Monday, July 30, 2007

Judd Winick Brings Back An Attempted Rapist As A Hero

I thought nothing could bring me greater joy when the news came forth from San Diego that Judd Winick wasn't on the list of "Big Gun" creators setting the stage for DC Comics' future in the next year.

I was wrong.

Apparently Judd's only other new project is a Titan's East series based off of a Geoff Johns' story nobody seems to have enjoyed all that much, with a bunch of characters who weren't even part of that Titans East team. And while Judd tries to be mysterious in an interview about the roster or whether or not this team will even be made up of superheroes or villains, apparently nobody told him that the cover of said comic was being released along with his interview.

While the line-up in itself is pretty pitiful, the team roster itself contains one offensive inclusion - Power Boy aka The Boy With The Boob Window.

Why is that offensive? Well, given that the last time we saw Power Boy, he had beaten up Supergirl and tried to force himself on her... if it were any other writer, I'd ask what the hell they are thinking bringing an unstable Apokolipitian near-rapist in on a team - even a potentially shady one - that contains such innocent characters as Lagoon Boy and Dove.

Of course since this is Judd Winick we're talking about, there was likely no thought other than "this guy looks cool... I should put him in a story!"

I'd protest but I don't need to. Given the lackluster reaction to the book on Newsarama, I would only be giving press to a book that is already recieving plenty of negative attention without me ranting. Between Winick's writing and Ian "Jailbait" Churchill's artwork, I imagine there's already many an irate fan planning how best to avoid this title.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Too Many Cheap Shots To Count: Jenna Jameson is creating and staring in her own series of comic books for Virgin Comics.

Every obvious joke about this has already been made.

The irony of a porn star being published by Virgin Comics? Noted.

Greg Horn(dog) doing the covers? Noted.

Semi-serious questions regarding whether porn-tracing Marvel Comics artist Greg Land will be working on this line? Done to Death.

Which leaves me with only one joke left that has not been done to death.

Q: Why did Virgin Comics decide to hire Jenna Jameson as a comics writer?
A: They figured that since all of their comics already suck, they may as well hire a professional who really knows how to suck harder.

Seriously though... I have to wonder who the market for a book starring Jenna Jameson with no sex is? Female comic fans, for the most part, will likely avoid this like the plague. Jameson fans probably will avoid anything that doesn't involve her... well, "at work" so to speak. And male comic fans who are willing to read what will likely be a series with a greater focus on cheesecake artwork than quality storytelling already have numerous titles than can read with less of a stigma than a book affiliated with a famous porn star.

But hey - maybe I'm presuming too much in thinking that the readers of Lady Death and everything put out by Avatar Press have a sense of shame?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Looking To The Stars - The Search For The Mythical Fanboy

Let me say this up-front: I’m not in the habit of reading USA Today. Journalistically, it is to real news what McDonalds is to gourmet cooking. But when you work in a library and one of your duties first thing in the morning is getting the newspapers ready, it’s hard not to read the occasional headline. And that is how this jumped out at me-

Who is Fanboy?

I’ll save you all some brain cells and sum it up. Basically, The Powers That Be In Hollywood are going ga-ga over the power that we of the geekier set apparently have to sink or swim movies based on our amazing powers over the Interwebs. They are now trying - and by their own admission failing - to figure out how to cater to “Fanboy”.

Well, geez… I could have told them that trying to pin down Fanboys into a simple clique is impossible. We aren’t as easily defined as groups such as The Elderly, The Religious Right or The People Who Will Pay Money To See A Horror Movie, Just To See Paris Hilton Get Killed.

Let me make this real simple for you. One sentence. Call it Morrison’s Dictum if you want to get fancy.

Morrison’s Dictum: There’s only one group of people that is more intolerant of a geeky interest than mainstream society and that is a group devoted to a similar, but separate, geeky interest.

Uniting all fanboys of all stripes under one banner is impossible for two simple reasons. First, every hobby has its’ fanboys and there’s a world of difference between them. There’s serious differences between a comic fanboy, a fantasy lit fanboy, a sci-fi lit fanboy, a film fanboy, a music fanboy, a gaming fanboy, a Renn Fest fanboy, a modeling fanboy, a cosplaying fanboy… and so on and so on. The other reason is that there’s too much bad blood between the various sects for there to ever be one Fanboy Banner.

It’s similar to how Protestant religions work. It doesn’t matter what few mechanical differences exist in the bureaucracy of their respective religious structures; there is no way to get a Southern Baptist and a Southern Methodist to sit in the same house of worship on a Sunday without a knife fight.

There’s Trekkies and then there’s Star Wars fans. There’s the Society for Creative Anachronism and there’s the people who go the Renn Faire in elf ears. There’s d20 players and there’s GURPS players. There’s PC Gamers and there’s Mac Users. There’s the French and the English, North Korea and South Korea, Ginger and Mary Ann, Dick York and Dick Sergeant. And never the twain shall meet.

Heck, we’re starting to regress back into the days of Marvel Guys and DC Guys after a relatively long stretch of time when the biggest conflict among comics’ fans came between the Indy Comics Geeks and the Mainstream Supporters.

My point is, you’ve got about as much chance in catering to one single mythic “Fanboy” as you do negotiating peace in the Middle East.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 7/25/07

In the interest of keeping things really, really fast - only one sentence to describe each book this week. :)

ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #6: - Even in a parallel world where she's a stereotypical Irish Immigrant, Black Canary is still written as an incompetent bimbo.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #542: Easily the best Peter Parker story in years.

BATMAN #666: It's the God-damned Batman!

GREEN ARROW YEAR ONE #2: This is without a doubt the best presentation of Oliver Queen in a graphic novel since the days of Mike Grell.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #14: I have no idea what I'm looking at on the last page but I'm sure it isn't good.

HELLBLAZER #234: The magnificent bastard rides again under Andy Diggle's skillful pen.

RED SONJA #24: Finally, the random plot threads come together.

SHEENA #2: At once a classic action story worthy of Will Eisner himself and a skillful modern reconstruction of a classic comic-heroine archtype, Sheena may spawn many nameless imitators but there is no substitute for the original Queen of the Jungle.

TEEN TITANS #49: Nice to see Superman finally remembered he's faster than a speeding bullet after letting all those amazons get mowed down in Amazons Attack #4.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some thoughts on the Gorean Scandal...

Since I'm stuck on the desk tonight and things are slow, I decided to check the blogsphere and see what is shaking.

Seems the natives are in a tizzy because Dark Horse Comics is getting ready to reprint an omnibus edition of the first three novels of John Norman's Gor series.

Now, for those who aren't familiar with it - Gor is the name of a planet, a counter-Earth that is kept in perpetual medieval times by a group of manipulative aliens. It is a harsh world where warriors ride giant killer birds, city states vie for control of the few resources and, oh yes, 90% of the female population are slavegirls.

Imagine a hybrid of John Carter and Conan punctuated with tedious lectures about how all women want a strong man to own them and some of the most laughable sex scenes this side of your grandmother's romance novel collection... and that's a pretty fair summary of your average Gor story after about Book Six of the series.

How do I know? Well, let me explain how I inadvertently became an expert of sorts on Gor.

I first got exposed to Gor, like I think most children of the 90s were, through Mystery Science Theater 3000 airing Outlaw of Gor - a movie that was based on the second Gor book of the same name in much the same way that Village of the Giants was based on HG Wells' Food of the Gods.

(Ironic Tangent: Apparently the Gor purists HATE the movies - not because they were cheap, badly dubbed Golan/Globus films with no special effects to speak of - but because Tarl Cabot, manliest of warriors, is fighting to end slavery instead of upholding the system.)

Since I was just getting interested in fantasy/sci-fi at the age of 14 and I saw that the movie was based on a book, I figured I'd track down some of this John Norman guy's books and see how badly the movie mangled his source material. I found a copy of Magicians of Gor at the local Bookstop and dug in.

Even at the age of 14 and with the libido I possessed then, I knew it was crap. That didn't stop me, years later, when I stumbled across a few of his earlier books, from checking them out to see if maybe, like the Xanth books, the first few were okay but became repetitive and stupid as time went on.

Well, Tarnsman of Gor and Outlaw of Gor weren't all that bad. And all the slavery stuff was about on Par with your average Conan pastiche... beautiful woman protesting she doesn't need a man only to be won over by the charisma of the savage warrior. Not all that bad but not that great either.

And then, years later, my girlfriend told me of the on-line Gorean culture. And gave me the link to a page where someone had illegally put up the full text of all the books. She said they were the funniest things she had ever read.

And this was where I read Slave Girl of Gor and Dancer of Gor. And I suddenly understood what all those angry discussions I heard about Gor were about. The same sort of angry discussion I'm hearing now about how Dark Horse is reprinting the first three Gor books in an omnibus collection.

Sadly, I can't get too worked up about this. Even with all the reports of real-life Gor life stylists getting too into it and nearly killing their "slave girls", I cannot take this as a sign of the end-times nor that Dark Horse has signed on with the Female Oppression Council in their never-ending efforts to keep women who read fantasy/sci-fi/comic books down.

Why? Well, I'll give you five good reasons.

1.) Gor is a stupid, poorly written series that has only maintained the mystique that is has had for so long because the books went out of print and they somehow got a following in the niche, niche market of BDSM lovers with the mentality of LARPers. If the books were more widely available, I doubt they'd have nearly as much following as they do. Basic Human Nature: Something becomes more attractive the more forbidden it is. Nobody would press the red button if it weren't for the sign that says "DO NOT EVER PRESS".

2.) They are only reprinting the first three books. They didn't become truly misogynistic until book 7.

3.) Apparently there was an effort a few years ago to get Gor published again and in mainstream bookstores. Judging by the fact that only one of these books is still available on, I'd say that the effort was a complete bust. As such, I can't imagine that this effort at a reprint - aimed at the smaller market of comic book shops - will do any better.

4.) Despite the reports of Gor inspiring kidnapping, abuse and an actual honest to goodness underground white slave ring, I can't believe that even if this IS true that it represents a substantial amount of all the female abuse, kidnapping and slavery in the world or that stopping the publication of this series will deal a blow against these crimes.

