it parodies the host of equally ludicrous but no-less exploitive moments in other media. And it works because it is played totally straight.

I also appreciate the sly little asides that Waid puts into the book for long-time DC fans that add a little something without distracting from the story or scaring off newer fans. Case in point; last issue had Bruce Wayne’s dry comment on Hal Jordan’s blackjack winnings – “I wish Barry could have lived to see you with money” - referring to a running gag in Waid’s original Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold mini-series, where Hal was always bumming money off his more reliable best friend, Barry Allen.

This issue contains a similar ironic note, with a flirtatious Supergirl attempting to clumsily seduce Hal Jordan – as only a teenage girl with good looks but little experience can - and Hal’s repeated mental notes that Kara is only 17. This is funny in and of itself but is also a laugh riot for those of us who remember Hal’s exploits with fellow Green Lantern Arisa - an alien girl with a crush on Hal, who used her ring to age herself because she knew he saw her as a girl even though she was of legal age on her home world and older than Hal!

Now there’s an idea for a team-up story - Hal is forced to answer a paternity suit on another world because after years of beating off all the gorgeous blonde alien teenage girls, the odds will finally catch up with him. And he hires Kate Spencer (Manhunter) as his attorney. It’ll sell a mint, I tell ya! A Mint!

Grade: A

Conan #38
Company Name: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Timothy Truman
Artists: Cary Nord & Richard Isanove

A great improvement over last month’s issue – a well-meant but pointless attempt to put a Robert Howard boxing story into the world of Hyboria with a t-shirt clad sailor – this issue is slowly setting the seeds for an adaptation of one of Howard’s best Conan tales - Rogues In The House.

What is truly impressive about this issue is how Truman has built upon the scant details that were given at the start of Rogues and has been slowly expanding upon them in his own work, developing characters who are mentioned in passing and giving us a point of reference so that we know and care about them as much as Conan himself. And I like the nice touch that has allowed the temptress Jiara to have betrayed Conan without actively having betrayed him, thus earning the much-anticipated non-lethal revenge that is coming to her.

Confused? Well, at the risk of spoiling what I’m sure will be an amazing comic, I suggest you all read the tale for yourselves.

Grade: A

Supergirl #15
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund

Stalkers and abusive boyfriends are not often used as villains in mainstream comics with female leads. On reflection, I believe there are two reasons for this.

First, your average comic book heroine is too tough to be dramatically threatened by an overly-aggressive male. Indeed, this subject is often played for laughs on the rare occasions when it is brought up. One good example of this is JSA #39, in which Power Girl has to fight off the advances of “Da Bomb” - a would-be suitor with explosive superpowers. For anyone else, a big burly biker who won’t take no for an answer would be a source of worry but for Power Girl, Da Bomb is only slightly more of an annoyance than a broken heel.

Secondly, these are very serious issues and not dealt with as lightly as other social issues might be in what is, for the most part, a form or popular entertainment. A comic that says “drugs are bad” or “child slavery is bad” can be easily polished off in one issue to make a Very Important Statement. But abusive relationships, by their very nature, require a longer set-up in a story and a greater commitment than many editors are willing to give and few writers are willing to tackle.

This is why, for the most part, serious discussion of these issues is limited to background characters and nameless victims who are rescued by the hero. This strikes me as a crying shame given that most recent studies show that a substantial number of women have an abusive relationship in their teens and twenties. And that is why I am very glad that Joe Kelly has told this story. And more, I am amazed that it is as good as it is.

By all reason, this story shouldn’t work. Supergirl is the last teenage girl in the world who should ever have to worry about a man hitting her. And yet, by making her boyfriend an Apokoliptian refuge, what should never be an issue suddenly is. And it makes perfect sense. Who else but a boy born of a world of pure evil and raised by Granny Goodness – the original proponent of tough love child-rearing – could possibly build up an obsession with Supergirl and be able to seriously hold a “I’ll hit you until you love me again” attitude AND seriously pose a threat to Kara Zor-El?

