Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Icons For the Winick Hater In You!

So I was chatting with a friend earlier in the week and the subject of The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special came up. More specificially, we talked about how the reviews for the special, for the most part, have been overwhelming negative. Now, both of us have been harsh critics of Winick's work with Green Arrow and Black Canary for quite a while now. So all the recent complaints on the blogosphere about how Judd wrote Dinah Lance as a helpless bimbo and Oliver Queen as a shallow liberal stereotype were no surprise to us.

And it was at this point she lamented, "I need a t-shirt that reads 'I Hated Judd Winick Before It Was Cool'.

Well, I can't afford to make t-shirts but I am pretty handy with Photoshop. By the end of the evening, I had icons made of Green Arrow and Black Canary saying her slogan.

I posted the icon to my journal and used it to answer a few posts around the blogosphere. To put it mildly, it struck a chord with the annoyed and the frustrated left in the wake of the Wedding of Doom! And this lead me to think; there's a whole lot more characters Winick has messed up. And a whole lot of icons that people might want made for their character of choice.

So here it is; the complete works of an evening's labor. Something for everyone, I think.

Are you a Kyle Rayner fan who was saddened to see your favorite hero's book slowly turned into a platform for Judd Winick's personal pet issues? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Jade fan who was shocked to see your favorite heroine get stripped of all personality; first as a generic girlfriend to Kyle and then as a generic female in Outsiders? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Green Arrow fan who has loathed every single thing about the last four years and how your favorite hero went from being a Hemingway-quoting man of the people into a Bill Clinton caricature with a goatee? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Black Canary fan who despised The Wedding (not very) Special and how your favorite heroine was turned into an empty-headed bimbo with all the fighting skills of a trout? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Connor Hawke fan who grew depressed as your hero became more and more of a bit player, with little of the spark he had in the good old days under Chuck Dixon? We have an icon for you!

Are you a fan of Mia Dearden, who was sickened that her entire past was rewritten for the sake of a Very Special Episode of Green Arrow? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Black Lightning fan who hated how the man who once retired from superheroics when he thought he couldn't use his powers safely was turned into a cold-blooded killer in defiance of decades of characterization? We have an icon for you!

Are you an Arsenal fan who can't stand how your favorite character was turned from the competent leader of two separate Titans teams into the biggest idiot ever? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Nightwing fan who was annoyed that your favorite character was written so badly out of character that you couldn't tell if the man calling himself Nightwing was Dick Grayson or Jason Todd in disguise for several months? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Dr. Light fan who was flabbergasted that the man who once decried the lack of Asian female protagonists in popular culture would take one of the few Asian female heroes DC Comics has, depower her in the most degrading way possible and then leave her bleeding to death on the floor without ever resolving her story? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Deathstroke fan who is disappointed that the once moral mercenary has been transformed into yet another generic ninja villain with no code of honor at all? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Captain Marvel fan who can't believe that Judd Winick has been selected to rewrite Captain Marvel and Shazam for the 21st Century while Jeff Smith's stories are taking place on another Earth? We have an icon for you!

Are you a Mary Marvel fan who is irked that, for some reason, Mary wasn't good enough to be considered as the next heir to the title of Captain Marvel (despite years of stories to the contrary) and that she was left falling to her doom with no resolution in Winick's Shazam series? We have an icon for you!

These icons are free for anyone to use, so long as credit is given where credit is due. Use them in good health and spread the word of why you use this icon wherever you may go on this wacky place we call the Internet.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 9/26/07

Only two books this week. But what we lack in quantity, we more than make up for in quality.

GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #5 - The rumors of Oliver Queen's death have been greatly exagerated.

Of course fictional characters can never truly die. But in the spiritual sense, whatever is happening in the upcoming Green Arrow/Black Canary book by Judd Winick, Oliver Queen is alive and well as a spiritual presence in the works of Andy Diggle.

If you're not already reading this series, pick-up the trade in a few months. You'll be glad you did for the great characterization, masterful dialogue, amazing artwork by Jock and a story that doesn't require a sudden faux-shock death at the end to make you pick up the next chapter.


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #13 - And lo did Matthias the Critic, Oft called The Man of the Star did look upon the newest Justice League comic. And yay, it was good!

He beheld the sight of a Justice League book which did not liken Batman unto a man playing Halo 3 in God Mode. And Matthias did find it pleasing indeed.

He beheld a tale in which Black Canary actually acted like a leader of the team which she is said to lead. And yay, it was good!

Yay, even the metatextual jokes involving Black Lightning's hairdo and John Stewart shaving his head and growing a goatee could not spoil the divine beauty of this book.

Nor could some very strange artwork by Joe Benitez which made The Cheetah look like some strange monster bred twixt Paris Hilton and Lion-O darken Mattias The Critic's mood. For compared to the dark days that had come before, this book was like cream unto excrement. And it was good!


An Interview With Ollie Queen (With all apologies to Chris Sims)

Click Here to read the inspiration for this feature.

Hey Ollie. Good to see you back in action this week after getting killed last week. Seems like you cheating death is becoming a regular thing, huh?

Well, that's good to hear.

Green Arrow: Year One has been getting rave reviews. Do you think everyone should be reading Andy Diggle's work, even if it doesn't involve you?

Well, sadly we'll be limited to Hellblazer after next month.

So tell us... if you manage to survive your "death" in the opening arc of the new Green Arrow/Black Canary book, do you plan to find a new appreciation for life and the simple things? Telling Dinah you love her every day, for instance?

Good to know.