5.) Ranting about how these books inspire deviant behavior makes you look just as bad as the same people who argue that Harry Potter, video games, D&D, gothic style, heavy metal, rock and roll, hula hoops, playing cards and pool tables are corrupting American's youth.

Seriously, a boycott won't do anything except give attention to a series that has already been forgotten by most of the world and who most of us STILL don't care about.

I await your flame mail.

No Looking To The Stars For 07/23/07

Due to an over-extended weekend that has been further complicated by a broken air-conditoner, a short film audition, pirates, Harry Potter and a meeting of the Teen Library Council to discuss plans for the fall and watch Anime, your local Library Lad is unable to find the time to pen a column this week.

We reccomend that you go outside and play instead.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 7/18/07

AMAZONS ATTACK #4: Am I the only one disturbed by the fact that a series that is supposed to center around strong female characters is doing everything in it's power to make the foremost female heroes of DC Comics look incompetent?

* Superman airlifts Wonder Woman out of battle in the first scene.

*Wonder Woman tells Batman how much they need him running the show and how he can't go running off to Gotham because of problems there when a nation is at stake.

* Black Canary - the alleged JLA Team Leader - is seen standing in the background as Diana, Clark and Bruce argue about what to do but doesn't have any lines, though Black Lightning does.

* Supergirl and Wonder Girl need Superman to save them from a group of soldiers protecting the President.

You know it's a bad story when the only female character who appears semi-competent is frigging Grace from Outsiders...

On the bright side, someone finally asked why the normally peaceful Amazons are acting like this and they confirmed BOTH of the leading theories. Namely, that some of the troubles are related to the militant Bana-Mighdall Amazons who never rejoined their sisters on Themyscira and some of them are related to a Not Dead Yet Circe.

Which would be fine if Circe weren't already responsible for...oh... every bloody thing in Wonder Woman since the reboot...

Only three months until Gail Simone goodness takes over.

BIRDS OF PREY #108: And speaking of Gail Simone goodness...

How to sum up this issue?

Oracle kicks some ass.

Dinah kicks ass without kicking any ass.

And we get the best damn four-and-one-half page fold-out splash ever... and not just because they actually printed it on 5 pages instead of on an actual cumbersome fold-out sheet.

BLACK CANARY #2: The biggest qualm I had about this series last time? Gone. And what is more, not only has Tony Bedard explained away my main nitpick from the last issue, he has gone on to explain away some of the more troubling pieces of continuity regarding The League of Assassins in recent years.

My problem last time was that the main baddy of this piece, Merlyn The Archer, was apparently only interested in Dinah and Sin as a means of getting back at Green Arrow. This issue explained that while Merlyn IS interested in sticking it to Ollie ABD Dinah (who both had a hand in his first failed mission), he is working with a group of highly-ranked League of Assassin members who are trying to unify the group after a wake of splintering following Ra's Al Ghul's death, using Sin (the next Lady Shiva in training) as a rallying banner.

See, that makes sense. Not just that the organization would fall apart to internal conflict after their leader for hundreds of years snuffs it - but that it goes on to explain why Talia Al Ghul, Cassandra Cain and Lady Shiva have all been "leading" The League of Assassins in various titles over the last few years.

Does that mean all is forgiven? Oh, not quite. For while I applaud anyone who tries to keep DC Comics continuity in working order... I still have to question Dinah's place in this, her own mini-series.

There is amazingly little Dinah in this issue and none of what few scenes she has it has depict Dinah in a moment of action, apart from a flashback where Ollie tells Mia about when he first got a hint that Dinah was starting to like him. Apart from this scene, Dinah's presence in the comic is limited to a scene where she is dropping Sin off for her first day at school and then later as she, Ollie, Mia and Sin are having dinner together. All the rest of the book is Merlyn plotting Sin's abduction and the actual League of Assassins assault on Sin's school.

What bothers me even more than Dinah's absence is that she is being set up to look the fool. She chides Ollie for being jealous and suspicious of her ex-husband showing up and having connections to a good school despite his loser past. But we, as the reader, know that Ollie is right to be suspicious since we know Dinah's ex is working with Merlyn to get Sin out from Canary's nose for a few hours a day. And while Ollie has always been a worrywart when it comes to "his lady" and has always taken to checking up on her whenever he was worried... this time, as in Longbow Hunters, his worries are justified.

Which I wouldn't object to, it having been so long since I've seen Ollie depicted as being competent and a good bullshit detector... but not at Dinah's expense.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #5: I'm not usually one of the school of thought that Batman could beat anyone in an on-the-fly battle. With time to plan, yes. Against someone he had fought before (or fought with), yes. But not against a large number of unknown quantities in unfamilar ground...

... and yet...

... somehow, this entire story, which is basically Batman vs. The New Legion of Superheroes (i.e. the one written by Mark Waid, not the one in the recent JLA/JSA Lightning Saga), in which Batman is a fugitive in an unfamilar future fleeing the Legion works.

Even though Batman fights the entire Legion to a stand-still, it works. Just because of one simple fact.

Batman carries a pea-shooter in his utility belt!

Because you never know when you might need to take down a heavily armed shrinking person.

CONAN #42: This second chapter of Tim Truman's adaptation of Robert E. Howard's Rogues In The House brings about the union of the titular Rogues - Conan (thief, warrior and most recently assassin), Nabonidus (priest and blackmailer) and Murilo (spy and traitor). And it is, as usual, a masterful adaptation with amazing visuals.

I may stop reviewing this book. You can only say "This is a great book and a worthy tribute to Robert E. Howard's legacy" so many times.

COUNTDOWN #41: This is, for me at least, The Final Countdown.

I've overlooked the sudden change in characterization of Jason Todd because I honestly like this new Jason better.

I've ignored that suddenly Donan Troy and Jason Todd are fast friends and that everyone - including Batman - seems to be okay with Jason Todd being a vicious killer.

I've even ignored the fact that Jimmy Olsen gaining super powers is somehow... DULL.

But this I can't ignore. A disparity in story and artwork so great one has to wonder if the artist is even reading the script all the way through. For while the opening scene in which Trickster and Piper fall to their deaths as Trickster roots through a bag looking for something to save them finding his Air-Walking Shoes just in time is high drama...


I'm done.

DARK XENA #3: You either hate Xena, are indifferent to it or you love it.

My girlfriend loves it and she's the only reason I picked up this book.

Me? I'm indifferent. I thought Xena was ammusing the few times I caught it and I did make a point of trying to catch all the episodes with Bruce Campbell as the King of Thieves. But I've never really been what you could honestly call "a fan".

I mention this because if you're a fan of the show, you'll love this book. If you're not, you either won't care or will find this book to be more of the same combination of over-the-top action and over-the-top comedy that kept you away from the show.

Still - you have to appreciate the quality of story flow in any story that starts with Gabrielle bargaining with the Elder Gods to bring Xena back from the dead, merges into a Faustian tale as Gabrielle realizes that she has screwed the world over with Xena being brought back as her bad-self BEFORE she reformed and continues, in this issue, into one long sight-gag about just how many Xena stories involved an evil twin.


From the heart of every Speedball fan in existence, thank you for having found a way, in continuity no less, to bring back our favorite hero someday.

Thank you for pointing out just how utterly, utterly silly the "serious" Marvel Universe is when Iron Man can kill people on TV while drunk and later become Leader of SHIELD and yet Speedball is despised by all for an accident that could never have been his fault.

And thank you once again for a very good, very funny comic.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #11: Dear sweet merciful mother of all that is good and plenty!

Can it be possible?

Yes... yes, I think it is. It is an SINGLE-ISSUE STORY!

You know, I'm so overjoyed by the fact that in this era of decompressed storytelling someone has written a comic that is not part of a series, not "Part 4 of A Bunch!" or part of a never ending and increasingly tiresome crossover (I'm looking at you Amazons Attack!) that I can't even bring myself to savage this book for being yet another piece of Brad Meltzer fan-wank for Roy Harper.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Harvey Pekar's The Quitter

Typically when one hears the words “autobiographical comic”, one of two things comes to mind. One is crudely-drawn images, paired with pretentious, pseudo-intellectual dialogue, presented on a second-hand website by an undergraduate student who is attempting to become the next big thing in web comics. The other is self-congratulatory screeds by ancient masters of the genre, who haven’t done any original work worth noting in years. Truly, the genre is generally the work of has-beens and wannabes.

There is one glowing exception to this truism, however. There is one man who has managed, if not to make a living writing true-to-life autobiographical works, at least managed to gain some level of fame and respect doing it. This man is Harvey Pekar and for over thirty years his American Splendor series has made him a beloved figure among the underground comics community. Recently, Vertigo Comics began publishing Pekar’s original work and just as recently, my library was able to pick up a copy of Pekar’s autobiographical comic The Quitter

The Quitter is unique among Pekar’s work in that rather than discussing his day-to-day life, this work goes back to explore his past - the thirty some-odd years before he started writing comics, to be precise.

This is a brisk change of pace from your usual biographical comic, which usually devotes only a small amount of time to the formative years of the writer and then spends the lion’s share of time discussing how they found out about comics, how they created this character or where they got the inspiration for this, that and the other.

Only one brief page discusses Pekar’s comic collection as a boy, which is but one of many hobbies he has. And only the last few pages discuss Pekar’s friendship with the infamous underground artist Robert Crumb (Fun Fact: despite a love of comics, the two became friends because of a mutual interest in jazz), how Pekar became a reviewer of jazz music to a writer of comics and how he had a movie based on his work and is still worried about paying the bills despite now getting big offers from Vertigo Comics.

So what is The Quitter about?

A boy with a good memory who sees no reason to study when he can memorize the material so easily.

A teen who begins to develop major neuroses thanks to an emotionally absent father and a domineering mother, who chides him for getting one B when he could have gotten all A’s.

A young man who is such a perfectionist, he gives up on everything in his life rather than settle for being second-best, figuring that good enough is not good enough.