But the truly amazing part of this issue is not that Kelly created this device and made it work. It is that for all of the trappings it possesses as a “Very Special Issue”, it does not read nor feel like an after-school special. Even when Kara shouts in a splash-page that you don’t hit people you love, it does not feel the least bit cheesy or over the top. There is a message but it doesn’t feel like there is a message. Indeed, I believe this is the best such story Kelly has written since the now legendary “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice And The American Way”?

Grade: A

And this is why Gail Simone rocks...

Gail Simone Interview.

Lots of good, powerful statements here from a woman who truly gets what comics should be about. But here's my favorite, Quoted For Truth.

Here's the thing, for several years, when some of the more innocent or charming or fun-loving characters were killed at both of the major companies, we've always heard that it's because (and it's hard to argue this point) of our fondness for them that their misfortune has dramatic impact. If you don't love the character, then it means nothing if they sacrifice their lives. As much as I love Ted Kord and miss him, his telling Max to go to hell had real agony in it because it wasn't, you know, some forgotten Global Guardian or somesuch.

I do understand that, but to me, it means the opposite with these characters is also true, that something positive can make you cheer just as something bitter can make you weep.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 3/21/07

There's quite a few books out this week that I want to say something about. Hence, I shall be doing a column packed full of reviewy goodness this weekend. But as a little teaser for that... here's my fast thoughts on everything I read this week - one sentence per book.

BIRDS OF PREY #104 - Please don't let this one be a fake-out.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2 - What is it with Hal and blonde teenage alien girls?

CONAN #38 - Finally - Rogues In The House!

FLASH THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #10 - Finally, Rogues in the house!

ION #12 - Eat it all of you who wanted Kyle to die!

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #4 - Remember Kids: Hawkman says Nazi's bones break just like anybody else's!

MAGICIAN #6 - Why is a medieval princess wearing a spandex bicycler outfit under her nightgown?

SUPERGIRL #15- Best issue since the Secret Identity story in #10.

Withcblade Anime deemed too intense for Japanese TV

A little tidbit that was passed on to me by a colleague who attended Wizard World LA...

I don't know if any of the rest of you were there, but at WizardWorld this past Sunday, they showed about 10 minutes of footage from the Witchblade anime. It's so new that they haven't signed a deal for American broadcast yet.

The story takes place in the same time frame as the Witchblade manga, but is not the same story, from what they said at the preview. The whole thing is a sequel to the American Witchblade comics and TV show, about a future wielder of the Witchblade.

Apparently, the anime was a little over the top for even Japanese television, as they had to do a slightly censored version of her costume for broadcast. One of the issues is whether they will show the toned-down version or the more adult version here, on Adult Swim or in a similar time slot. From what I saw, the main things which might be objectionable are her costume and the way she gets…um…a little too excited when using the Witchblade. Definite sexual overtones in the action and the dialogue there. This will not be a show for tweens and kiddies...

Given some of the Japanese gameshows and Anime I've been forced to watch by fans of the culture... am I the only one frightened by the prospect of something that is considered too over the top for Japanese television?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Looking To The Stars: 300 - A Review

A long-awaited film inspired by the works of Frank Miller, it has opened to international controversy. With numerous detractors and defenders across a wide spectrum of the population, few can deny the impact it has had upon American culture.

No, I’m not talking about the new Ninja Turtles movie! It hasn’t come out yet.

I’m actually talking about 300 – a film based on Frank Miller’s graphic-novel -which is itself based off of Miller’s favorite movie as a child, The 300 Spartans - which was in itself based on the legends of the Battle of Thermopylae – which are based primarily off of the Histories of Herodotus – the accuracy of which are still debated by historians to this day.

This amuses me greatly, for historians are among one of the many, many groups who have gotten offended about the content of 300 for one-reason or another. I delayed reviewing this movie for a while hoping that I might be able to see it with a clear head and judge the film on its’ own merits. But since the controversy seems to be growing only larger as the movie becomes more popular, I feel it necessary to discuss some of these viewpoints along with the film itself.