Finally, are you going to beat the ever-loving snot out of Judd Winick for what he's done to you, Dinah and the all of your family and friends in your comic over the last four years?

Good on you, sir!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Best Of The Reviews of the GA/BC Wedding (Not Very) Special.

I promised myself I wasn't going to review this book. It's much better for my blood pressure that way and my explaining how truly madly deeply bad Judd Winick is at writing Green Arrow AND Black Canary has now reached the point of self-parody.

Hell, I'm barely holding back after the interview where Judd admitted that a) he was pretty much forced into writing the wedding special and b) they were going to kill Dinah off before TPTB decided it would be more interesting if Ollie were to die.

Still, people wanted to know what I thought about the wedding special. Apart from that, to quote Jay Sherman, "It Stinks!"

Thankfully, I'm far from the only person who seems to have loathed this comic. Indeed, the people who liked it for any reason apart from the art are few and far between. So I've collected all of the best reviews and critiques of the comic in question and gathered them up with links and my pick of the best line from each review.

I am done with Green Arrow. - According to Mr. Winick, Black Canary cannot fight. She cannot do anything on her own but have sex and make cookies. He truly is pioneering in the field of feminism.

Sweet? Or Clusterfrig? You make the call. ) - Anyway - there is one more fun part where it shows the various other members of Evil-Doers Inc, or whatever, being rounded up while Dinah yells at them using language that makes even Guy Gardner shield his delicate ears, but - onto the honeymoon.

The Wedding of Doom! - Ah. In Judd we trust to fail, right? Particularly when it comes to decent characterization, respect for women, and a coherent plot.

The Wedding Special While I've no doubt that my reaction to Judd Winick being handed one of the best, strongest, and most popular female characters in the DC Universe would be massively entertaining I refuse to subject myself to it.

Spoileriffic Wedding Special reactions - It meant she needed saving from Deathstroke again - twice in as many months. Isn't this the same woman who went toe-to-toe with Deathstroke in the Birds, and who sent him scurrying off?

Weekly Haul for September 19th - To make a short story very long then, going in, everything about this marriage feels extremely false.

Let’s destroy the viability of this franchise! - CANARY CRY? No. Canary whimper.

Here Comes The Bride; There Goes The Reader - If the idea is that canceling Green Arrow and making it Green Arrow/ Black Canary will bring Canary-fans to prop up Green Arrow’s failing fanbase, then surely the Canary that shows up should be familiar to those fans?.

Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special: The Return Of ........
- Memo to Judd Winick: Dinah Lance aka Black Canary is one of the top martial artists in the DC Universe. She definitely has more moves at her disposal than kicking a man in the nards!

A correspondence I'd like to see...

Scene from "The Making of the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special"

BC/GA Wedding Issue Review (or lack there of) - Canary, apparently losing her mind, more than any woman ever has in history of weddings, leaves the fight and runs after her ring. This is supposed to be funny, but it is offensive. Everyone is in mortal danger and one of the most skilled fighters in the DCU is worried about her wedding ring.

And finally, the one POSITIVE review I read in all of this (which I included only because it has a scan of the page where Dinah is casually lounging around the house in bra, panties and fuzzy high-heeled slippers...)

This Week's Haul: The Sexiest Week Ever
- Amanda Conner was a great choice for the art because no one does cheesecake better than her.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking To The Stars - HEROES; A WiR Fest?

HEROES returns this Monday and I for one can't wait. Reading the blogosphere the past few days, I can't help but wonder if I'm alone in this.

I've read more than a few blogposts involving HEROES in the past few weeks. Some, such as a statement made by one man ("Not even comics have managed to shove so many women into so many fridges in a single storyline.") made me wonder just how many comics they read to think that statement is even close to accurate.

Some, such as Hourly Bookseller's statistical analysis which shows how very little conversation occurs solely between female characters on the show, gave me something to think about though I question the accuracy of any statistics that draw upon a pool that features only 2 female characters in a sample size of 13.

I even read one comment on someone else's review of the HEROES DVDs (which I can't find now, else I'd link to it) by someone who freely admitted to having never seen the show but how she "knew" it was without merit because Jeph Loeb was a writer on it.

Now before I get accused of being an apologist fanboy, let me make one thing plain right now - I agree that that HEROES has indulged in more than a few sexist cliches of genre writing. Too many female characters, such as Simone Deveaux and Charlie Andrews, have no independent purpose in the story. Simone has no value other than as a dramatic wedge between the uneasy heroic alliance between Peter and Isaac and Charlie has no reason to exist other than to give Hiro the kick in the pants he needs to see heroism as a serious matter and not an adventure.

Even the two major female characters, Claire Bennet and Niki Sanders, are often defined by a role rather than their personality - Niki is a mother, Claire is a cheerleader. And even if they don't fit that stereotype over the course of the story, it's still a disturbing thing to think about even as a subtext to the narrative.

However, I think that the quality in other areas of writing as well as the great performances of a stellar ensemble cast have mitigated a lot of these cliches. In short, the good outweighs the bad.

That's why I'm writing this right now; because I can't abide the thought of people refusing to watch a good show after taking advice from critics who are passing judgement on something that they haven't watched and only know about by having read someone else's critique or because of bad statistics. That's why I'm going to count the actual number of male and female deaths in the series relative to The Official WiR and MiR lists on HeroesWiki.


These lists cover both the Heroes TV series and the on-line comic series but for the purposes of this analysis, we will limit ourselves to events that happen in the show.

Deaths will include any "fake deaths" (i.e. any time Peter or Claire physically "die" but are later restored by their powers) that occur as well as deaths that occur in alternate timelines, such as Future Claire's death at the hands of Future Sylar.