Pekar’s story goes through his early years, telling of how he quit playing sports when he couldn’t be a starter on the varsity team. How he decided to become a great street fighter, until he realized just how limited the career possibilities are for someone whose only skill is picking fights with people who rarely deserve it. How he left the Navy after a matter of weeks in shell-shock because despite his perfect memory, he couldn’t keep up with how his clothes were supposed to go into his kit bag or how he was supposed to do his own laundry. And ultimately, how despite a desire to succeed at something… anything… he settled into a life of dull routine while grasping at what few straws of glory he could manage.

All of this is lovingly illustrated by Dean Haspiel with Lee Loughridge in a style that captures the quiet despair of Pekar’s early life in the decaying neighborhoods of Cleveland. With everything colored in shades of grey and pure black and white used sparingly, the piece maintains the look of a 50’s sitcom even during the more action-packed or disturbing moments.

The whole book has wonderful art but the moment that I think best defines the piece lies in a section where Pekar describes the misery inherit in working in his parent’s mom-and-pop grocery store – a shop which nobody goes to except for older patrons who prefer a simpler storefront business or people in a hurry who just need one or two items. Pekar vividly describes how much of the job was standing around, waiting for something to happen and dealing with people he feared would turn to dust as the entire world moves around him.

In that moment, thanks to Haspiel and Loughridge’s art, everything clicks as it should in a fine comic as art and story fuse into a glorious whole. The grey tones perfectly capture the aura of decay in young Harvey’s landscape as well as the despair which is just gaining a finger-hold in his soul.

Despite this gloomy tone, The Quitter is a remarkably hopeful work. It shows a man who ironically found his calling by giving up everything and made something of himself by following his heart’s desire and eventually lucking into success of a sort. If you’ve never read a Harvey Pekar book before, this is a great one to start with

I Don't Usually Do This... : A Public Response To Some Reader Mail

... but this one was just so... so... silly, I just had to reprint it here.

I stumbled across this in my personal journal, which I was cleaning up and retagging. It's a bit of angry mail from someone who was notable in two respects. First, he didn't use any profanity in his letter. Second, he wrote something that was longer than a paragraph. Third, he signed his e-mail with the name of his D&D character.

The short version is that I wrote a column about "Shanna: The She-Devil". Shanna was created in 1972 as part of Marvel Comics' efforts to create more positive female role-models. At least, more positive than the stay-at-home super mom, the aspiring model who lifted things with her mind and the fashion designer who could shrink whom filled all the token girl posts on Marvel's three biggest superhero teams.

Dr. Shanna O'Hara was an animal doctor who fought against terrorists, poachers and criminals in her native Africa. Though her book didn't last very long, she proved popular enough to show up as a guest star in other comics over the next three decades.

A pin-up artist by the name of Frank Cho "revived the character". His definition of reviving the character involves "cutting out all the boring feminism and environmental messages" and centering the book on a totally nude Shanna, who doesn't talk and wrestles with dinosaurs.

Thankfully, Marvel realized that putting out a book devoted to nothing but female nudity just weeks after they got lots of positive press for publishing the first comic devoted to a Hispanic female superhero was kind of stupid. So the artwork was redone, various "details" removed, clothes sketched on... and the only real thing anyone was going to buy the book for was removed... and yet, it was still published.

The basic upshot of my article was to discuss the history of Shanna, talk about how bad the new book is and say that it was a horrible, exploitative and just plain DUMB move on the part of Marvel to do this with a character who was, historically, one of the first modern feminist heroes.

To put this in perspective for all you non-comic readers, It's like Wonder Woman becoming a nudist pole-dancer because some yutz writer thought the "Amazon warrior/Greek Mythology" thing was dull and he wanted to draw her spread out on a runway in a strip club.

I was expecting to get some irrate e-mail from one or two Frank Cho fanboys. But I wasn't expecting this... a letter from a guy whose given name in his e-mail, signature and the end of his letter were the name and class of a Dungeons and Dragons character!

Wowsers, that is the most blatant example of biased, judgemental, irrational"reviewing" I have ever seen. And I read Scott Keith. Would it kill you to say anything good about the book? Anything at all? Like "The lettering was good quality." Or something. While it seems obvious you have an pre-existing attachment to the Shanna character, this invective against a remake of a tired old marketing ploy merely portrays you badly. It reflects not at all against the new book or its characters as your opinions seem to have no grounding in logic, only your unsupported stance that the new book is junk.

OK, the new book is simple, and the first issue not particularly complex. And it would seem they stole part of Hellboys origin. (I will add the caveat that I don't read the Hellboy comic, I have only seen the movie. So maybe that's a whole other bag of worms.) But you don't point out any of that, only display your encyclopedic knowledge of another version of the book/character. I want to know why you didn't like this book, not how much better a 30 year old comic was. As far as I can tell, your review would have been exactly the same had you not actually read the book, excepting the direct references to the plot.

I have read your work before, and have enjoyed it. But this time your writing comes off as a childish rant against the corruption of a boyhood crush. Honestly, if you ignore the identical names, and dismiss your preconception of what the character should be, is the book all that terrible? I thought it was pretty blase myself, but the "thumbs up" panel got such a laugh from me that the book gets a second look when the second issue comes out. I will refrain from going into length about what I think of the original Shanna character, but I refer you to your own history. Which states that Shanna was created, not out of inspiration, but out of a need to capitalize on a political movement. How can that work out well? I'm just saying. And to request your readers track down what are undoubtedly many hundreds of dollars worth of long out-of-print comics to support your statements seems a little bit elitist. I may be way off on the prices there, but still, who has that kind of time? This had to have crossed your mind at some point while you were writing it, so why use that kind of non-support for your opinions?

Finally, is it really necessary to hound once again on the "adolescents" that you seem to think will be drawn to this type of artwork? That sort of thing is the kind of notion one expects to see outside of the comic-buying fandom, not in it. The hatred does not become you. Furthermore, I don't know a single person who fits that discription and also reads Liberty Meadows (which uses exactly the same type of artwork.) Is it possible that cheesecake artwork does not coincide with a adolescent mentality? I would also like to point out that you seem to have contradicted your stance on cheesecake. You implied that if there had been actual nudity, the book would have had at least one redeeming characteristic. This in opposition to your (also) implied hatred of cheesecake comics. How does one reconcile these conflicting views?

I hope to hear back from you, but I won't hold my breath.


Berimon Aghar Truesilver
Paladin Extraordinaire

Well, I'll be damned if I'm going to take this abuse from someone who signs his e-mail with the name of his D&D character, so I wrote him back...


You may stop holding your breath! I have replied to you, as I do reply to everyone who sends me something about my writing. I apologize for taking until Tuesday to respond to your letter. Yesterday, I was out most of the day and spent the evening with my girlfriend, it being Valentines' Day and all.

First of all, I would like to thank you for managing, unlike many of those who have complaints about my writing, for managing to keep a civil tounge in your head. Many is the letter I have received that was filled with profanities, misspellings and misspelled profanities. At least, I assume "comie fagot" was meant to be something other than what was spelled.

Let's take this line by line, shall we?

Wowsers, that is the most blatant example of biased, judgemental, irrational
"reviewing" I have ever seen. And I read Scott Keith. Would it kill you to
say anything good about the book? Anything at all? Like "The lettering was
good quality." Or something.

If you want to see me say something good about a book, I have a review of Batman: The Man Who Laughs up that I already had three people tell me today was well worth reading. My review that is, not the book I already knew the book was worth reading.

Regarding lettering; no critic I know spends much time praising the letterer on a comic much, unless they are doing something extraordinarily ornate, such as Todd Klein's work in 1602. The simple fact of the matter is that we are very bitter that for all our skills in putting words together, there are some smucks out there who are pulling down six-digit salaries for having paid attention in Handwriting-class in the 2nd grade rather than pulling on little Rachel Irons' pigtails.

In all seriousness, I will say that Frank Cho draws a very nice woman. Would that he were capable of drawing more than the one.

While it seems obvious you have an pre-existing
attachment to the Shanna character, this invective against a remake of a
tired old marketing ploy merely portrays you badly. It reflects not at all
against the new book or its characters as your opinions seem to have no
grounding in logic, only your unsupported stance that the new book is junk.

Ah, I see the problem. You want me to use logical dictums to judge an entirely subjective medium that is based upon differing artistic principals.

Everything I write IS illogical by nature. Critics deal with emotional mediums and write about how they feel about things. The thing of it is, and I seem to repeat something like this every few months: my opinions are no better or worse than anyone elses. The reason I have a column is because I am an ordinary comic-reading guy who is very outspoken about what he likes and what he doesn't like who is able to write about that in an ammusing (to most people) manner.. This doesn't mean that I expect everyone to agree with me. If I had that kind of amazing power to influence people, Judd Winick would have been fired years ago.

And it would seem they stole part of Hellboys origin. (I will add the caveat
that I don't read the Hellboy comic, I have only seen the movie. So maybe
that's a whole other bag of worms.) But you don't point out any of that,
only display your encyclopedic knowledge of another version of the

Just for your knowledge, the Hellboy origin in the movies was true to the comics. You should go read the BPRD and Hellboy comics. They are VERY good.

And thank you for calling my knowledge of the original Shana encyclopedic. Actually, I did do quite a bit of research for the article ahead of time so I didn't know EVERYTHING off the top of my head.

I want to know why you didn't like this book, not how much
better a 30 year old comic was. As far as I can tell, your review would have
been exactly the same had you not actually read the book, excepting the
direct references to the plot.

Funny. I thought I made it pretty clear that I didn't like the NEW Shanna because it is style over substance, art over story and the objectification of women over the empowerment of women that was the original impetus for the character. That was the main reason for my spending the opening part of the column talking about the reasons why the character was created in the first place.

Incidentally, it puzzles me how many people will accuse me and my colleagues of not having read a book we talk about whenever we give it a bad review. Like we have nothing better to do with our time than sit around, cackle like flying monkeys and plot about which comic creator's career we are going to destroy with bad publicity.