So now, as usual, a key to the aspects of the film that we will examine.

PLOT: The big SPOILERS BEWARE part. A basic summation of the story.

INFLUENCE: A measure of how closely the film follows any direct original source material.

CHARACTERS: Are the characters written well and true to the form presented in the original printed page?

ACTING: Separate from Characters, this is a measure of how skilled the acting is regardless of how “true” it is to the comic book personality of the character.

ARTFULNESS: Nice touches and beautiful artistic shots in the cinematography.

FX: The flashy whiz-bang material and how it looks.

COMPLAINTS: A new section unique to this review – I will outline, in brief, the grievances of the various people about the film’s content and the pros and cons of their various cases.

COMIC BOOK GUY QUOTIENT: Another big SPOILERS BEWARE section. Nit-picking over anything relating to “how it SHOULD have been done” and general Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR: Another new section unique to this review – anything likely to make you laugh that probably shouldn’t.

OVERALL: The broad summary of how I felt about the movie in general.

PLOT: King Leonidas of Sparta, blunted by corrupt priests and politicians at home, leads the 300 men of his personal guard to join with other Grecian forces to stand against the invading armies of Persia. Meanwhile, his wife Queen Gorgo uses her influence at home to try and persuade the Spartan nobles to raise the armies to aid her husband.

Give it 10 for 10 for not being half-assed. The Battle of Thermopylae is one of the more inspiring stories in history and 300 sticks very closely to the ideals of the epic legends that inspired it.

INFLUENCES: The dialogue is taken word for word from Miller’s text and the scenes are presented in almost the same chronological order. Every effort has been made to make every frame of the film look like a Frank Miller drawing and every single bit of the original 300 book is included in the film. Like Sin City before it, there is very little that has been left out. 10 for 10 here, as well.

CHARACTERS: This being based on a Frank Miller story, there’s not a lot of characterization. There’s tough guys, weak guys, bad guys and gorgeous dames. Indeed, the film gives a lot more definition and character to the background characters than Frank Miller’s background art (or lack thereof) ever did.

Let’s call this one a no-scorer. The only character whom had any true characterization in the original book is Leonidas himself.

ACTING: In truth, despite the efforts to make some of the background characters more memorable, there are only two characters worth noting.

Gerard Butler as Leonidas – the star of the show and our fearless leader, he finds the perfect note with which to play Leonidas, easily pulling off all of the tough-guy action speeches as well as the more brooding, tormented moments where he must stare into space while pondering the battles ahead.

Lena Headey as Gorgo – stuck with the most thankless role in the film, she bears the brunt of all the original material involving the corrupt politician subplot as well as being the token female Point Of Interest. Thankfully, Headey gives the material an intensity it scarcely deserves.

Let’s call this a 5. Most of the characters aren’t really given a chance at development. Most of them aren’t even given names. But what few characters are developed are memorable.

ARTFULNESS: This film has artfulness in spades. What a shame that it’s such ugly art. Still, the grey, washed-out look of the film – where there are no bright colors save golds and reds – does match the original colorization of Miller’s artwork. And the character design mimics Miller’s to a degree that almost equals the attention to detail paid to Sin City. Indeed, in some points – particularly the battle scenes – more detail is given to individual soldiers than was ever given in Miller’s silhouette-based crowd scenes.

Give this a 6. The film captures the essence of Miller’s style, but it goes too far at points in trying to make a living comic instead of a film.

FX: It could have been a lot better. The bullet-time effects of The Matrix are old-hat at this point and they do not work nearly as well with spears and shields as they do with guns. The scene where Leonidas leads a charge and takes down several Persians single-handed plays like a severely lagged raid-battle in World of Warcraft. Move a little – slow down – and attack. Move a little more – slow down and kill. And the blood which sprays forth from wounds does so in a way that reminds one fully that they are watching a movie.