Minor characters are defined as any character with a non-speaking part (such as James Walker and his wife, who appear only as murder victims) or characters who have speaking parts in no more than three episodes, such as Charlie Andrews.


# of women who are subjected to physical, psychological, emotional, or sexual violence according to the WiR list: 17

# of men who are subjected to physical, psychological, emotional, or sexual violence according to the MiR list: 23

# of total women's deaths (including multiple deaths): 11
These women are:
* Claire Bennet (once by Brody Mitchum during attempted rape, once by Sylar in alternate future)
* Charlie Andrews (killed by Sylar)
* Simone Deveaux (accidentally shot by Isaac)
* Virginia Gray (accidentally killed by Sylar)
* Eden McCain (suicide, inspired by need to stop Sylar from stealing her powers)
* Dale Smither (killed by Sylar)
* Karen Sprague (indirectly killed by husband Ted's radiation powers)
* Mrs. Walker (killed by Sylar)
* Jackie Wilcox (killed by Sylar)
* Candice Wilmer (killed by Sylar in alternate future)

# of total men's deaths (including multiple deaths): 18
These men are:
* Noah Bennet (killed by Matt Parkman in alternate future)
* Brian Davis (killed by Sylar)
* Charles Deveaux (dies from illness)
* D.L. Hawkins (killed by Sylar in alternate future)
* The Haitian (killed by Mohinder Suresh in alternate future)
* Mr. Linderman (killed by D.L. Hawkins)
* Aron Malsky (killed by Jessica)
* Isaac Mendez (killed by Sylar)
* Hiro Nakamura (killed by Matt Parkman in alternate future)
* Nathan Petrelli (killed by Sylar in alternate future)
* Peter Petrelli (once after getting pushed off a roof by Claude Raines, twice by Sylar)
* Micah Sanders (killed in alternate future by The Explosion)
* Theodore Sprague (killed by Sylar)
* Chandra Suresh (killed by Sylar)
* Zane Taylor (killed by Sylar)
* James Walker (killed by Sylar)

# of women who die violent deaths: 9

# of men who die violent deaths: 17

# of women who die violently in the main continuity: 8

# of men who die violently in the main continuity: 12

# of women whose deaths occur off-camera or whose bodies are not ever seen on camera: 1
These women are:
Candice Wilmer (whose death in an alternate future is presumed since Sylar possess her illusion powers)

# of men whose deaths occur off-camera or whose bodies are not ever seen on camera:: 4
* Charles Deveaux (whose death from illness we hear described by his daughter Simone)
* D.L. Hawkins (whose death in an alternate future is presumed since Sylar possess his phasing powers)
* Nathan Petrelli (whose death in an alternate future is confirmed when Sylar uses his flight powers and confesses to the murder)
* Micah Sanders (whose death in The Explosion of New York is mentioned by Peter in an alternate future)

# of minor female characters who die: 5

# of minor male characters who die: 6

# of minor female characters who die violently: 4

# of minor male characters who die violently: 5

# of female characters who die peacefully: 1 (Karen Sprague)

# of male characters who die peacefully: 1 (Charles Deveaux)

# of female characters forced into a unwanted sexual situation: 3

# of incidents of a female character forced into a unwanted sexual situation: 5
These incidents are:
* Claire Bennet is nearly raped by Brody Mitchum.
* Lori Tremmel, a former cheerleader, was raped by Brody Mitchum
* Niki Saunders is forced by circumstance to take a job as a stripper to pay the bills.
* Niki Saunders is forced to strip by Linderman's thugs.
* Niki Saunders is forced to seduce Nathan Petrelli in order to pay her debts to Linderman

# of male characters forced into an unwanted sexual situation: 1

# of incidents of a male character forced into a unwanted sexual situation: 1
These incidents are:
* Isaac Mendez, who is seduced by Eden McCain's persuasion powers as well as her sex appeal into taking heroin against his will.


As a matter of course, the number of murders between genders on average does seem to be fairly balance.

* Of all the women on the show to undergo some kind of trauma
47% were killed violently in the main storyline.
* Of all the men on the show to undergo some kind of trauma, 52.2% were murdered in the main storyline.

If you include alternate timelines, these numbers skew much higher in favor of the men.

* Of all the women on the show to undergo some kind of trauma including alternate futures, 52.9% of the women were killed violently.
* Of all the men on the show to undergo some kind of trauma including alternate futures, 73.9% of the men were killed violently.

However, if one limits this study to minor characters, a disturbing trend emerges.

* 44.4% of the women on the show who die violently are minor characters .
* 29.4% of the men on the show who die violently are minor characters.

Interestingly, every single minor character in the show who is killed in a violent manner, male or female, dies at the hands of the super-power stealing serial-killer Sylar with one exception; Aron Malsky, who was killed by super-strong assassin Jessica.

Another interesting note; except for characters killed before the introduction of the character in the second episode, every character killed by Sylar can be identifided by name. With the exception of Aron Malsky, none of the characters killed by Jessica during her murderous rampages have ever been identified by name.

Of course it goes without saying that more women over the course of the show experience a sexual assault of some kind. What is surprising and disturbing is that of the three female characters who undergo some form of sexual assault, two of them are core female protagonists - Niki and Claire - and one of them accounts for 60% of the incidents of sexual assault in the show. Compare that to the one male character who is sexually assaualted and even then the circumstances of his assault are less cut-and-dry since superpowers are being used with seduction in order to secure a non-sexual end.