I have read your work before, and have enjoyed it. But this time your
writing comes off as a childish rant against the corruption of a boyhood

Actually, I didn't start reading comics until I was 19 and that was six years ago. So "boyhood crush" may be stretching the term a bit. Crush, as well, is a bit of simplification. Suffice to say, having been raised by a mother who was every bit the superhero in her own way, I have a great fondness for strong female characters in comics and am sickened to see one of the better ones reduced to a non-speaking flesh golem.

Honestly, if you ignore the identical names, and dismiss your
preconception of what the character should be, is the book all that

Assuming you like an original plot in a book and characters that aren't cardboard cutouts, yes. Yes, it is that terrible.

I thought it was pretty blase myself, but the "thumbs up" panel
got such a laugh from me that the book gets a second look when the second
issue comes out. I will refrain from going into length about what I think of
the original Shanna character, but I refer you to your own history. Which
states that Shanna was created, not out of inspiration, but out of a need to
capitalize on a political movement. How can that work out well?

Well, Denny O'Neil and Stan Lee did okay when they started writing about minority issues in their comics. Milestone Comics, which spun out of a movement to create more minority superheroes, also did quite well. And Wonder Woman, which was by its' author with the intention of showing that women could be just as capable of men has done alright for itself as a title.

I'm just saying. And to request your readers track down what are undoubtedly many
hundreds of dollars worth of long out-of-print comics to support your
statements seems a little bit elitist. I may be way off on the prices there,
but still, who has that kind of time? This had to have crossed your mind at
some point while you were writing it, so why use that kind of non-support
for your opinions?

Actually, in these days of the Internet you can get most of those titles at fairly reasonable prices from various dealer. Lone Star Comics and Mile High Comics are two of the best, though I noticed that they have raised their prices on the original Shanna series in the wake of the new title when I was looking for a cover-scan of the first issue of the original Shanna #1.

But I was not trying to get everyone to go out and track down back issues.. I was just saying that if people DID want to read the old Shanna stories for themselves to see what the original character was like, here's what to look for. My intent was to help those who wanted to see for themselves; not to kick the horse in the head from the other side of the fence and dare it to get at me, so to speak.

Finally, is it really necessary to hound once again on the "adolescents"
that you seem to think will be drawn to this type of artwork? That sort of
thing is the kind of notion one expects to see outside of the comic-buying
fandom, not in it. The hatred does not become you.

Hatred is a strong word. Loathing is more accurate.

I work in a comic store. I am, despite being 20 pounds overweight, pretty much the antithesis of the stereotypical CMG (Comic Book Guy). I have a girlfriend. I have lived on my own for five years now. I have an active social life outside of my work and my collections.

I work very hard in my workplace and out of it to ensure perspective customers that there is nothing wrong with the hobby. I work with a lot of charities and other organiziations, talking to parents and showing them that comic books are a wonderous and glorious thing that gets kids interested in reading and the arts.

All of which is rather difficult to do when you have the CMBs drooling over books like "Shanna" just down the aisle and loudly exclaiming "Wouldya look at the ass on this bitch!"

Don't laugh. I've actually had this happen at work. He's now banned from the store and I haven't seen the young mother and her 7-year old son since.

So yeah: I have little paitence for the loud minority who use comics like "Shanna" and "Liberty Meadows" as a substitute for pornography... especially the ones who stop to browse through it in the store after we seal it up. And it really irks me that Marvel is catering to these people with books like "Shanna". Of course, they'll probably start doing the same with with Supergirl #1 once it comes out and then I'll just have a nervous breakdown and be taken away to a nice rubber room somewhere.

Furthermore, I don't know
a single person who fits that discription and also reads Liberty Meadows
(which uses exactly the same type of artwork.) Is it possible that
cheesecake artwork does not coincide with a adolescent mentality?

Perhaps. I will admit that my experience on this is limited to my own reading of one Liberty Meadows book (didn't do anything for me) and the customers at my comic shop who DO read (and I use that term loosely) Liberty Meadows. All of who, it might be noted, have always spoken more about the artwork and "doing that woman proper" rather than Frank Cho's writing.

Maybe its just my store? Maybe there are many fine gentlemen who pick up a copy of Liberty Meadows on the way home before putting on their dressing gown, pouring themselves a glass of brandy, settling by the fire, reading their comics and then settling down to continue reading the untranslated works of Samuel Becket in the original French.

I would
also like to point out that you seem to have contradicted your stance on
cheesecake. You implied that if there had been actual nudity, the book would
have had at least one redeeming characteristic. This in opposition to your
(also) implied hatred of cheesecake comics. How does one reconcile these
conflicting views?

The whole original intent of the book was to have a whole lot of pages of a naked, jiggling babe to ammuse those who would be ammused by such things. I find it rather funny that this one factor: the major selling point for the book that has been discussed over the last two years leading up to its arrival (i.e. nudity) has been totally removed by a fearful Marvel and that the one thing that created interest in the book (outside of Frank Cho's fans) is no longer there.

Simply put, I was speaking ironically when I said that nudity would have been a redeeming characteristic. I suppose one could make an argument that it would have been better for Marvel to keep the nudity in rather than to produce a half-assed pornographic comic (you'll forgive the pun, I hope) but I would argue against this book wether it had no nudity, partial nudity, full nudity or nude pictures of Joe Quesada. Especially if it had nude pictures of Joe Quesada!

Best Wishes,

Melmac Silvertongue
Half-Elf Bard Unparalled
Keeper of the Seven Rings of Vindiesel

And I was was writing this, he replied back, politely having conceded most of my points and asking me to read a review he wrote on his journal and let him know what I think of it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Long Awaited Review of Green Arrow: Year One #1

I double checked with my comic shop and yes, they DID sell out of the book.

Even though I had to go to THE OTHER comic shop to get it, I'm not too upset.

It's the first time a Green Arrow book came even close to selling out that I heard of in recent memory.

So what did I think of it?


Neatly modernized Ollie from industrialist turned hippie into an adventure-seeking playboy, ahead of his time in the extreme-sports craze

Establishes Ollie having a social conscience even before he lost his fortune.

Establishes Ollie being willing to tell off the fat-cats (albeit after a few drinks)

Neatly reestablishes the Howard Hill connection (Howard Hill was the archer who did all the stunt work on the Errol Flynn Robin Hood picture) first created by Mike Grell, albeit Ollie now buys his infamous longbow at a charity auction rather than recieving it is a gift. Still, a young Ollie apparently did take archery lessons from Howard Hill as a boy.

Establishes another Errol Flynn connection with Ollie being an avid sailor - a vocation that Flynn enjoyed before he achieved stardom and a hobby he enjoyed afterward.

Estatblishes that Ollie is a bit of a spoiled brat and a jerk... but that there is a nice guy trying to get out.

Despite all his faults, Ollie actually is a likeable character in this.


Only three more issues to go.

Jock and Diggle aren't taking over the Green Arrow/Black Canary book in four months.

Overall? Best book all week.

The Stupid Is Hurting My Brain.

I just read a second-hand blog report that some studio asked Neil Gaiman about adapting Anansi Boys into a movie.

He turned them down.

Why? Well, apparently...

1. They wanted to make all the main characters American, rather than British.
2. They wanted to make the main characters Caucasian, rather than Black.
3. They wanted to get rid of all the gods.

Now just in case you haven't read Anansi Boys - which you should do, as it is brilliant - it centers around a man of African heritage - an American moved to England named Fat Charlie, who finds out that his recently deceased father was Anansi, the African Spider god of tricks and stories. Most of the characters in the story are of African heritage. A good number of them are Brits. And two or three characters are gods or are being posessed by one.

So setting the whole thing in America with an all-white cast and no gods is a bit like saying you will make Harry Potter. But the story will take place in Kansas. And everyone will be a Native American. And we're taking out all of the magic.

UPDATE: By request of the fearsome Ragnell the Foul, here is the original article link and the exact quote.

"When Anansi Boys first came out, we got a number of very big directors going after it and all of them basically ended up saying the same thing, which was they had real problems with a story as black people as leads in a fantasy movie. They just loved the story… could they just lose all the fantasy elements? They’d want a guy and his long lost brother and their shady father and… but you can’t. It’s one of those strange moments when you go “I don’t know if it’s racist or if it’s just stupid…” and probably more stupid than it is racist, but…"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 7/11/07

It seems that my comic shop is failing me on a spectacular level.

Last week, I had to scramble to get a copy of Sheena because it wasn't added to my pull-list, despite my request when I opened my pull-list a few months ago.

This week, I found out that Green Arrow: Year One #1 wasn't on my pull-list either, as I filled out the paperwork to add both books (as well as any and all Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps tie-ins) to my list. It wasn't until I got home and started checking e-mail that I found out that Green Arrow: Year One #1 come out today.

Apparently my comic shop ran out of it before I go there, as I didn't see it on the shelf.

So for now, here's my fast thoughts on everything I DID get to read this week.

Look for a very special review of Green Arrow: Year One #1 later this week.

COUNTDOWN #42 - Page by page, my thoughts.

Cover - Shouldn't they have saved this for Mary in a bikini?

p. 1-3 - Hmmm... is this how it played out or is this just a nightmare?

p. 4 - Huh. So Deadshot found their costumes and dressed them up in their costumes before tying them up. Kinky. But I have to ask, why does Deadshot give a flying flip about someone killing a superhero? Answer - someone must be paying him to care.

p. 5 - Just two issues for them to go total fan-service on Mary's new skirt. Still, at least it looks like she IS wearing underwear, though it might be a thong.

p. 6 - I think Riddler is much more interesting as a good guy. There. I said it.

p. 7-8 - There's something about Harley Quinn doing acrobatics in a mini-toga that is just... so... inspiring of thoughts unworthy of an enlightened 21st century male. Hmm... I think I detect a theme with all of the reforming baddies.

p. 9-11 - How can we make the Donna Troy/Jason Todd storyline even more uninteresting? I know! Let's add the new Atom!

p. 12-13 - How DOES that skirt stay down with all that wind rushing around?

p. 14 - Yep. Defintely wearing a thong.

p. 15-16 - And here, guest-writing for two-pages... Judd Winick presents "The Snarky, I Hate Everyone" Batman!

p. 17 - Nice to see Lois Lane acting like Lois again instead of being Jimmy Olsen's cheerleader.

p. 18-19 - And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the scene I've been waiting ten issues to see: James Jesse doing what he does best.

p. 20 - That was sudden. Still, even though I know how Trickster going to get out of this one (he still has his Air Walkers) ... I did NOT see that coming... mostly because of the bad transition between 19 and 20. Also, who is talking; Trickster or Piper? Piper would make sense but the balloon is going to Trickster.

p. 21-24 - Blah, blah, blah. Is ANYONE even reading this History of the Multiverse thing?