Give this one a 4. The colorization and slow-mo effects give the whole movie a distinctive look but the blood effects are just plain awful.

COMIC BOOK GUY QUOTIENT: Quite honestly, Miller purists won’t have a thing to complain about regarding things being left out of the movie. I suspect that some might complain about material that was specially put into the movie to round out minor characters and turn the movie into something other than a two-hour long battle.

I’m referring specifically to the subplot with Queen Gorgo that has no effect on the ending of the film as well as the additional scenes with Leonidas’ captain mourning the loss of his son. Still, I believe these scenes did attempt to add something to the film, so I won’t deduct points for their trying to establish a feminine presence or “appropriate” manly feeling. 10 for 10.


NEO-CON PROPAGANDA - The movie is an endorsement of George W. Bush’s presidency and his attempts to start a war with Iran. Metaphorically, Leonidas is Bush, leading a small but determined group of the best soldiers in the world to a glorious victory against what is basically the rest of the world in an effort to secure democracy for future generations.

PRO: The neo-con catch-phrase “freedom isn’t free” is used in the scenes based on original material. Also added is a scene is added in where Leonidas and his men discover a destroyed city and one beautiful (and coincidentally golden-haired and fair-skinned) child who lives just long enough to look cute and die in the king’s arms. All the bad-guys are weird, ugly foreigners or corrupt politicians and clergymen bribed by weird, ugly foreigners. See also, MILITARISTIC

CON: Comparing Bush to Leonidas is a stretch by any decent standard, seeing as how Bush never saw combat during his time in the National Guard. Also, the metaphor doesn’t work given that the American forces entered another country rather than directly defending their own lands.

ANTI-BUSH PROPAGANDA - The movie is a thinly-veiled attack of George W. Bush’s presidency and his attempts to start a war with Iran. Metaphorically, Bush is Xerxes – leader of a decadent, multi-cultural society that is conquering what parts of the world it can’t buy outright.

PRO: Xerxes method of conquest does mirror American Cultural Imperialism – declare war on whoever we can’t bribe. Like Xeres, Bush is thought to have started a military conflict to conquer the enemy his father could not (Iraq = Greece).

CON: Bush has no piercings and does not own a golden chainmail codpiece in so far as anyone can determine, nor has he claimed outright godhood.

ANTI-GAY/HOMOPHOBIC - The movie is a thinly veiled attack on homosexuality.

PRO: There are several insulting references to the Athenians being boy-lovers. The corrupt politician who rapes the Queen does so from behind. The only lesbians in the movie are weird Persian harem girls.

CON: If this movie really wanted to take cheap-shots in this area instead of strictly adapting Miller’s work, the corrupt priests would have been molesting the prettiest boys in Sparta instead of the most beautiful girls.

RACISM - The movie is subtly racist toward non-Caucasians.

PRO: Most of the military leaders on the Persian side that we see ARE black guys with a lot of gold bling. There’s also Mongols, African tribesmen and some very freaky looking samurai types among Xerxes’ soldiers.

CON: There’s a lot of ugly white guys fighting on the Persian side as well and with the exception of Leonidas and the Spartans, nobody in this movie is made to look good. You might just as well argue that the movie is anti-Athenian.

SEXISM - The movie has a very strong anti-Feminist subtext.

PRO: There is no female presence for 90% of the movie and what little presence the film has is made up entirely of women in a position of weakness – harem girls and the molested Oracle. Queen Gorgo is the only female character mentioned by name. A gratuitous sex scene not in the original book is added into the movie as is a copious amount of female nudity that – amazingly – wasn’t in the original book. Also, the new material meant to turn Queen Gorgo into a stronger character depicts her being ready to sleep with an enemy to help her husband and ends with her getting raped. Not exactly a big pro-women thing.

CON: The only women in the original book were Gorgo, The Oracle and two unidentified harem girls in the background of one panel so it’s not like there was a huge amount for the adapters to work with without adding in a lot more new material. Also, it’s based on a Frank Miller story. Was anyone expecting it NOT to be offensive to women?