With the exception of one episode that doesn't count in the main continuity, there appears to be a fair balance of violent acts against male and female characters on HEROES. The one exception to this balance is that a greater relative percentage of minor female characters die than male characters. However, I believe the smaller female cast of the show skews these numbers somewhat and that a larger ensemble of female characters is needed to provide greater statistical balance.

There is a heavy imbalance of sexual assault against female characters in the show, but this is to be expected given the staggering high numbers of female sexual assaults compared to male sexual assaults in real life. What is not to be expected, however, is that most of these assualts should come from the background of one character.

And yet, despite this, I cannot find it in myself to condemm HEROES completely. While there are many female characters who exist only to prop up a male protagonist, there are just as many male characters who do little other than promote a female character. This is particularly evident in the Niki Sanders storyline where husband D.L. spends most of the later half of the season proving to be an incapable parent without his wife's support.

Indeed, while Niki's background reads like a checklist of female superhero cliches (abused child, recovering alcoholic, possible mental illness) it cannot be denied that she is the star of her storyline and that in The Book of Life, her husband and son are her supporting cast. How many comic books about a married woman with superpowers can say that? None that I can think of. And while Niki's journey through the first season is a primarily selfish one (she's not trying to save the world, she just wants her family back), at the end, when it comes to a choice of running away with her family or fighting a greater evil, she's ready to fight with the parking meter of justice.

Claire too is a surprisingly original creation. She isn't a typical cheerleader and despite her protests of how "being a freak" could ruin her life, she is still the first character to use her powers for a totally selfless reason in the first episode- saving the life of a fireman trapped in a train-car.

Indeed, Claire is one of the most selfless characters in the show and one of the few who does good things purely because it is the right thing to do. Peter wants to do good but is also trying to find his place in the world and prove himself to his family. Hiro wants to save people but doesn't really appreciate what that means at first and treats his quest like a video game. Even Isaac, the first character to say "I'm going to be a hero" outloud, is trying to find redemption for his drug use and win-back his girlfriend.

And despite having the old standby "I fight so nobody will suffer like me" background in how she is inspired to further heroism after surviving a rape attempt & accidental murder because of her healing powers, Claire doesn't act like your typical victimized crime fighter. She has an attitude. And while most of the adults in her life are manipulating her in some form or fashion, Claire is defiant against any attempts to control her destiny.


Does HEROES indulged in some cliches? Of course. What comic book, opera or epic tale doesn't? But I urge all of you reading this who haven't given HEROES a chance yet to watch it for yourself. Forget the numbers. Forget the statistics. Just watch and feel. That's what a good story is supposed to be about, right?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 9/19/07

Short and sweet, this week. No more than two sentences and a picture for each review.

BIRDS OF PREY #110: A decent filler issue with decent art. Always nice to see Helena get a chance to shine.

COUNTDOWN #32: Despite all the issues I have with Diana objecting to teenage drinking, the effects (or lack thereof) of alcohol on Kryptonian physiology and the fact that this issue contradicts every single thing we've seen regarding Black Canary's bachelorette party, I'm willing to forgive it because Tony Bedard remembered to include Dinah's close friends from Birds of Prey in the extensive party scenes. Also, every scene with Supergirl and Wonder Girl trying and failing to sneak drinks is adorable.

EX MACHINA #30: I just now managed to catch up on the back issues for this book. What was I thinking considering paying rent more important than this?

GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL #1: Rest in peace, noble archer. He can't hurt you anymore where you are now.
GRADE: D and that's only because Amanda Conner does good work.

HELLBLAZER #236: Hellblazer hasn't been this good since... well, at least since Mike Carey left the book. But I think if anyone can equal him, it's Andy Diggle.

JUNGLE GIRL #0: Remember the days when 25 cents got you a comic with less advertisements than art pages? Neither do I, but I'm sure they had to have been better than this.

JUNGLE GIRL #1: I thought it was impossible to make a book even more vapid and offensive than Frank Cho's Shanna The She-Devil. I'm sad to say I was wrong.

SHEENA #3: The first, and even with two other jungle-girl books cluttering the shelves, still the best. Accept no substitutes!

SPIDER-MAN RED SONJA #2: Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the definitive Peter Parker quote.


TALES OF THE SINESTRO CORPS PARALLAX #1: Kyle Rayner's personality is dead-on in this issue but why is he buff like Conan in the last few pages? Observe and note that only the dialogue baloon has been changed in the scan below.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Looking To The Stars - 09/17/07 - The Week In Reviews

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Marko Djrdjevic, John Romita Sr., Al Milgrom, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleeve and Lee Bermejo.

Like Daredevil #50 over four years ago, this comic makes use of multiple artists in order to justify it being a "very special issue". However, unlike Daredevil #50, rather than switching artists at random in the middle of one long fight scene, the art styles are used to mark a change in the hallucinations Matt Murdock experiences after being doped-up by long-absent nemesis Mr. Fear.

This approach is, to my mind, a much more effective use of the format. And what is more, Brubaker’s script caters to the artists and allows them to showcase their strengths relative to whichever portion of Daredevil history they were famous for doing art for in the past. The classic romance-comic style of John Romita Sr., the slightly harder pencils of Gene Colan and even the painted abstract expressionism of Bill Sienkiewicz are all in evidence and displayed quite well.

My one complaint; for all this book does to showcase some very fine artist and for all Brubaker’s skill in constructing a fast-paced story that moves us through Matt Murdock’s various visions of his past, not much else really happens, save that Matt finds out at the end of the book about the major event that occurred last issue. There are no amazing revelations in this issue. No sudden reveals, sudden deaths or even so much as a good-old-fashioned twist ending.