FABLES #63 - Slowly building to the epic conclusion. I wish that we could cut to the chase, yet I wish it would last forever. Is this how it felt when The Sandman (which was just before my time, but only just...) ended?

GREEN LANTERN #21 - I loved this issue, but I fear it might be somewhat inaccesible to someone who doesn't know the full rich history of The Green Lantern Corps. I think perhaps I may have to write a column to do something about that. Something somewhat akin to Jess Nevin's website, but without getting bogged down in the names of every darn Lantern in the background artwork.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #7 - Now here is another book that is Geoff Johns doing what Geoff Johns does best, but somewhat more smoothly than in the new Green Lantern. A new hero is introduced in events that recall what happened in earlier issues of JSA but do not require you to have read that issue. You get introduced to the history but without it being a tedious lecture or a text box.

And as for this new hero... well, I'm interested to see what they do with him... which is more than I can say before I opened it, as I've never been a big fan of Commander Steel, Steel or any other character with Steel in his name apart from John Henry Irons.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Looking To The Stars - A Fortnight's Worth of Comic Reviews

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artist: Pete Woods

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Adam Beechen
Artist: Al Barrionuevo and Bit

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Jodi Picoult
Artist: Paco Diaz

I'm including all these issues together since they do, at some point, tell the same basic story from different angles and it is really more fair to judge all of them together.

So what happens? Well, in Wonder Woman, Diana kvetches about how yummy Nemesis is in the middle of a war zone while fighting her own mother while the JLA stand around and do sod all. In Amazons Attack, the unnamed American President declares war on the Amazons - by sending the National Guard out to arrest the inhabitants of every Amazon-inspired women's shelters and putting said in habitants in concentration camps. And in Teen Titans, Supergirl and Wonder Girl - who rather take exception to innocent women being locked up (including Wonder Girl's mother) - attack one of said concentration camps while the rest of the Titans try to stop them, only to get arrested by the Army for assocating with known Amazons.

Now, there's been a lot of bad characterization marring this crossover from Day One. But it wasn't until these issues that things got downright stupid.

* With Amazons attacking both Washington DC and Los Angeles as well as proving they have the ability to hit Kansas (they set a part of the wheat belt, including Smallville, on fire) shouldn't the first order of business be to mobilize and fully organize the military?
* Is it really productive, in a losing war, which is basically being fought because a nation that thinks your nation doesn't respect women, to start imprisoning without trial a group of women whose only crime is running a shelter for abused women based on the ideas of female empowerment?
* Is even the most pig-headed of military police officers going to arrest a group of superheroes for "associting with Amazons" when said heroes were, two minutes earlier, engaged in trying to stop said Amazons from attacking said military police and destroying a concentration camp?

This is not to say that the series has not been entirely without merit. There are some good character moments as well in Teen Titans and Amazons Attack.

* I like how Kara and Cassie are not, as the covers suggest, mindlessly following along with their Amazon friends but how they have a more personal stake in what they are doing. Cassie is trying to save her mother and Kara is helping her best friend.
* I like the irony in the two most inheritly war-like teenage female heroes in the DCU being the ones pleading to give peace a chance.
* I also like the irony of Supergirl trying to down Air Force One.
* I like how Green Arrow is already on the case when Batman calls him to warn him there's a bomb at a nuclear power plant near his city.
* I really like Ollie being presented as knowing enough about weapons to confirm, upon finding the bomb that "this is too high tech for Amazons." Seeing Ollie portayed as being competent is such a rare treat these days...
* On the above note re: Amazon Tech - granting that the Amazons are being presented as being stuck in the Bronze Age, this had always been depicted (especially during the lead-up to Infinite Crisis) as being more by choice than anything and that they were more than capable of making big modern weapons. I mean, didn't this whole war start because Diana was locked up for refusing to tell the Pentagon how to make a Purple Death Ray?

But one thing I don't like at all - and judging by the other blogs and boards I've read I'm far from alone in this - is how Jodi Picoult has totally mischaracterized Wonder Woman.

In my estimation, there is one very simple thing to remember in writing Diana. She does not doubt herself.

She may question her actions after the fact - appraise her tactics and try to improve - but she does not angst. She does not mope. She does not, in fact, go emo and get introspective. At least, not in the middle of a war zone where her people are running amok and killing everything with a third leg.

Under Picoult's pen, Diana went from Amazon Princess to Jewish American Princess. She spent less time being a wonder and more time wondering. She spent less time on the frontlines and more time in the coffee line.

And one final comment for Ms. Picoult, who had this to say about fan criticism of her Wonder Woman run in SFX Magazine.

"You have to keep it in continuity or you will be attacked by the messageboards, which are made up of really scary people who live in their parents' basement. If you mess with any details at all, they're all over you."

Actually, Ms. Picoult, I believe most of the complaints we basement-dwellers had were less about continuity and more about the fact that you depicted Diana, in her secret identity, being unfamilar with how a gas-pump functions, how a credit card works or how to order coffee, despite having lived in Man's World for the better part of a decade.

Now, of course they don't have such things on Paradise Island. And it makes sense that coming into the culture of America Diana would be unfamilar with how these things work.

BUT - and this is a big BUT - even if you ignore the old comics other writers wrote which said that once Diana came to Man's World, she made contact with a female scholar of Ancient Greek Culture who helped Diana get accustomed to Man's World - you still might credit the Amazons with enough intelligence to realize that things may have changed in the 2000+ years.

You might think that, having decided to send an Ambassador to Man's World in order to teach them of the greatness of the Amazon lifestyle, that they might use some of that magic they're sitting on the let Hippolyta view Man's World and declare "Yeah... they're screwing the planet up and we need to help." to further scout out just how much the world had changed so that their ambassador might be fully informed upon the way of life of the people she is going to educate.

And while this would probably not include lessons upon how to order a latee or the wonders of Visa, there would almost certainly be SOME mention of how they have horseless chariots and how it might be a good idea to learn how these things work so as to better relate to those she is trying to teach.

And you might think that after nearly ten years in Man's World, there are some things Diana might have tried to pick up on!

The funny thing is I have a friend - not a comics reader but a fan of Picoult's novels - who asked me about the first issue. I mentioned the gas pump thing and she was confused.

"Wait... if she doesn't know how a gas pump works, how does she refuel the Invisible Jet?"

Now, I know that Diana doesn't really have the Invisible Jet anymore and that it probably ran on magic instead of jet fuel. But that's not the point. The point is that someone who is NOT a comics fan thought of a good, logical reason in the context of what she knew about the character as to why Diana WOULD know how to refuel a mechanical vehicle.

That's not a continuity argument - that's just common sense.

Gail Simone can't take over this book fast enough. And as much as I loathe the idea of Judd Winick returning to write Green Arrow AND Black Canary every month... I think Diana and the Amazons need Gail more right now.

Grade: D for the whole series. D for Amazons Attack. C for Teen Titans. F for Wonder Woman.

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Paulo Sequeira and Amilton Santos

I didn't have high hopes for this one based on the preview and Bedard's early interviews, in which he said that - having been optioned to write a Black Canary: Year One story - he chose instead to write a solo-adventure for her, saying that she didn't need a Year One story.

And then this issue went on to prove, very much, exactly why Dinah DOES need a Year One story.

I wrote last week about how scattered Dinah's treatment has been by various writers in various books recently. One minor part of this I didn't discuss is that nobody can seem to agree on whether or not Dinah was a JLA founder in the reality of New Earth. This story says no. Another book says no. And yet Dinah was seen fighting the aliens whose attacks led to the foundation of the JLA alongside Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman...

Bedard brings up another confusing point here by reintroducing Craig Windrow - an ex-husband who, Canary fan that I am, I had never even heard of until this issue. Indeed, Craig is so obscure of a character that even Dinah's biography on the best damn Black Canary page there is, Canary Noir, doesn't even mention the guy past a name. Anybody know what issue it was revealed Dinah was married for 9 months to this guy at the age of 18?

But it's really not fair for me to grouse about what I wish this issue had been when what it is isn't bad at all. While the opening Flashback that was previewed months ago had me worried, it turned around with the first page where Bedard does something a lot of writers can't - he actually showed, for a second, the good man that Ollie is underneath all the bluster, shouting and showmanship and why Dinah loves the brute. And the scene with Sin decimating a playground is cute.

Still, I can't help but wonder about Dinah being put into the token girlfriend post, albeit indirectly here. The baddie of the piece, Merlyn, is only interested in Dinah because of her connection to Green Arrow and not because Dinah is now guarding the girl who was meant to become the next Lady Shiva - which is something you'd expect the League of Assassins (of which Merlyn is part) to be interested in.

The long and the short of it is: Dinah - and by extension her adopted sister - are only of interest in relation to Green Arrow. Which is a REAL bad way to start off a series that is already beset by worries of Dinah being reduced to sidekick status. Granting that Dinah doesn't exactly have a big, personal Rogues Gallery... there had to be a better way.

Still, the characterization isn't too bad. Let's wait and see where this takes us.

Grade: C

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: George Perez and Bob Wiacek

It's running a month late but oh ye gods was it worth it!

This book is pure undiluted awesome. The perfect balance between form and function, art and writing, stuffing and potatoes. It is all that, the bag of chips and the toy prize.

But I do go on.

Seriously, though - if you want to introduce someone to the pure coolness that can be the DC Comics Universe, this is a good book to start with. They may not know thing one about Supergirl or Lobo but this issue will tell them everything they need to know by issue's end.