MILITARISTIC - The movie is a propaganda piece for the idea that only soldiers should have a position of power in a free society.

PRO: The opening scenes showing how the Spartan methods of child-rearing breed REAL men. Intellectuals (i.e. Athenian philosophers) and The Athenian volunteer-based army (shades of the National Guard) are mocked by the “real” soldiers of Sparta. And of course the soldiers are the only ones willing to fight to protect what they have when the wolf is at the door...

CON: Anyone who knows anything about history can pick apart the idea of the Spartans as the vanguard in the fight to protect freedom in about five minutes.

HISTORICAL - Historians hold that this movie is the worst historical epic in recent memory.

PRO: The Spartan gay-bashing will bring a laugh to anyone who knows anything about the true Spartan culture. The weapons and armor do not match the period. Also, the movie severely undercuts the efforts of the 6,700 other Greek soldiers who fought alongside the 300 Spartans. Also, even the most liberal of historians do not think Xerxes forces literally numbered in the millions.

CON: It may not be historically accurate, but the comic the film is based on was never meant to be a historical or educational piece. Miller freely admits that he did almost no research and that he just drew what he thought would look cool in regards to the armor and weapons.

HOMOEROTIC - This movie is the greatest piece of soft-core porn for gay males disguised as an action movie since Top Gun.

PRO:Nearly every male character in this movie is a buff guy in a leather loincloth and there’s nary a woman to be seen for 90% of the movie.

CON: Too many guys with leather and piercings for this to truly be an enjoyable work for ALL gay men. Also see ANTI GAY/HOMOPHOBIC

UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR: Four things that made me laugh-out-loud in the theater while I was viewing this film.

1. The scene with the Oracle. Originally five panels across two pages in 300 with no nudity at all, the oracle here writhes in a manner suggestive of a pole dancer performing her first set of the evening. Her toga, moved about by a mysterious CGI wind, parts in ways that reveal that not only did the ancient Spartans apparently invent the bikini wax; they also kept their temples at a most cool and – dare I say - nippy temperature.

2. The scene in the second battle – not in the original comic – where a large, burly troll-like beast of a man is cut from his chains and set loose upon the Spartans. Not only is this creature an comical exaggeration of how Frank Miller bad-guys look to say nothing of a textbook marriage of bad make-up and bad acting – it also inspires thoughts that, at some point while Xerxes met with his generals, somebody said “Why don’t we give him to Mongo?”

And with all the characters taking moments to stare meaningfully at the camera, I half expected this monster to look at the screen and say “Mongo only pawn in game of Life.”

3. The first appearance of Xerxes in his fabulous golden chainmail and piercings fetish outfit and the resulting scene where he rubs Leoniads’ shoulders. Scarily enough, this scene IS in the original comic and it’s even weirder on screen.

4. The ironic realization that all of these conflicting groups of people are being offended over what is, at the core, an action movie too stupid to make coherent political arguments and how all of these people are trying to assign subtext to a movie that had no deeper thoughts go into its’ creation than “this would be cool!”

OVERALL: Despite some downright goofy moments and the logical part of my brain looking for deeper meanings that I ultimately realized were not there, I did enjoy this movie. I do not believe it to be a propaganda piece for anything, save the idea that Frank Miller can tell a good story.

Having read 300, I think Miller succeeded since his only goal was to create something that looks good and to retell a legend. And writer/director Zack Snyder was successful in adapting the work to the big screen. Sadly, he didn’t stick to just adapting the work as Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City and his additions only served to make the movie suffer.

While I do think that some people are stretching a bit to attach a political subtext to the movie, I do think Snyder made a mistake in trying to strengthen the role of the Queen in the manner that he did. Because as a general rule, I think it’s a bad idea to add in a rape scene when you’re attempting to expand a female character under the pretense of giving women in the audience someone to sympathize with. As such, I do think that feminists have a number of legitimate complaints about this film –they have more to do with direction and less to do with Frank Miller’s writing.