But in the end, that’s fine. Who ever said a 100th issue (especially when it’s actually #480 depending on how you count) had to be a be-all, end-all, extravaganza?


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert

I think it's safe to say, by this point, that anyone who would want to read this series probably is.

It has been two months and a recent poll on an independent blog, showed that Sinestro Corps is the most popular "event" series by a wide-margin right now. This is no surprise to those of us who have been reading the series since the first issue and were floored by the sheer audacity of teaming the two villains between the two biggest Crises in the last 25 years, the ultimate villain at the end of the highest-selling graphic novel of all time and a squadron of the worst the universe has to offer and letting them loose.

It would have been easy for the series to go downhill from there but it didn’t. Building off the mythology of one obscure story written by Alan Moore before his falling out with DC Comics, Sinestro Corps has become The Book of Revelation for Green Lantern fans as The GL Corps becomes a house divided and the wheels of Fate turn as piece by piece of a dire prophecy is set into place. And every single issue has ended with what I call a Doctor Who moment – a line, a revelation or a visual so amazing that the only basis for comparison I have is the kind of sudden cliffhangers that were routinely found on the very best episodes of Doctor Who.

If you haven’t gotten into this series by now, it’s not too late. The first book is on its’ fourth reprint and the rest should be easily available from any decent comics shop. You’ll thank me later, trust me. This is easily the best comic-crossover in decades – possibly of all time.


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Mike McKone and Andy Lanning

In all honesty, this book should have been Justice League of America #13. Because apart from some brief comedy at the start with Hal Jordan trying to get rid of a group of unwanted strippers and a quick flash of Dinah Lance's own bachelorette party, this issue had precious little to do with the upcoming wedding of Green Arrow and Black Canary.

And you know what? That’s just fine. Though part of me will always wonder whose idea it was to have a bunch of superheroines go out – in costume – to a place called “The Meat Locker” and if it was Diana who requested the Spartan Strippers.

But what this issue lacks in nuptial-related material it more than makes up for with sheer awesome including 100% recommended amounts of:

• Joker being written as the gods intended him; not taking anything seriously and quoting Mel Brooks..
• Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind of our generation and the greatest Joker straight-man ever.
• The Hall of Freaking Doom, baby!

But wait, there’s more! You also get the best scene with the new Firestorm ever, a guarantee of more John Stewart doing Green Lantern things by 2008 and a promise that the new Justice League comic will feature far less stories about people sitting around and talking to other and more stories with superheroes fighting actual super-villains!

If McDuffie can keep this ride going, this promises to be the best run any writer has had on Justice League since Grant Morrison.

Shame that McKone’s square-faced figures and uniform hairstyles (his Big-Boy Hal Jordan and jarhead Roy Harper scare me) are horrifying enough to force me to lower my grade on this one.


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

By now everyone has seen the previews which showed the first few pages of this issue. Enough was seen to know that an epic smackdown of godly proportion was about to begin.

But are the fists of a god of thunder the surest thing to humble a man of iron? Nay, there is one thing better for inflicting wounds than the righteous might of the Odinson…

… and that is the righteous words of the Odinson!


Straczynski’s dialogue hasn’t shone like this in years and he seems to slowly be building an epic tale worthy of his reputation and the name of Thor. And Coipel’s pencils crackle on the page with every crack of lightning and thwoom of thunder.

The only flaws I see in the thunder god’s armor is that this book is not for the impatient and that I can see new readers being lost since much of the story thus far depends upon the reader already being a fan of Marvel’s Asgardian Pantheon and familiar with what happened at the end of the last Thor series. Still, if one can bravely venture past these thorns in the path, they may fine a comic worthy of the gods themselves!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why Defend DC?

Just got done reading an entry over at Pretty Fizzy Paradise.

The short version is that some bloke named Dick has asked, in his blog, why it seems the greater number of people pleading for more racial/sexual sensitivity in comics seem to be die-hard DC fans and further asking (erroneously in my opinion) why it seems we come down so hard on Marvel when DC has had a greater number of scandals involving its' portrayal of female characters.

Kalinara - who being an editor on When Fangirls Attack is in a better position to judge than I- notes that it was Marvel which had one long string of offenses after another with the Mary Jane Statue and then the scandal over the Heroes for Hire Hentai cover whereas DC has never really had anything of that magnitude.

I have to agree. Yes, DC has rised some ire among some of it's female fans but the key word here is some. Off the top of my head, here's a few things I remember reading more than one complaint about this year.

* the comments by one editor that every woman should be reading Supergirl

* the Power Girl cover of JLA

* Black Canary becoming chairperson of the JLA and then taking a backseat to Batman in nearly every JLA appearance anywhere

* Vixen being made to look panicky in JLA to the point that Roy Harper had to save her

* Black Canary being married off to Green Arrow and the circumstances around how she accepted his proposal

*Jodi Picoult's brief run on Wonder Woman, in which Diana could not pump gas without the help of a man

* pretty much the whole of Amazons Attack, for reasons ranging from Black Canary and Power Girl being background players despite being the JLA and JSA leaders to the entire Amazon race being made to look like blood-thirsty femi-nazi stereotypes.

I've seen spirited rants about all of these things by comics bloggers of both genders over the past year. But nothing - save perhaps Amazons Attack and Picoult's writing - has attracted the kind of overwhelming consensus needed to be a proper scandal.

So why the disparity?

I think why Marvel may have attracted more anger than DC may come down to how they react to scandals. DC, and the people working for them, listen better than their counterparts at Marvel. For the most part, they seem like they truly want their fan's input on their work. At the very least, they put up a better show of pretending they care.