Of course while this issue is part of a larger story, it's no less accessible because of it. I imagine this will read quite well in the upcoming Hardcover collection which I have already ordered for my library.

If you aren't reading this book already, you need to be.

Grade: A

Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Adam Beechen, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Artists: Carlos Magno and David Lopez

I remain one issue away from dropping this book.

The Rogues story is the only thing that keeps me here and even now that's a pretty thin handhold. About the only thing keeping me here is the fact that Piper and Trickster had nothing to do with Bart Allen's death directly and that it looks like the criminal faternity is about to bust them both in a big way.

It's not that the book is badly written. For the most part it is high quality writing. I just have little interest in watching Mary Marvel go evil, Jimmy Olsen trying to understand why he is going through an erratic series of superpowers or watching Holly "Catwoman Junior" Robinson camp out in an Amazon Women's Shelter/Day Spa.

Still, the funeral moments in the most recent issue are true to form. And the tape of Bart filming himself to talk about death rings truer than any characterization Bart has had since before Infinite Crisis. Still, a part of me wonders why nobody seems to act when two costumed villains show up in front of a superhero funeral chasing after two men...

Grade: C

Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano

A bit of a step-down from last month, but that's a bit like moving down from the peak of the Empire State Building and going down one step on the last staircase. Still, it is nice to have it confirmed that there's something going on with Melvin Potter apart from a total nervous breakdown and that Melvin isn't so far gone that he won't allow a lady in her underwear to cover-up in a bathrobe before tossing her off a rooftop.

In all seriousness, Brubaker and Lark are the perfect team for this book. This is the best monthly book Marvel puts out. At least, for this moment. Fantastic Four and Thor may overtake it given time... but for now, it is bar none the best book Marvel is putting out right now and one of the best put out by any company.

I hope the Eisners this year will reflect this.

Grade: B

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher

The definition of a true artist.

Someone who writes something that is basically fan-wank fan-fiction and you know it is fan-wank fan-fiction and yet it is good in spite of and because of this fact.

It's no secret that Paul Dini has a major crush on Zatanna. Big enough that he's actually married a stage magician who bears an uncanny resemblence to the Big Zee herself and big enough that he sneaks her into any story he can. So here we have a story involving evil stage magicians, Batman having to turn to Zatana for help and bad things happening as The Joker becomes involved.

Sounds like a recipe for bad Mary-Sue fan-fic, doesn't it?

And yet, it isn't. But it is. This is very much Paul Dini showcasing why Zatanna is a cool character. And it doesn't come off as being the writing of a pitiful fanboy writing fantasy stories about his crush.

And why is that? Because while he is indulging himself, Dini sticks strictly to the framework of the DC Universe. So while we do get his fun-loving, wide-smiling take on Zatanna from the Animated Series episodes he penned, we also get the subtext of how Bruce no longer trusts Zatanna due to her part in wiping his mind during Identity Crisis. That is why this book works so well and why Dini continues to be one of the driving forces in modern comics.

Grade: A

Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar

Ah, there is so much to like about this issue.

Johnny Storm flirting with Black Panther's amazon bodyguards.

Black Panther's desire not to be disturbed during his "kingly duties", i.e. using the men's room.

Storm's insistance that Ben Grimm prove that her hair is real and not a wig or a weave.

Reed Richards giving Hank Pym the most backhanded complement in history. (I'm paraphrasing but it was basically "I couldn't gain your expertise in biochemistry without several weeks of intensive study.")

And that's before the actual plot involving the Frightful Four trying to kidnap Susan Richards kicks in!

And before anyone panics about this being a throwback to "Suzie the Girl Hostage", worry not. Sue manages to outwit, overpower and hold her own against all of the Frightful Four until the team leader pulls a gadget to take her down.

Take that, Jessica Alba!

This is a good comic for all fans of all inclinations. It's accessible to new readers while leaving plenty for the old fans to feel good about. But most importantly - it's just plain fun, which is something we have all too little of in comics these days.

Grade: B

Company Name: DC Comics

This is book of the week.

This is book of the month.

This is book of the year.

This may be the book of the decade.

Why? Simply because of this page.

A quick bit of explanation is in order as to why this above image is so important and so awesome.

The guy in the bottom-left corner is Sinestro. Once the most respected of Green Lanterns, he was the first to be kicked out of the organization after being found guilty of protecting his sector of space by instilling order through fear and repression. Sinestro was banished to the Anti-Matter universe and met up with a group of aliens, The Qwardians, who gave him a yellow ring that allowed him to hurt the relatively invulnerable Green Lanterns.

Most of this issue details how Sinestro has formed a Corps of his the most ruthless, sadistic and fear-inspiring bastiches in the universe in order to take on The Green Lanterns using yellow rings like his own, powered by pure fear.

The man in the lower-right corner is Kyle Rayner. Chosen by the last of the Guardians to safeguard the last Green Lantern ring, Kyle eventually brought about the resurrection of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians. They rewarded him by giving him the title of "Torchbearer" and decided to make Kyle the first in a new line of Green Lanterns - one who would have the power of willpower made manifest infused into his very self instead of through a ring and lantern.

By the end of the issue, it is revealed that Kyle was actually chosen to be a host to Ion - a being made up of pure willpower who does indeed grant great power to it's host... but only so long as it has a host. Kyle is then tossed to Parallax, a similar being who is the very essence of Fear Itself. Now possessed by Parallax, Kyle has allied himself with The Sinestro Corps.

The bloke in the upper-left is Hank Henshaw aka The Cyborg Superman. Posessing the power to control machinery and robotics, he was responsible for - during The Death of Superman destroying Coast City, hometown of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Since that time, he has gone on to use his powers to take control of The Manhunters - a group of robots created by the same Guardians who created The Green Lanterns to police the universe before it was decided that killer robots were unreliable.

That red guy on the left under Henshaw? That's a Manhunter. They're pretty bad ass on their own but they've become even worse since Henshaw gave them the ability to siphon the energy right out of a Green Lantern ring. (This occured in the Green Lantern monthly comic, BTW)

The kid in the middle? That's Superboy Prime. The only survivor of another universe that was destroyed, he went a wee bit crazy and wound up nearly destroying our universe during Infinite Crisis. The Green Lanterns were put in charge of imprisoning him and the Sinestro Corps busted him out. He has all the powers of Superman but Kryponite from our universe doesn't hurt him. Both he and Henshaw were being held prisoner by The Guardians before the Sinestro Corps busted them out. Naturally they both have a grudge.

So here you have a man who was once the greatest of Green Lanterns and one of the most intelligent generals in the Universe, a man who had the mental fortitude to wield the power of a god and not loose himself to it, a master of robotics who dominated an entire species of evil robots and a teenage boy who can punch holes in reality.

And they all now either have rings that allow them to do whatever they can think of or are posessed by a being who gives them that same power.

Now THAT is a group of super-villains!

You all remember super-villains, right? They're the guys superheroes used to fight in big crossovers before they fought each other over laws regarding power registration or whether or not you should commit suicide to save a friend's life.

But it's not over yet. Not only do we have a formidable group of baddies leading an army of darkness the likes of which the universe has never seen... do you see that big guy in the back? The giant who says "As am I."?

That's The Anti-Monitor. AKA The Ruler of the Anti-Matter Universe. AKA Guardian of the Sinestro Corps. AKA The big baddie from Crisis of Infinite Earths who is supposed to be dead.

He's back.

And commanding the army of darkness being lead by the aforementioned four heralds, any one of whom would be an Omega Level threat for the Green Lantern Corps any day of the week.

Oh, this is going to be GOOD! :)

Grade: A

Company Name: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Homs

You know, I KNOW I'm supposed to be sad that Sonja's companion sacrifices himself and uses his last bit of magic to save her life.

I know I'm supposed to feel bad that all of Sonja's companions are dead and she alone is left to face the evil that is even now corrupting her world.

But really? I'm glad that we're getting back to what I always felt Red Sonja was about - one woman against the world, who doesn't need anyone guarding her back. She make take companions on for a time or join a party - but for the most part, Sonja is a lone wolf apart from society.

That being said, while I like this issue... I still have no idea what the pirate story has to do with anything. Still, the art is good and Omeing is weaving a strong tale of fantasy here. I look forward to the payoff.

Grade: B

SHEENA #1 (OF 5)
Company Name: Devils Due Publishing
Writer: Robert Rodi
Artist: Matt Merhoff

The first comic-book heroine to hold her own monthly title has returned home.

Yes, Sheena was the first monthly comic title-bearing action-heroine, beating Wonder Woman out by a matter of months. Learn something new every day, eh?

And while we are learning, let us first forget. Forget everything you think you may know about Sheena. Forget everything you think you know about jungle girl comics being nothing but cheesecake. Forget the stupid Gena Lee Nolin series and the even stupider Tanya Roberts movie. And above all, forget the host of imitators that have come before and after this book.

Rodi has neatly updated Sheena for the 21st century, moving the world's most famous jungle heroine from The Congo to The Amazon. Instead of fighting smuggelers and poachers, this Sheena fights loggers and banana republic dictators. And while this issue is a little exposition heavy and a bit slow in giving us the jungle goddess herself, I think this slow build will only serve to make the action to come all the deeper.

I've read several complaints from other readers and reviewers about this book and how it has too much plot and not enough Sheena. Sadly, by not enough Sheena most of them seem to mean 'not enough forced cheesecake artwork'. Or, in one case, "2 many words! Where are the b00bz?!?!" This wanking rabble will no doubt be pleased by Frank Cho's upcoming sorta-sequel to Shanna, The She Devil.

The rest of us, more sensibly, will be reading Sheena. Accept no substitues!

Grade: A

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Alé Garze and Marlo Alquiza

It's always painful when a writer has a book taken away from them and they are given an all too brief ammount of time to try and sweep up the mess before closing-up shop. Case in point: the scene on this month's cover does not take place in this book. In fact, Superman doesn't show up until the last two pages.

So what does happen?

