Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No Looking To The Stars For 10/29/07 or Fast Thoughts for 10/24/07

Due to an insanely busy schedule and sudden car repair problems obliterating the comic-buying budget until next payday, I'm closing up shop until after Halloween.

Pray for my dark and twisted soul that I survive the coming week unscathed.

Am I Alone In Finding This Wrong?

SOURCE: The 2007 Quill Award Winners

Do you know what won for Best Graphic Novel of the Year?

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud.

That's not a novel! That's a how-to book!

This is like giving a French Dictionary an award for "Best Foreign Novel".

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 5 - Fight or Flight

Wow. The first episode without Claire. Ever. Good thing, too. This was busy enough.

Matt/Nathan - First of all, I so called it last week!

Papa Parkman is a high-level telepath. That's why he could sense Molly trying to find him. That's why he was able to make Angela attack herself in prison. The only other question is... who was the hooded man? An illusion to implicate someone else? Or has he gotten beyond mind-reading and mind-manipulating to mind-controling?

Also... Matt moved, in Silver Age Sentinels terms... from Rank 4 Telepath (read ordinary surface thoughts by concentrating) to Rank 6 (can "talk" to a non-telepath at normal conversational speed)

Peter - Obviously he was very busy during the last four months. And Veronica Mars wants him... which would normally be a good thing if she weren't apparently psycho.

Monica/Micah - cute moments, though not much happened save that they know what one another are now. Didn't expect to see "You Know Who" on the doorstep at the end..

Mohinder/Molly/Niki - Mohinder is still the "too smart to be this stupid" character - he's going to free Niki... and no one will be suspicious that the woman who checked herself in and was strapped down got away and he didn't get killed? I'm still not buying Niki as a DiD sufferer...

New Prediticion: Jessica will tell Mohinder what is really going on between her and her sister.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Looking To The Stars - 10/22/07 - Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid onEarth: A Review

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware is often compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses. Interestingly, this comparison is made by both its’ fans and detractors.

The book’s fans say that like Ulysses, it uses dense language and a stream of consciousness style of writing to challenge its’ readers. The book’s detractors say that like Ulysses, few have ever actually read it, fewer understood it, fewer still liked it and that most of the people who own a copy of the book display it on their bookshelves as a monument to how well-read they are.

This is, to my mind, an unfair comparison.

I’ve read Ulysses. I understand Ulysses. I enjoyed Ulysses. I did not enjoy Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, though I did read and understand it. But if a Modernist literary comparison must be made, I think it would be much better to liken Jimmy Corrigan to Ethan Frome rather than Ulysses.

Now, for those of you who were fortunate enough not to have Ethan Frome inflicted upon you during Mrs. Wentworth’s 7th Hour English or your local equivalent, let me sum up briefly.

Ethan Frome is the story of a man named, oddly enough, Ethan Frome. His life, as told to an unnamed narrator over the course of the novel, is one of sadness and woe. Forced to tend to the family farm rather than to go the big city, college and a life as a scientist after his parents turn ill, he is further forced into a loveless marriage with Zeena; a distant cousin who is both a hypochondriac and an anti-intellectual. A silver lining comes into the dark cloud that is Ethan’s life in the form of Mattie; a smart, kind woman who is sent to take care of her ailing cousin Zeena.

Mattie and Ethan begin the tamest of love-affairs, with the height of their passion conveyed in a single kiss. Zenna, sensing something is up, declares her intent to send Mattie away and hire a new maid, before leaving to visit a distant doctor. Deciding that death would be preferable to life apart or the dishonor of running away to make a life together elsewhere, Mattie and Ethan make a suicide pact and decide to kill themselves while faking a sledding accident.