For instance - Tony Bedard and Will Pfiffer (the writers on Black Canary and Amazons Attack respectively) have been quite open in talking with fans who didn't like their stories in a reasonable and respectful fashion on their own blogs and boards. The Power Girl JLA cover too was handled in a reasonable fashion, with the artwork being changed before publication.

Compare this to Marvel's approach - where comments demanding answers about the MJ statue were deleted off of Joe Quesada's blog, Joe Quesada failed to see any problem with the Heroes for Hire cover and then - presumably after it was explained to him - said that it couldn't be sexist or degrading to women because it was done by a female artist.

I don't know if that's the answer... but it could be a piece of the puzzle, at least.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Looking To The Stars - 09/10/07 - The Week In Reviews

You all have my girlfriend to thank for this week's brief column. If it hadn't been for the books I was buying for her, I wouldn't have bought any new comics this week.

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: J. Torres
Artist: Lee Ferguson, Christine Norrie and Karl Story

I'm very torn on this issue.

Even ignoring whatever conflicting feelings I have over wanting to like the idea of a Dinah Lance/Oliver Queen marriage but not being overly happy with how it came about through editorial order and most of the execution thus far... there's still a lot about the book that I love and a lot I loathe.

I like how Ollie and Dinah sound like a real couple, snarky remarks and all.

I like how Ollie is portayed as wanting to be involved in the details and not being the stereotypical indifferent groom and Dinah is portayed as just wanting to get the job done with as little fuss and interference as possible. Very true to their classic personalities.

I like a lot of the little character moments, like how Ollie is portayed as knowing a lot more about gorumet cooking than Dinah. I like this not just for the sake of breaking stereotypes (the man knows what a gastrique is) or because it's funny (especially given Ollie's preference for simpler fare like chili) but because given Ollie's background as the Bruce Wayne before Bruce Wayne... it actually makes sense.

The artwork is, at times, gorgeous. Case in point.

On the other hand, there's a lot not to like here.

While this is comic is supposed to be a bit-more humor heavy to make up for the lack of action, a lot of characters are truly out of character for the sake of making a joke. For instance, Ollie expresses a reluctance to have their honeymoon on a tropical island. Because - ya know - he was shipwrecked on a tropical island once. While I can see this making a sort of sense...

1) They don't bother to explain the joke past Ollie raising an eyebrow and saying "An island, Dinah?" and Dinah saying "Oh... right. Sorry." Granting that anybody reading this probably knows Ollie's background involving tropical islands, that's still the kind of detail I can see a newbie reader being confused by.
2) It really isn't that funny if Ollie truly is traumatized by tropical islands.
3) If I want to go into severe nit-pick mode, I could point out that there is a long tradition of Ollie spending his time on tropical islands with no adverse effects. He did all of his One Year Later training on one. He's even been shown, in one story by Scott Beatty, to frequently strand himself on islands on purpose so as to keep his hunting instincts up to par. I suppose a case could be made that Ollie just associates tropical islands with training and would find it hard to relax on one. But if you have to reach that far....

Finally, while a lot of the artwork is gorgeous, some of it is just awful. Case in point...

Since when does Ollie use Aquanet on his beard?

And did I mention there's cheesecake?

Now, I'll admit to being a bit unfamiliar with the operations of your average sexy underthings shop, but I've always been under the impression that they don't allow you to try things on, for obvious sanitary reasons.

That being said, I do like seeing a portrayal of Wonder Woman that allows her to be one of the girls. I just wonder where the heck Zinda and Helena (aka Lady Blackhawk and Huntress - Dinah's teammates and Sin's aunts from The Birds of Prey) are in all of this as Dinah's relatively more recent comrades from the Justice League are helping her shop.

In the end, this book is everything the comic promises. It is Dinah trying to balance her duties as a soon-to-be-bride with her job as a superhero, on her own, with varying degrees of success. Provided you don't take it too seriously and just go with the flow, it's not all that bad. It's not all that good either, but it's not the things of mass protests either.


Company Name: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Noah Salonga

While I'm not quite so enamored of this series as the infamous Chris Sims, one cannot deny the sheer awesome power of this mini-series. And not just for the usual reasons involving Bruce Campbell cameos or the fact that we can always use another comic involving women kicking serious butt with little effort.

Heck, this series isn't even great for high metacomedy moments like the one where Gabrielle disguises herself as her own evil twin and then builds her credibility for NOT being a good guy in disguise. How? She points out just how common good/evil twins are and how two other people in the party of villains she is joining have good twins running around somewhere.

No, this series is great because it is a story in which Xena's sidekick - the Battling Bard Gabrielle - is able to talk Cthulhu (who is not so much in his house at R'lyeh dreaming as he is in a cave bitching about being overthrown by the stupid Titans) out of his slow war on humanity by virtue of the fact that everyone he really wants revenge on is already dead.

That's a +20 DC to Diplomacy Check moment, let me tell ya. (Ah, I love making gamer jokes in a comic magazine...)

Seriously, this is a good fun story. And the best part about it is that the ending opens the field up completely for an on-going Xena series. Which, with this writing and art team, would be a fine thing indeed.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Cathartic Link And Plug For a Cool Web Comic

Having just gotten caught up on the When Fangirls Attack feed and finding myself throughly disgusted with two sad little boys who don't like the girls playing in "their" clubhouse, I find myself compelled to say something.

Not to them, obviously. It wouldn't do a damn bit of good and besides - there's plenty of women who are more than capable of giving these boys the Internet equivalent of a verbal bloody nose.