Is this a great movie? Hardly. But it is a good story and that counts for something. And it looks amazing which counts for something as well. Overall, I’d say that 300 is an enjoyable experience so long as you don’t take it too seriously and don’t look for meaning where there is none.

I give 300 a solid 7 out of 10. It’s not a great film, but it is good for what it is – a solid action flick.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 3/14/07


Turns out that bit from last week was wrong. It was Spider-Woman talking to Ms. Marvel and them going to investigate a rumor that Captain America wasn't really dead. And that was all a lie.

52 WEEK #45 - Still not really caring about Black Adam's rampage. I'm more interested in the new Suicide Squad or just what an island full of Intergang-funded mad scientists have on hand to deal with a very annoyed Black Adam. Hopefully we'll get to see both next issue.

CIVIL WAR: THE CONFESSION - I liked the second story in this two-parter, simply because Captain America finally said, to Tony, everything that SHOULD have been said a long time ago. And I admit to liking the first story - not because it was good - but because some dark twisted part of myself enjoys seeing Tony Stark crying like a little bitch and whining about how much he needs a drink. I dunno... maybe it would have had more meaning if they did the story with Tony and Steve arguing first and THEN had the "talking by the grave" story second.

FABLES #58 - This book is still ten pounds of awesome in a five-pound sack. Not much else needs to be said.

GREEN ARROW #72 - Three issues until the supposed proporosal occurs and nary a Canary nor sign of Dinah Lance's inclusion into Oliver Queen's life is to be seen.

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #124 - I'm gratified to see that my suspicions regarding Brian - long thought to be the most anti-social and antagonistic of the "Knights" - were born out. Without giving too much away, Brian is given a nice moment in the closing part of this issue which shows that underneath his greedy, point-whoring, rules-lawyering exterior, there is something of a heart of gold. It is golden character moments like this that make KODT the best gamer comic on the market.

SUPERMAN #660 - Goofy as it was and as much as I loathe "The Prankster" in general (a poor man's James Jesse), this story was good for a much-needed laugh. I especially love how the new supervillain, Nitro G, has the same name as a hero from "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" and some of the outright goofy gadgets "Uncle Oswald" had. The Joy Buzzle was priceless.

WONDER WOMAN #5 - Should I feel bad that I liked this one-shot looking at how Wonder Woman changes the lives of people she's never met for the better more than I have the first four "regular" issues of this series?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Stephen Colbert the new Captain America?

If Stephen actually WERE to become Captain America in the comics, that'd ALMOST make it worth losing Steve Rogers.

Lord knows he really is one of the greatest heroes America has right now for his stunt at the White House Press Dinner alone.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It turns out they really DON'T give a damn...

Just read, despite my better judgement, the Joe Fridays column over at Newsarama, where the EIC of Marvel answers questions.

Obviously, the first big question was "Just how planned out WAS Captain America dying right after Civil War?" The answer hit me with a double whammy. Because it has just been assumed by a good deal of the comic-reading community that Cap's death was planned as a consequence of Civil War all this time and that it was a metaphor for how by sacrificing our freedoms for safety, we are killing America.

One small problem: Marvel Editorial can't plan their way out of a wet sack - and Joe Quesada admits as much.

If memory serves, we were all pretty much convinced that this was going to happen, the debate then rages over two things: should it happen in Civil War itself as opposed to Captain America and who should the assassin be?

At one point, it was to be Miriam Sharpe (the mom whose Victim's Rights group started this whole mess) who in a fit of anger was to shoot Cap right after he puts his hands up to be handcuffed but we eventually worked beyond that idea and decided that Cap’s death should come later as a byproduct of Civil War and should happen in his own book. This was also important because we felt that the entirety of Civil War would have been dwarfed by this event. Civil War would have gone down as the Cap death story when that wasn’t the thrust of it or the allegory behind it.

Yes. Because the death of The American Dream should not have overpowered the allegory of Civil War.