The plan fails as Ethan is thrown clear of the sled and is left barely able to walk while Mattie is paralyzed and struck dumb. Zenna, who thrives on Ethan’s suffering, is miraculously cured and cheered upon her return home. The novel ends with Ethan an old man who never got to follow his dreams, still trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman who lives to spite him and the woman he loves stripped of the spirit and mind that was the one beacon in his dark life.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth is the story of a man named, oddly enough, Jimmy Corrigan. The end-result of a one-night stand between a womanizing airport bartender and a faceless, nagging woman, Jimmy is a sad, friendless, emasculated mess who is ignored at best and insulted at worst by those around him.

The plot centers upon Jimmy as he skips off to meet his estranged father (without telling his nursing-home housed mother) over Thanksgiving weekend. This is inter-cut - without warning or links - with a flashback of the life’s story of Jimmy Corrigan’s grandfather. He too was an abused screw-up from a single-parent home, who is eventually abandoned by his father at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

By the end of the novel, Jimmy is hit by a car and briefly hospitalized. Jimmy’s father – who attempts to bond with Jimmy by regaling him with tales of all the women he’s slept with - dies suddenly. And Jimmy alienates the half-sister that he thought he was beginning to form an actual friendship with by presuming too much, too quickly.

Now that we have the summaries done, you might ask why do I think that Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth is more aptly compared to Ethan Frome than Ulysses?

• Both books take their title from the name of their main character.
• Both books were written by their respective authors as an autobiographical catharsis. Chris Ware freely admits that Jimmy Corrigan is based on his own experiences with his estranged father whereas Edith Wharton was trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she despised.
• Both books are set in a bleak, cold, desolate landscape where love is not to be found; one being set in the urban sprawl of the American Midwest and the other in rural Massachusetts.
• The drama of both books would be ended instantly were the title character not such a complete coward more concerned with how others view him than his own happiness.
• Both are filled with symbolism that is, ultimately, pointless. For instance, Ware repeats the image of a damaged Superman as a metaphor for the death of Jimmy’s own dreams and his image of what his father is like as Wharton uses a broken glass pickle dish as a symbol of marriage destroyed by infidelity. Such symbolism is wasted, however, as the text of both books make such subtext redundant.
• Both books were difficult to get through, depressed the ever-loving life out of me and made me want to slit my wrists.

Sadly, Jimmy Corrigan lacks the strength of character to end unhappily. The story concludes with Jimmy working in his office on Thanksgiving and meeting a new female co-worker who offers Jimmy friendship and perhaps – just perhaps - the love that is sorely lacking in his life. This ending comes out of nowhere and stands in direct contrast to the bleak nature of the rest of the novel. It is as if Chris Ware, perhaps aware of how difficult it is to sell a thirty-dollar comic book to anyone who isn’t an Indie Comics Hipster, decided he needed a happy ending to assure the masses that this story does have a point to it other than "Jimmy Corrigan's life sucks."

The end of the book also offers an apology from Ware for how uneven the book is. He goes on to explain how it started with no ending in mind as a series of comic strips published by an Indie newspaper and how it is a personal work written to deal with his own issues and probably not fit for public consumption.

I agree completely. However, since Mr. Ware had the decency to apologize for how horrible his book is – which is more than Edith Wharton ever did - I will be nice to him. I will not go into detail criticizing his artwork and will say only that it is as bland, lifeless and inoffensive as oatmeal.

Despite this, I would still recommend that everyone read Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (if your library has a copy, of course - don't pay for the damn thing!) for much the same reason that Mrs. Wentworth had us read Ethan Frome. Because after reading it, I realized that although I was a shy, quiet outcast who was bullied by the popular boys and ignored by the popular girls, my life could have been a whole lot worse. The sting of adolescence was lessened by the knowledge no matter how bad my life got, I could always take comfort in the fact that I wasn’t Ethan Frome. Or, at the very least, I’d never have to read Ethan Frome again for the rest of my life. So too do I now take comfort in the fact that I can return Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth to the bookstore.

Perhaps I can exchange it for a copy of Ulysses.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Last Damned Thing I'm Writing About "The Juddass" for a while.