So I figure... rather than write another angry rant and preach to the converted about how women have every bit as much right to read comics they enjoy as men (or sad little boys) do, why not do some good this morning?

Like, say, help promote an artist whose work I like and respect and who - oddly enough - pointed out Problem Number One with girls and comics in her own comic several years ago, in what is easily my favorite strip out of all of her work.

The comic is The Devil's Panties. The artist is Jennie Breeden. If you're not reading it now, you should be.

And on a personal note - I had this exact same scene play out when I was working in a comic shop several years ago. Mom trying to force her son who had no interest in anything but game cards to read a comic. Discouraging her daughter from doing the same. Never mind that we had two female employees in the store at that time.

And yes, make no mistake about it, I did correct Mom's presumptions and send her daughter on her way out the door with Teen Titans Go!.

It's not much, but it's a start.

Monday, September 3, 2007

On the Black Canary mini-series & Why Ollie Didn't Tell Dinah about THE PLAN

I just got done reading through quite a few blogs and have found, disturbingly, that a lot of people seem to be commenting on the Black Canary mini-series who either didn't read the book at all or seem to have, as many an English teacher has put it, "failed to comprehend the material."

Now, I'm of the position that a Green Arrow/Black Canary marriage - in general - would be a good thing. I'm not too happy about the execution thus far. I'm dreading the upcoming Green Arrow/Black Canary book for many reasons. And I think I would have preferred for this marriage to be coming about under the pens of writers who wanted to make the change rather than because some editor said "Make it so, Number One." Still, I think that later on, some good writers might be able to make something out of this concept.

But there are a lot of people who don't think this marriage is a good thing. They range the gamut from those who think that bad writing will taint this idea from the beginning to those who hold out hopes that Dinah Lance and Barbara Gordon will forsake Ollie Queen, Dick Grayson and all other men forever and then embark on a partnership that can best be explained by the 39-part fan-fict they just wrote entitled, Birds In The Hand, Two In The Bush.

And that's fine too.

What bothers me are the people who had a mad-on against Oliver Queen as a character, who are twisting any and every story they can get their hands on as a reason for why...

A) Olllie is not a good character.
B) Ollie should have stayed dead.
C) Ollie should be ripped apart by wild dogs and fed to pigs, after having his manhood ripped off and bronzed by Barbara as a wedding gift for Dinah before they move off to Boston.

One of the points that keeps being brought up by these people involves the Black Canary mini-series and how Green Arrow, without telling Black Canary, puts a plan into action that involves faking her adopted daughter Sin's death, setting himself up as being accidentally responsible for said death and sneaking Sin out of the country - all to throw off the League of Assassins, who want Sin as a figurehead to rally their warring factions around.

Is this a jerky thing to have done? Yes. Ollie himself admits to that and Dinah takes him to task for it in Black Canary #4. But before everyone drinks the "We Hate Ollie" Kool-Aid, let's recap the action of the main series... with some photographic evidence courtesy of scans_daily

Black Canary #1: We open in a fast-food place in Star City, as Dinah tells Sin about how she and Green Arrow first met auditioning for the Justice League. It is here, saving the Japanese Prime Minister, that Dinah first sees that underneath all his posing and bravado, that there is a nice guy in Green Arrow. They talk about how Dinah is still pondering the proposal and how Ollie has hurt her in the past but how he seems to have grown since then.

Hilarity ensues as Dinah leaves Sin alone for a few minutes, a fight breaks out in the playground and Sin single-handedly demolishes the place with her bare hands, unaware that they are being watched by a man who turns out to be Dinah's ex-husband, Craig. It seems that Craig owes a gambling debt to the wrong people and needs Dinah's help.

She helps and Craig, who now knows about Sin and Dinah's problems in finding a school for her, says that he knows someone at a special school for children with violent backgrounds in Star City and that he can pull some strings. The issue closes with Craig reporting to Merlyn (archer, Green Arrow baddie and card-carrying member of the League of Assassins), who we find out is using Craig as a hook to get to Black Canary, to get back at Green Arrow.

Black Canary #2:We open in another flashback, with Ollie telling his sidekick Speedy (aka Mia) about the first time he thinks Dinah started falling for him. This conversation occurs as they watch, from a distance, as Dinah and Craig are dropping Sin off for her first day of school. Ollie is somewhat suspicious about Craig just suddenly dropping out of the blue like this, but Dinah dismisses his suspicions as jealous ranting when the subject comes up as Sin, Dinah, Ollie and Mia have dinner together that night.

Ollie is right to be supicious, however, and the issue ends with one huge fight as the League of Assassins storm the school, Sin fights them to a standstill and is caught only after Merlyn, disguised as Ollie, shows up to "rescue" her. We also find out that the main reason Merlyn wants Sin, apart from being a means to spite Green Arrow indirectly, is to unite the various warring factions of the League of Assassins behind the girl who was being trained to become the next Lady Shiva before Black Canary stepped in and adopted her.

Black Canary #3:We open on the scene of the crime as Ollie, Dinah and Mia learn about how Sin was kidnapped. Dinah is angry and frantic, for obvious reasons, to the point that she throat-grabs a police officer who questions whether or not the superheroes have any right to be there. Ollie pleads for Dinah to calm down. She tells him to back off and gets ready to go off on her own. Ollie tries to stop her from leaving; a move that shall henceforth be known as Mistake #1.

With Dinah gone and off on her own, Ollie and Mia begin searching the city for any sign of where Merlyn and the League of Assassins might be hiding. Ollie notes that even if they rescue Sin, The LoA won't stop trying to kidnap her and kill Dinah and how they need a more long-term solution to help them both.