Basically, Joe Kelly is given the thankless task, in one issue, of tying up all the loose plot-threads from the last 18 months of Supergirl. Needless to say, he doesn't quite manage it. Because while we do get a lot of nice character moments here with Kara trying to make ammends to everyone she treated badly, there's still a lot of unresolved questions... such as how did Kara hurt Batgirl with a crystal her body generated if the whole "phantoms from the Phantom zone" story arc and everything that followed was just an illusion created by Dark Angel... which is what I THINK happened.

So long, Joe. Know that at least one of us critics will miss you.

Grade: C

Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Oliver Coipel

I freely admit - I bought this one purely because I figured it was a sure bet to be worth a few bucks on ebay by the end of the week. I hadn't actually planned to read the thing until I noticed that it was written by JMS.

Now, I seem to be one of the few who actually enjoyed his mythological take on Spider-Man. And while the idea he presented was just an idea and not meant to be taken as gospel, it did show that JMS had a deep knowledge of mythology as well as an ability to reimagine old archtypes in a new setting.

With that in mind, it seems to make perfect sense that he be charged with bringing Thor - long asleep since he averted the cycle that made the gods of Asgard endlessly repeat Ragnarok - back to life in a new series.

I suspect I may be picking up issue #2. Honestly, this book is a bit of a slow start and serves mostly to catch-up those who did not read the last Thor series and wonder just why Thor has been absent for so long, why he would feel a need to return to Earth after basically dying and where he is now. But ignoring the slow pacing - which, in a JMS story is usually a sign that something big is building - this is not a bad first issue at all.

Indeed, I dare say that there is a storm on the horizon and I'll defintely be picking up issue #2.

Grade: B

Five Reasons Why, As A Kyle Rayner Fan, I'm Not Upset By The SinestroCorps Special

Just got this comment in one of the earlier threads...


I had to reread that a couple of times because, even though this line of thought was originally about Black Canary, I just read the Sinestro Corps Special and I'm pretty devastated over what's become of Kyle Rayner.

I'm having a hard time trusting DC at this point.


I'm a big Kyle fan too (he was the character who basically got me into comics) and I think that was one of the best written comics from ANYONE in years and the first time I've seen Kyle done right in a while. So here's a my list of five things I actually liked about the story that involve Kyle.

1. Kyle as an Outsider

While it was always a lot more prominent during the early Marz issues, Kyle has always been a character apart from any group he was in - usually latching on to one or two members to socialize with outside of work. In the Titans, he mostly spent time with Donna off duty even before they became an item. In the JLA, he really only hung out with Wally West and, when he was a member, Connor Hawke. So I like Kyle's mental monologue during his first appearance in the book about how happy he was to finally feel like an actual part of something... only to wind up being seperated from the other Lanterns by being turned into a living power battery by The Guardians. It's a good character statement that rings true.

2. Kyle as the most human Lantern

On that note, I love Kyle's insistence that other Lanterns NOT stand on ceremony and letting them know that he is, in fact, only human - no pun intended - and not an angel, as one Lantern insists. Given that one of Kyle's biggest worries about having his powers was that it would put him apart from normal people (well... at least until Winick took over and turned him into Happy Power Godboy), I thought that was a nice moment as well.

3. What Kyle Fears Most

Kyle does have a number of fears about being a Green Lantern. Of course Sinestro preys upon one of the biggest here - fear of loved ones dying because of one of his enemies. We don't know for sure that Sinestro is telling the truth but it's plausable enough - even to someone who isn't being physically and mentally tortured by the most evil beings in the universe - that it's enough to get Kyle thinking "Wait... who COULD be next" But what's really interesting is how Sinestro, in order to total win Kyle over, takes advantage of one of Kyle's other biggest fears - Merging with Parallax.

Seriously - how many times has it come up that Kyle feared going the same way Hal did? He lived in the shadow of everything Hal did during all of his heroic career. It was refered to in a flashback in one story near the end of Ron Marz' original run as Kyle had a series of nightmarish hallucinations. It was refered to by Mark Waid when Kyle wondered about the Batman "take out the JLA" protocols and pointed out that a Green Lantern going crazy WAS a legit concern when they were voting whether or not to kick Batman off the team. And then there was all of Rebirth, where Kyle is seeing all of his friends being possessed by The Spirit of Fear itself...

Getting Kyle to think he was responsible for his mother's death was the fingerhold. Tossing him into the lion's den with the baddie who was responsible for so much suffering, knowing full well that he needed a host? That was the handhold.

4. Sinestro viewing Kyle as a credible threat.

In Rebirth, Sinestro didn't view Kyle as being worth his time in a fight - an estimation that Kyle proved wrong and which we see in flashback at the start of the issue. While I'm sure there is some petty revenge in Sinestro coming after Kyle first (Kyle DID brand the symbol of the Guardians into Sinestro's back), there are also several practical considerations.

First, Kyle is - technically speaking - the most powerful of the Lanterns. Taking him out of the fight early would be a tactical advantage.

Secondly, Kyle is something of a symbol to all the rookie Lanterns who consider him the most powerful among them and the best of the best. His sudden disappearance puts fear into the ranks just before The Sinestro Corps show up en masse to layeth down the smack.

Thirdly, just how big of a mindfuck will it be to everyone - Guardians included - when their Torchbearer shows up batting for the other team? That's going to demoralize and freak out all the rookies who aren't already shaken - to say nothing of Kyle's fellow Lanterns from Earth.

5. Further Erosion of the Winick Green Lantern run

Call me petty if you will, but I am somewhat gratified that it turns out Kyle coming up with the name "Ion" was a result of being merged with a big green willpower being and not because of any actual wish on his part to use that codename seriously. It also means I can now write off a lot of bad characterization as Kyle being possessed.


I understand your concerns and I won't spoil for you all - but i have it on high authority that Kyle is going to come through this alright. :)

Logically, I can think of a few ways that he can get out of this on his own - the big one being that as the only Green Lantern of Earth who is used to overcoming his fears on a daily basis, he'll have a better source of leverage to eventually force Parallax out once The Big Yellow Bug is distracted. But it's only been one issue. We shall see.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Upset By Something At DC Comics?

If you're really that upset about something going on at DC Comics right now, sending a letter to The Man might be a bit more effective than venting on my blog.

Dan Didio, Executive Editor
DC Comics
1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Just be sure to be polite and to the point.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Mike Grell Rainy Day Special!

In which I may lose what little Feminist street-cred I have and explain why Mike Grell's Green Arrow doesn't make Black Canary look nearly as bad as some people think it does.

I didn't really want to write another article about Green Arrow and Black Canary this soon.

But with my car having died earlier in the week, all my spare cash and then some going to car repairs leaving me unable to buy comics this week and my intentionally avoiding reading any comics news so I do not get spoiled on anything Green Lantern related... well, I didn't have much else to talk about apart from what I got in the mail.

See, there's a whole other can of worms I didn't touch in all the talk about an Ollie/Dinah union - and that is the worries that this upcoming Green Arrow/Black Canary book is going to become...

GREEN ARROW/black canary

Given the previews of the material thus far, I agree that this IS a large concern. Dinah's portayal over multiple books has been woefully inconsitent over the past few months. There's been little sign of the competent, independent and clever woman who headed up field operations for Oracle.

Instead, we had the woman once stated that she would never have children because she didn't want to risk raising orphans... abandoning her job as field commander for a covert heroes team to devote more time to being a mom/adopted big sister to Sin - a girl she rescued from the ignoble fate being trained as an assassin.

Now, I'm willing to forgive this simply because Dinah's always been shown to have strong maternal instincts, the situation with Sin couldn't be solved in any other way and she's in a much better place with a larger support group of friends these days. Persumably one of Sin's many aunts on the Birds of Prey would take over should something ever happen to Dinah.

But then we had her turn around and not only join a bigger and more prominent superhero team (The Justice League) but take a position of responsibility as leader of that team. Despite this apparent promotion, she hasn't actually been seen acting in the capacity of a leader and Superman and Batman actually seem to be running the show most of the time in the Justice League book and elsewhere.

But the piece de resistance came in Green Arrow, where Dinah and Ollie hook-up again in a scene which ignored the many issues between the two that needed to be talked-out in favor of a two-day off-panel shagfest. Dinah completely abandonds her responsibilities as a mother and no mention is made about what provisions might have been made for making sure that Sin's sitter is appraised that "Mom is working overtime". And what is worse, this same scene also portayed Dinah as an empty-headed bimbo who - if the dialogue can be believed - is more impressed by Ollie's taking a vow of celibacy rather than Ollie's desire to make himself into a man worthy of the woman Dinah has become.

And then there was the fight scene in Green Arrow #75 in which Dinah's powers were negated by a Deus Ex Machina, Dinah herself was rendered completely useless as a melee fighter and... well, I think this picture is worth a thousand words.

Yes, somehow Deathstroke gets his sword into Black Canary's mouth in the middle of a fight without cutting her face. And if the perspective here can be believed, she's got a good bit of it in there. The symbolism is inescapable and there is no way this could have been unintentional. Rather a bad foundation to start the new series on when there were rampant concerns about Dinah becoming the "girl hostage" even before this issue came out.

And yet, despite this clearly being a major insult to the character after years of outstanding portayal in JSA and Birds of Prey, that hasn't stopped me from hearing this phrase from people on both sides of the argument.

It's not as bad as Mike Grell's Green Arrow...

I disagree, but not for the reasons you might think. I do think that Longbow Hunters is, for the most part, a good story and that Grell's Green Arrow is a lost treasure that needs to be collected in TP format. I do agree that Longbow Hunters is a very bad Black Canary story, but not for the reasons that are often cited by Black Canary fans. And I think that Dinah's portayal in Grell's work is, with a little knowledge of the times, not nearly as bad as his critics claim.

1. Dinah Lance was raped in Longbow Hunters

This spectre keeps coming up despite numerous citations in the actual books and statements by Mike Grell. So let me state right now - THERE WAS NO RAPE IN LONGBOW HUNTERS.