Wait - what was the allegory of Civil War again?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What... the... Hell? News

I didn't read this one, but apparently in the just-released-today "Civil War: The Initiative", there is a scene where, while talking to Ms. Marvel, Tony Stark says that - despite the events of Captain America #25 - Steve Rogers is alive and well and in a special sick-bed somewhere safe.

One problem - Marvel is now saying that Steve Rogers really is dead, that this issue is wrong and that his apparent "non-death" will be explained later.

You know what? I take back everything I said about DC and Marvel editorial being equally screwed up. Marvel is FAR more screwed up.

I'm not crazy about how "One Year Later" has robbed us of some moments in 52 that would have been truly dramatic (Ralph Dibny "permanently" stopping Neron and Felix Faust, being Sticking Point #1) but DC has not put out any stories that required an immediate "Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain" order.

I'll give them the benefit of a doubt though - they MAY publish this story Judd Winick was speaking of where Shado comes back to me a mother figure to Connor Hawke - which would just be seven kinds of creepy given his current mini-series.

But that is another story... and one I may tell if there is a request for it.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 3/7/07

Since I have a lot of thoughts on some things that need to be said this week that won't make it to the column - and since I'd like to have something special for my fans on LJ - starting today, my brief thoughts on whatever books I read each week are getting posted here.

There will be some spoilers, so be warned.

52 WEEK #44 - Nice to see why Black Adam went back to being a bad-ass in One Year Later. The Four Horsemen are seriously underwhelming. And I still don't care about "Next Question".

CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 - Am I the only one struck by the irony of a Captain America comic with such a strong anti-authority message featuring a GO ARMY advert on the back? Regardless, this story - which is making headlines in the mainstream non-comic press - is one of the best so far this year. I don't expect the events to actually stick - but even before that moment, this book had me thinking that as much as I hated Civil War, Marvel Comics isn't completely hopeless yet. That's Reason Number One.

DETECTIVE #829 - (sung to the opening line of "Money For Nothing") I want my Paul Dini. And it's still way too early to be doing "terrorist-blowing-up-financial-centers" storylines.

FANTASTIC FOUR #543 - As Ben says, "If you think Cap has given up, you don't know him at all." Between that line and the crowds of people showing up to support Cap at his trial, I think THAT is the real reason Cap allowed himself to be taken into custody. He can't beat Tony and the pro-registration forces by beating them up - but he can damn well make them look bad and put their "New World Order" to the test as we see how they go about throwing the man most consider the greatest hero in the world in a secret prison for trying to help people. All this, Dwayne McDuffie setting up a chance to write the two most prominent Black heroes at Marvel AND a classic Stan Lee story with Mike Allred art. Reason Number Two Marvel Comics is not totally doomed yet.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #6 - Lot of the same flaws as Identity Crisis - way too scattered (what the hell was with the GeoForce scenes?) and as much as I dig the use of Vixen's powers, that was still WAY too Deus Ex Machina - which doesn't seem a fitting phrase for a fight in which a god-like machine is destroyed by a woman with the speed of a falcon and the weight of a dinosaur... but it's all I've got. Still, a damn sight better than anything done with the JLA since Mark Waid was writing it.

RED SONJA #20 - This book, too, is becoming far too scattered. The title is Red Sonja. I want to read the adventures of Red Sonja. Not see the mooks she's traveling with being put on trial ala Planet of the Apes. Not seeing some mysterious pirate wench (whose name is too close to that Howard heroine Valeria but is obviously not Valeria) running about dealing with impending disaster. Not seeing random villagers turning to barbarism - well, a more bloody barbarism, at any rate. Sonja is in danger of becoming a supporting player of her own title, being in barely half the pages of this issue and a majority of those being splash pages with little to no dialogue.