Dinah tracks down Craig and gets him to spill the beans on the whole operation and gets directions to Merlyn's hideout. Massive ass-whooping ensues and the only thing that saves Merlyn is that Dinah let's go of him... literally.

Meanwhile, Ollie and Mia - with a little help from Oracle - find the boat Sin is being held captive on. Mia finds Sin and tells her that Sin is going to have to follow her directions exactly if they are going to sneak out successfully.

Dinah chases after Merlyn and is contacted by Oracle, who tells her that Ollie and Mia have already moved in on where Sin is being held but the ship is already moving out of the harbor. Dinah crashes her motorcycle onto the ship from above using a handy bridge and joins Ollie in the cracking of ninja skulls. In the middle of this, Sin and Mia make the least stealthy exit ever trying to sneak onto a lifeboat, Ollie makes a one-in-a-million shot to try and cut the rope on said boat to help the getaway and Sin apparently loses her grip and apparently falls to her death.

Black Canary #4: Dinah goes beserk, for obvious reason, and Canary Cries the heck out of everyone present. Merlyn shows up and overhears that Ollie just killed Sin and ruined his meal-ticket as the power behind the throne. He goes after Ollie, only to be smacked down by Dinah, who makes it clear in no uncertain terms that she is his problem and not Green Arrow.
Ollie helps the rest of the Assassin Leaders to get away, letting them know that there is nothing left for them here except death if Canary ever gets their hands on them. He then talks Dinah out of killing Merlyn, purely because if he dies, he can't ever really suffer for all that he's done. Dinah says she doesn't care. She only wants her daughter back.

And then... well, we'll let the images do the talking here.

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My point with this little recap?

One of the big complaints the Ollie-haters have is that Ollie enacted this plan without telling Dinah and then counted on Dinah's shock at seeing her adopted daughter die would sell the drama. He then let her stew in anguish for three days, before finally telling her the truth.

Which is a jerky thing to do, make no mistake. However, I would like to point out two things.

First, at no point in the time after Dinah stormed off did Ollie have a chance to talk to her and explain "The Plan" to fake Sin's death. Ollie tried to stop her from running off alone so they could form a plan together and he got beaten senseless for his trouble. Dinah was not in the mood to listen to anyone, so trying to get her to go along with any plan was pointless and Ollie knew that.

Second, time was of the essence and it took Ollie and Mia, with Oracle's help, nearly the entire day to canvas every ship in the city and find where Sin was being held to say nothing of contacting Connor, finding a way to spirit Sin out of the city unseen and make all the other preparations for "the plan". There was barely enough time to do all that without trying to clue in Dinah, whom we already established was in no mood to listen, anyway - even though all three were in radio-contact as Dinah went after Merlyn and Ollie and Mia went after the ship.

I suppose Ollie COULD have said something while he was on the wire with Dinah and Oracle. But I can also picture this being a really short conversation.

Green Arrow: On our way to the harbor, Pretty Bird. Get what you can from Merlyn.

Black Canary: I will. Ollie. Don't let me down.

Green Arrow: I won't. Hey, listen... before you sign off, I have something to tell you.

Black Canary: I know. I love you too.

Green Arrow: Oh, not that. I'm going to fake Sin's death.

Black Canary: WHAT?!

Green Arrow: Yeah. I have a plan to get the League of Assassins to stop bothering you, but I have to make it look like I accidentally kill Sin to make it work. So try and look surprised.

Oracle: Boat leaves in three minutes, guys.

Black Canary: Ollie? Why are you telling me this now?

Green Arrow: I just... you know... didn't want you to get worried later.

Black Canary: You didn't want me to... WORRY?!?!

Green Arrow: Exactly!

Black Canary: My daughter is in danger and you're wasting time thinking about how to spare my feelings?! You think I'm going to have a total nervous breakdown or something?

Green Arrow: Uh, well-

Black Canary: You know what? Don't even answer that. Just try not to screw up saving my daughter, you ass. I'll be there in a bit... to give back your stupid ring!

But what if Ollie tried to get Dinah's best friend to break the news?

Oracle: Looks like that's the one ship heading to Hong Kong today. That's your target, archer.

Green Arrow: Beautiful. Hey, is Dinah still off channel?

Oracle: Yes. Why?

Green Arrow: I need you to tell her something for me.

Oracle: This isn't junior high, Queen.

Green Arrow: No, it's about my plan. We're going to fake Sin's death so the League of Assassins will leave her and Dinah alone. But Dinah isn't really in the mood to listen to me right now. So I figure... if you tell her, best friend, voice of reason and all that...

Oracle: ... that she'll be more willing to accept that it's a good plan?

Green Arrow: Well, it's a bit of a long-shot, no pun intended. But I really don't want to traumatize her if I can avoid it. I've done a lot of jerky things-

Oracle: Ollie, grow a pair and quit wasting time! There's a little girl in danger down there and even though she can kill a man with a jumprope if pushed, she's still an innocent that needs help. And if you're going to worry about your relationship with Dinah at a time like this, then you aren't good enough for Dinah.

Green Arrow: (pause) You'll tell her I had this planned all along later, right?

Oracle: GoodBYE, Ollie.


My Final Point? Sure, Ollie was a jerk in this storyline. But he was, as he usually is, a jerk for all of the right reasons. And that is why Dinah accepted his proposal - because when push came to shove, he did the right thing thing first and worried about how to justify it later, even at the cost of his relationship with Dinah.