How do we know? Well, assuming that the word of Mike Grell himself isn't enough for you (he talks about the backlash in detail in his Longbow Hunters commentary on his website.) or the fact that the Green Arrow series showed Ollie and Dinah going through therapy together and Dinah outright saying that she wasn't sexually assaulted, there is the evidence in Longbow Hunters itself - written before Grell could have made any attempts to back-pedal or cover-up any past-misdeeds.

In Book Two, before we get any inkling of just how badly Dinah has been tortured in the art, we overhear the two drug-dealing criminals discussing Dinah. The first thug - the man doing the actual torturing - seems more interested in the act of torture than the fact that he has an attractive young woman in a helpless position and thus a true Sadist. The other thug laments that what Thug #1 is doing is "a waste (of a) good-looking broad". This seems to suggest that while Thug #2 has contemplated having his way with a helpless Dinah, he has not done so.

Two pages later, we see Dinah.... bound up and stripped of everything save the blouse she was wearing when she went undercover to investigate the local drug dealers. She is bruised and bleeding from multiple wounds, still alive but in decidedly bad shape. Before Green Arrow appears and kills both men, Thug #1 asks Thug #2 if he wants Dinah "while she still has a face". Not only does this suggest that there had not been any actual rape before this point but the fact that it is said in front of Dinah also suggests a level of psychological torture along with the physical.

Consider how Dinah is kept near-naked but not completely naked. While she is vulnerable, she is still "decent". Studies have shown that it is much more traumatic for a person undergoing torture to be allowed some clothing rather than to be completely stripped - because you fear what little you have left to lose and cannot console yourself with the thought that "Well, at least it can't get worse." Since they were torturing Dinah for information, it seems likely than they would use every advantage they could to get Dinah to crack and would not be above suggesting that rape was possible.

It is this possibility that leads Green Arrow to take the actions that he does. He does not hear the dialogue from outside the warehouse. He only sees, through a window, that the woman he loves is in danger - bloody, beaten and nearly naked. It is not impossible to believe that Ollie might leap to the conclusion that many readers did and think, based on the image of a bound, bloody and near-naked woman, that there had been a rape. And it is this possiblity, as much as what has been done to his Lady Fair, that sparks the chilvaric Oliver Queen to intentionally take a life for the first time.

Still, further evidence that there was no rape comes in Book 3 of the series, where Ollie sits in the hospital and watches over Dinah, as a nurse describes her injuries. No mention is made of signs of sexual assault or rape and given that Mike Grell has never been one to skimp on the gory details as needed, I think we can be sure that if he had meant for Dinah to be raped, he would have said so outright.

2. Dinah Lance was beaten far too easily in Longbow Hunters

Another major argument is the idea that Dinah Lance - a skilled martial artist and actual superhero with a superpower - could be overpowered and captured by a group of commmon drug-dealing criminals is unrealistic.

Were it the Dinah of today, I would agree whole-heartedly. But what many Black Canary fans forget is that at the time of Longbow Hunters, Dinah was not nearly as adept a martial artist as she is today and she had a good deal less control over her power. While she is now a master of many disciplines and easily one of the Top Ten Overall Fighters in the world, she would have been sorely pressed to make the Top Twenty Judo Masters back then. And while she can easily break a pool-ball without causing any other disruption or breaking a sweat today, she was - depending on the writer - often barely able to use her Canary Cry without bracing herself then and with little to no accuracy. So for the time, it was not nearly as unlikely that Dinah could be overpowered by a sizeable gang.

The problem - and indeed the biggest problem I have with Longbow Hunters as a story, is that we have no way of knowing for sure. The circumstances under which Dinah was captured are not depicted anywhere. The last we see of Dinah before the reveal of her torture is from Ollie's perspective, as he checks up on her going undercover. She is last seen walking into a bar with one of the local drug-dealers.

For all we know, there could have been a gang of 200 ninjas waiting for Dinah inside the bar or she may have just been slipped a drugged-drink after asking too many questions. We don't know if Dinah went down fighting or if there was even a fight. We don't know if she was kept drugged and that kept her from being able to focus and use her Canary Cry or if the thugs just got lucky and slit her throat to the degree that cost Dinah her powers before she had a chance to fight back.

This uncertainty is the biggest weakness Longbow Hunters has as a Black Canary story and it cannot be denied that the story did dimminsh Dinah somewhat as a character. Grell has admitted that his whole purpose in having these things happen to Dinah was to force a development in Ollie's character. And while I enjoy the story for how it did develop Ollie and force him to grow up in a number of ways, it cannot be denied that it did Dinah a major disservice.

Thankfully, I do believe that Grell would realize this mistake and attempt to correct this in his regular Green Arrow series. But opinions do differ...

3. Dinah was little more than a token hostage in Grell's Green Arrow.

There are times when being a columnist for a comic book magazine is a real pleasure. And one of those times is when you're given an excuse to crack open the ol' longbox to reread some good illustrated literature for the purposes of your work. This is exactly what I did with my personal collection of Green Arrow in order to answer this claim, one way or another.

So what's the verdict? Apart from Longbow Hunters, there is only one occassion where Dinah winds up in a bad situation and Oliver comes to the rescue. This occurs in Green Arrow #50 where Dinah was among a number of people taken hostage by Muslim Terrorists at the Space Needle while Oliver was overseas.

However, while the news of Dinah's being held hostage is enough to get Ollie to drop everything to come to her rescue, Dinah is far from a helpless damsel in this issue and in fact works with a cop on the scene to try and perform a rescue from the inside. In fact, Ollie's attempts to save the day only wind up further endangering the hostages and force Dinah into action while she was pleading caution, given that the terrorists had planted explosives and were holding the triggers, so Dinah is actually shown to be the more competent of the two in this situation.

But don't take my word for it: I asked Mike Grell himself in e-mail and he had this to say about Dinah's apparent life as Ollie's "Girl Hostage".

Under my watch, Dinah only needed rescuing in "The Longbow Hunters" and that was a neccesary dramatic plot in order to bring about the changes I wanted to make in Ollie. If you recall, she returned the favor more than once."

That she did; both Green Arrow #32, when she saved Ollie from being tortured at the hands of a local gang and in The Black Arrow Saga in which Dinah helped to prove Ollie not guilty of High Treason.

4. Dinah was largely absent from Grell's Green Arrow, except as a token girlfriend.

This claim gets bandied about a lot and there is some justice to it. Dinah is largely absent from the book, particularly in the first few years of the series. There are, however, a number of reasons for this when one considers the time-period.

First, quite simply, the book was titled "Green Arrow". Not "Green Arrow and Black Canary". So it would stand to follow logically that while Black Canary would be a part of the book, the focus of the stories would not be upon her.

Also at this time, in addition to living in Seattle with Oliver Queen, Dinah Lance was also a member of The Justice League. Many fans today weren't collecting back in those days but back then, in the days after DC Comics' first crisis, the editorial teams were very concerned about continuity and making sure that all their ducks were lined up in a row. As such, it seems likely that Mike Grell - who was given a good deal of freedom to put Ollie in his own little corner of the DC Universe - be asked to keep things open so that Dinah would be free to go off and be with the JLA as needed.

Finally, Ollie and Dinah were always depicted as having independent lives as heroes rather than being an official dynamic duo that could only worth together. Even in Longbow Hunters, the suggestion is that while Ollie and Dinah are living together, they are investigating their own cases seperately and helping one another only when asked - something that the independent Dinah would be sure to insist upon given Ollie's attempts to protect her throughout the Denny O'Neil days.

Thankfully, it's easy to confirm or deny your suspicions when you have Mike Grell's contact information. Here's what Mr. Grell had to say on the subject of Dinah's absence from the title.

Dinah was being actively featured in other titles and I didn't want to step on the toes of other writers or get involved in the continuity buffs' inevitable argument over whether superpowers actually existed in Ollie's new "real" world.

That being said, the title was, indeed, "Green Arrow", which meant that the stories focused more on Ollie. That being said, I felt that Ollie's relationship with Dinah was far more important thant their teamups in crimefighting. Everything I did was to focus on the relationship. Dinah was anything but a sidekick - she always proved every bit as capable as Ollie when it came to ass-kicking and, in general, she was always the one with a more stable attitude."

It is ironic, to me at least, that so many people see Dinah's absence from Green Arrow's adventures as a sexist slight when the intent was that Dinah was off having her own adventures - that she didn't need a man to watch her back while she was off saving the world.

5. Grell destroyed Dinah's character by taking away her powers/personality/costume.

I've often heard it said that the powers do not make the character and I am a deep believer in that idea. As such, I do not believe that Grell did anything to hurt Dinah's character by taking away her superpowers, given that she was still the same fiercely stubborn woman who was willing to kick some ass in the name of justice.

Grell also never really took away Dinah's costume. While she did spend most of her appearances as a hero in Green Arrow out of costume, there were logical reasons for this. For one thing, in most of these appaearances, Dinah was working undercover - naturally she wouldn't be wearing her costume then. In another of these appearances - the story where she saves Oliver from a slow death by torture, killing the men who were hurting him in the process - she is out of costume because obviously she wouldn't want her heroic identity attached to a killing, even if it was justified.

And Dinah actually did appear, in the infamous wig and fishnets, in a span of adventures going from Issues #59-62.

In conclusion, while Dinah Lance was not a full-partner character in Mike Grell's Green Arrow she was hardly the defensless doormat that some critics would portray her as. This misconception came about, I think, because Grell's most famous and most well-circulated story is also the one in which Dinah fares the worst - Longbow Hunters.

When one looks at the whole of Grell's work with both characters, one sees a relationship in trouble because of two people who love each other enough to kill and enough to die, but not enough to truly trust the other completely. It is a lack of communication on the parts of both parties - Ollie regarding what he's doing as he wanders the globe looking for meaning in his life and Dinah regarding her worries about where the relationship is going and whether or not they can make things work - that leads to its' eventual destruction. Sadly, until the issues presented in the Grell run are confronted and can be dealt with in a mature fashion by a writer who can write relationships outside of marathon sex-sessions, I fear that we will never see an Ollie/Dinah relationship worth of the name.