SHEENA PREVIEW - I picked this one up for three reasons. First, the price (99 cents). Second, I figured my girlfriend - who loves tough girl comics - might get a kick out of it. And the third - well, call me a sucker for anything inspired by the work of Will Eisner. And make no mistake - this book is Eisner-worthy. No pin-up book this, this book leaves the feminist and conservationalist leanings of the original Jungle Queen character pretty much intact. And while the series appears to have been modernized in some respects - Sheena now protects the Amazon rainforest from a corrupt Banana Republic government and loggers rather than the Congo from poachers and cannibals - the base idea of a woman who protects nature through the help of her animal friends and her own animal cunning that was the heart of Sheena, The Jungle Queen is still there. Highly reccomended.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #106 - I rag on Bendis a bit, but then he does an issue like this that reminds me of why Ultimate Spider-Man was such a breath of fresh air when it first came out. And after the sheer depressing weightiness of some of the Marvel books of late, it's a pleasant surprise to read a book where Peter Parker's biggest worries involve Kingpin buying the rights to his name, talking his way into keeping his job and a Kitty Pryde/Mary Jane Watson love triangle. Reason Number Three Marvel Comics is not totally doomed yet.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Starman's Reviews

As record numbers of people come down with the flu in Texas and I seal myself up in my Fortress of Solitude, here are some reviews of some books I read this week when I wasn’t stocking up on chicken soup and orange juice and hoping that new cough was just due to allergies.

Oh, and there will be Spoilers on 52 – just so you know.

52 Week #43
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid
Art: Various

As much as I may crack wise about Marvel and their lack of editorial prowess, I must admit that DC has not been much better. Elongated Man’s death would have meant a lot more to me had I not seen the villains he sacrificed himself to stop alive and well and back to their wicked ways in some of the One Year Later titles. Vic Sage’s death would have been a lot more powerful if it had just been sudden and not dragged out over the course of two months, making him the most hammy dying man since Boromir.

So while I know I’m supposed to be shocked at the death in this issue, it just seems too much, too soon given all the deaths I actually cared about.
Grade: D

Conan and the Midnight God #2
Company Name: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Josh Dysart
Artists: Will Conrad & Juan Ferreyra

More than even the monthly Conan series, this title seems to be less a story about Conan than it does an unearthed piece of hereunto discovered Hyborian history. His first born child killed by Stygian sorcery, Conan takes the whole of the armies of Aquilonia across the continent intent on revenge. Many stories have been told about Conan leading his armies and about fighting the evils of Stygia but never, to my knowledge, has a story actually had Cimmeria’s favored son taking the fight to his most famous enemies.

With such a novel concept put forth along with Dysart’s masterful dialogue as well as Conrad and Ferreyra’s suitably spooky art - truly, this is a Conan tale worthy of Howard himself!
Grade: A

Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood #4
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Derec Donovan

Am I the only one who noticed how much the newly-grey Eddie Fyers looks an awful lot like Chuck Dixon? And how - while this story is nominally about Connor Hawke in an archery tournament and confronting the woman he blames for having destroyed his father’s life – there seems to be just as much time being devoted to Eddie picking up the hot blonde assistant to the Vegas showman archer?

Well, all wondering about Dixon’s writing his dreams into his own stories aside, it’s still an amusing story. Pity the artwork by Donovan doesn’t come close to equaling the story in quality. They really should have let Scott McDaniel do this one.
Grade: C average. B for the story. D for the art.

Green Lantern #18
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis and Oclair Alber

Most of the complaints I had about the last few issues are now negated. We now know why John Stewart hasn’t been around. We know that Cowgirl – who is looking more and more a match for Hal Jordan in all respects – is still alive. And the Sinestro Corps plot is finally moving forward with some unexpected recruits. (The scene with Batman was priceless!) My one complaint - and I hope this will be addressed next issue – is that the new Star Sapphire’s costume still looks ridiculous. Regardless, this is still one of the best written and best looking books on the market.
Grade: A

One more thing before I go: a shameless plug for the convention I will be appearing at in two weeks time. So if you live abouts the DFW area, come see me! Look for the guy in the Dr. Who scarf and fedora.

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