Judd just gave a rebuttal to the question of "why didn't Black Canary just use her Canary Cry?" at the above link. I will limit my response to five points.

1. To quote The Joker ne: Bruce Timm, "If you have to explain a joke, then there is no joke!" The same principal applies to action scenes - if you have to explain what is happening afterwards and the art doesn't match up to your explanation, than you wrote a bad story.

2. There is no point in the The Wedding Special that you can look at and say "Ah. THIS is where Everyman switched with Ollie", by Judd's own admission. So Judd Winick just basically said that he not only won't bother explaining how his stories fit into the continuity of other people's work - he won't even bother explaining the flow of action in his own books!

3. It is never a good idea to insult your potential readership's intelligence or bring question to your own integrity as a professional by asking - less than a month after you were swearing blind that you were originally going to kill off Black Canary, but that you thought a story about her dealing with Ollie's death was ultimately more interesting - if people thought you were really serious about killing Ollie off. When you start talking about alternative storylines as a way to defuse anger over what you wrote... yes, we do sort of presume that we should take you seriously. It's called taking someone at their word. You should look into it.

4. Dismissing your own admitted failings as a storyteller by pointing out that George Lucas used the same shortcuts in his writing does not excuse you from being a bad storyteller.

5. The minute you disrespect Stan Lee by suggesting that he wrote the foundation of the Silver Age of Comics at Marvel Comics during "a drunken bender" or that he ever worked in an altered state... that's the minute you lose any right you have for me to regard you as anything other than a complete and total asshat.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 10/17/07

BIRDS OF PREY #111 - I hope that DC finds some book to put Tony Bedard on. Hit or miss as his work can be, I think he did a good job with the one Supergirl fill-in I read, the one issue of Countdown I enjoyed completely and the Black Canary mini-series. I also think that he has done a pretty good job capturing the essence of the Birds during his three fill-in issues thus far. And this issue, which focuses upon The Calculator, is the first to truly do anything to examine the character or develop him since he was introduced as the Anti-Oracle in Identity Crisis. Between that and the guest artwork by Jason Orfalas (which I didn't even notice wasn't Nicola Scott until I double checked), this is still one of the best books DC publishes every month.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7 - I bought an extra copy of this by accident, forgetting that I put this on my pull-list last month. And yet, I'm not that upset. Why complain about having two copies of a book which so perfectly sums up the difference between Wonder Woman and Power Girl in one page?

It's got Mark Waid writing and George Perez artwork. If you're not buying this comic and loving every moment of it, there's something wrong with you.

CONAN #45 - I'm a bit torn on this book. Kurt Busiek is back and his writing is strong as ever in telling this tale of Conan's first great battle as a teenager; The Seige of Venarium. Guest artist Greg Ruth does a fine turn as the first to follow Cary Nord, using a similar style that looks as if it was sketched in multicolored pencils or lightly painted rather than drawn. With the colors done in washed greys and browns, he perfectly depicts the land of Cimmeria as "a gloomy land that seemed to hold All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun."

And yet, I can't help but wonder if Robert Howard would approve of a story which suggests that the entire reason for the war between Aquilonia and Cimmeria (which came to a head during the Seige of Venarium) is because of Conan bedding some wizard's daughter and the wizard telling the Aquilonias to settle northwards. I wonder if Howard would approve of Conan being the one to demand they cease their seige and attack following the slaughter of a boyhood rival. Conan was a great thing but he was all too human. And it may be making too much of a legend to lay responsibility for every incident of Conan's past at his own feet.

But then I think - he would certainly approve of the sentiment uttered by Conan's grandfather, who smacks down a callow youth who calls one of the great battles of his youth legend and says the old man is too old to fight...

I was at Brita's vale, whelp -- when your father was still suckling at his mother's teat! And if you had the sense Crom gave a woodpigeon, you'd know the only time a Cimmerian's too old to fight for what's his is when he's dead and in the ground!

Howard may not have approved of this story. But I certainly do.

EX MACHINA #31 - We're 3/5ths of the way through this book's projected 50-issue run and it still feels like it is just getting started. This is another one of those books which I love every issue of and yet I find myself hard-pressed to find new ways to describe its' glory every month.

Well, let's try this. This comic features a scene in which a superhero with the power to talk to machines must save a group of Satanic-wannabe Preppie chicken-slayers (there's a movie title in the making) from a mind-controlled gorilla.

And THAT isn't the most awesome scene in the book.

FABLES #66 - The plot thickens even further. If there is any complaint that can be made about the last few issues, in which we see The Frog Prince (aka Flycatcher aka King Ambrose) taking the long-road to becoming a hero and establishing a safe kingdom in the heart of darkness, it is that it seems like the stories of all the other characters have been put on hold. Indeed, we see most of the rest of the main cast crammed around a magic mirror in the final page, watching what Flycatcher is up to. And while what he is doing is interesting and important and we are doubtlessly building to something bigger - it is a bit erratic in a monthly book. I imagine it will read better in the trade but that is not to say that it reads badly at all now. Far from it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #14 - I suppose it behooves me to weigh in on the latest controversy.

Now for those of you who haven't been keeping up with this book since Dwayne McDuffie took over, let me sum up. Lex Luthor has formed a new Injustice League, built a base called The Hall of Doom and methodically taking down all of the Justice League save Superman and Black Lightning in the span of two issues. Luthor, being Luthor, has to gloat and poke Superman with a metaphorical stick because of his belief that an angry Superman makes mistakes and will be easier to fight. As part of this psychological warfare, Lex shows Supes and BL their comrades.

Do I think that Lex would pose three female adversaries in the most humiliating way possible in order to annoy The Big Blue Boy Scout? Hell, yes. He's a bad guy. It's what he does. And he admits that was the whole point of the image in the first place.

Do I think the artwork had to go to QUITE this extreme? Hell, no.

Still, this is Ed Benes - Pin-up Man Extraordinary who is responsible for this, so I figure the blame for this can be put on him and not on Mr. McDuffie. Given his previous work, I somehow doubt he wrote "Make sure Black Canary is wearing a thong and that Vixen's chest is pushed out as far as possible" in his art instructions.

This perfectly sums up the rest of the issue. McDuffie writes a great script and Benes - while capable of drawing distinctive characters - is a poor visual storyteller, who has Black Lightning appear out of nowhere in the Hall of Doom and introduces other characters during fight scenes in a slap-dash way that seems to ignore three-dimensional space. Still, for McDuffie's writing... I can forgive a lot.

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #131 - Part of me longs for the days when KODT featured several small strips in each issue. This one has three large comics - one continuing the plotlines of Weird Pete's addiction to World of Hackcraft, one continuing the adventure in BA's campaign to run his group through "The Temple of Horrendous Doom" and one comic involving the staff at gaming company Hard 8, which loosely ties into Pete's storyline while setting up another future plotline.

What's wrong with the larger storylines? Well, nothing really. The book is still as well written as ever. But it seems as if all the on-going storylines are moving by at a snail's pace. We've spent months watching Weird Pete try to find a clan to accept him on WoH and the Hard 8 strips are usually more about plot and less about laughs. Still, The Temple of Horrendous Doom storyline isn't disappointing. And I laughed out loud at Brian's lackluster reaction to B.A.'s attempts at being a spooky gamemaster.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 4 - The Kindness of Strangers

Ah damn. Sylar really WAS stuck in the middle of nowhere. And he is powerless. And he did just kill Candice for nothing.

And yet I am sad about this - why? Because it means that he won't kill The Wonder Twins and take their storyline somewhere interesting.

Well... at least he's speeding the process of their eventual demise. We can hope anyway.

Nathan is growing on me. I think it's the beard. He looks like Leonidas. Still dunno what's up with what he's seeing in the mirror.

Huh... Matt's dad is in the Company and he's "The Nightmare Man". And Bob is one of The 12. Didn't see that coming.

My new prediction? Matt's dad is a telepath as well - but an uber-Professor X level one who can hear across state lines and do more than just "hear" thoughts.

I like Monica - because hey - always nice to have a non-dependent female character to throw off the averages on the next WiR study. Plus, photographic reflexes are the most useful superpower ever.

Claire and West - so adorable. Shame that the whole thing will end in tears because a) he'll realize who her dad is and why she didn't want him coming home to meet the folks or b) Noah will find out about him and go ballistic.

Actually, scratch that - he's already one bad day away from locking Claire up in her room again... like that's worked so well before. Not that you can blame the guy for taking the most direct route possible to prevent his own death once he's handed some pretty damning evidence that it is forthcoming.

My new prediciton? Noah winds up dying willingly to save Claire and West from someone else in the future. Or at least, that's what is supposed to happen. We all know that these paintings have a way of not working the way they're supposed to.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 10/10/07

Faster than usual this time as I had little to read this week and little to say after having had my catharsis yesterday. :)

FANTASTIC FOUR #560 - A strong finish for McDuffie, involving more action in one issue than most comics have in six. I reccomend this series, once Traded, to anyone - even non-Fantastic Four fans. It made for an interesting counter to McDuffie's recent work on JLA and presented the first work I've seen where the Black Panther/Storm marriage actually seemed to work.

GREEN LANTERN #24 - Okay. I'll admit this comic - and all of Sinestro Corps may be hard to get into if you aren't a Green Lantern fanboy. There's a lot of backstory and quite a few obscure characters and in-jokes that pop up in the background all over the place. And I love that kind of thing - it makes me want to study more and see what else I'm missing.

I realize not everyone is like that.

Still, I would put it to you naysayers out there - those who think this series is too "fanboyish" or "continuity dependent" - to deny the sheer unadultrated awesomeness of John Stewart paraphrasing the most famous line from the film Lean On Me in the middle of a battle with the God of Fear.

"Parallax... right now... I don't have to anything but stay Black."

WONDER WOMAN #13 - I wish I'd looked at the cover before I bought two copies of this. I could have sworn that Gail Simone's first issue was supposed to be #13. Instead I got a J. Torres filler-issue that appears to just be setting the status quo for next time. Not bad for all that, but I demand Gail Simone now!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 Redeux - Part Three

The Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 Redeux is a critique/satire published by, and is not intended maliciously. has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

Looking To The Stars - Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 Redeux - Part Two


The Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 Redeux is a critique/satire published by, and is not intended maliciously. has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

Looking To The Stars - Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 Redeux - Part One

In ancient times, I did write parodies of particularly bad comics.

Today, taking inspiration from the format of The Editing Room as well as the numerous comic-book redubs created by the amazing Christopher Bird of, I have taken the next step in continuing my own tradition as well as evolving the artform of comic book satire.

With that in mind, I hope you enjoy this presentation of Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 - free of all the pretentions of the original author and artist.

The Green Arrow/Black Canary #1 Redeux is a critique/satire published by, and is not intended maliciously. has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 3 - Kindred

I think we all saw Claire and Flyboy hooking up coming a mile away. Still, nice to see her having some happiness... even as the specter of her dad's old life comes back to ruin it.

Mohinder is a shlub. He will always be a shlub. He has become a black hole of shlubbiness with no escape velocity possible. Now taking bets on how many episodes it will be before Matt wises up, grabs Molly and gets them the hell out of there before they wind up back on an operating table. Again.

Sylar is loose again. That's bad. However, he's a hell of a lot more powerless. That's good. I'm interested in why he can't get Candice's power to work. My personal theory? His super-logical "I understand how everything ticks" brain can't comprehend how to use an ability that requires pure emotional input - boy doesn't have the imagination needed to rework reality.

I also wonder how long it will be before Mohinder figures out that The Company has been sitting on Sylar in some capacity (remember - Candice called someone before Sylar woke up) and been keeping him alive.

Nice to see Peter getting a victory of some kind. I'll be glad if he never goes back, if only because The Irish Hooligans are growing on me. Question: Did he lose his new tatoo because of his healing powers... or something more sinister involving his new Irish girlfriend and The Company?

Hiro? Adorable, even if he did basically say "Screw the Space Time Continuium - I wanna stay in Never Never Land!" Unless he can't teleport again and is covering up that fact to prevent Ando from worrying.

Between Hiro/Ando and Matt/Mohinder, this show must be inspire so much bad fanfic.

Shame to see D.L. is dead. I really liked him.

Lt. Uhura is a distance relative on his side in New Orleans. What relation, I wonder? Because it's going to be really lame for them to have her come into this show just for a babysitting role after bringing Sulu on to play Hiro's dad.

Now here's the big question; what is this cure Niki is after?

Something to get rid of her powers forever? It would fit her personality as she's been one of those most desiring a normal life rid of the craziness that Linderman and The Company caused her and I can see that desire increasing with DL out of the picture. Or maybe she has Molly's disease and is looking to stop herself from dying? That's also plausable and I can see her giving herself to The Company, if only to keep them from coming after Micah if she dies.

And speaking of cures and diseases- Maya and her brother are coming to California. You did catch that the bumpersticker on the back of the car they drove off in with their fellow escapee had the name of Claire's high school mascot, right? ;)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Looking To The Stars - The Week In Reviews for 10/03/07

Company Name: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Tim Truman
Artist: Cary Nord

This is one of the most consistently high-quality books on the market. So much so that I rarely write reviews of it. The reason for this is because said reviews tend to repeat themselves pretty quickly, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about the issue or if it is a good time for new readers to jump on to the book.

This is not the case this time, as this issue is the conclusion of a four-part adaptation of Robert E. Howard's short-story Rogues In The House. Not exactly the best issue to jump on with. And this issue isn't particularly noteworthy in the sense that, as always, the writing and art are of the highest quality and blend together seamlessly. So why am I reviewing it now?

Because Cary Nord, who has been the regular artist of Conan since the very first issue of the Dark Horse Comics Conan series, leaves the book with this issue. And while I have every confidence that Dark Horse, being Dark Horse, will find a worthy replacement for Nord as they did when Kurt Busiek left the title and Tim Truman took over the writing duties, I cannot help but be more than a little sad to see Nord leaving.

Apart from being one-half of the team who won an Eisner for their work on the series' first issue (The now-legendary Conan #0) and having a unique, uninked style which perfectly set the tone of the series, Nord is such a skilled artist that he can add a unique level of excitement to so simple a scene as a town guard arguing with a wagon driver.

Take a look at these pages and note the use of shadow and depth, which foreshadow the moment later when we find out the grim business of the wagon driver and his cowled master.

Such is Nord's artistry that he can add such subtle foreboding to a scene such as this as well as the more action-heavy scenes later in which Conan fights an ape-man with nothing more than a simple dagger. This may see a simple thing but it is surprisingly rare these days to find an artist who succeeds in depicting both scenes of high-action and the more subtle excitement of conversation. Nord is a true artist and he will be sorely missed.


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

I think I've finally figured out the problem with Countdown. Reading this issue of Detective Comics, it became obvious to me that the fault lies not within Paul Dini's stories, but in the execution of his general story concepts at the hands of less-skilled writers.

The story here is an engaging one and while it takes place within the framework of the Gotham City-based stories Dini has focused on since he started his run on Detective, it also integrates one of the more lackluster (to me, at least) stories in Countdown. I'm referring to the story of Holly Robinson (aka Catwoman's long-time sidekick and short-term substitute Catwoman) becoming involved with an Amazon Women's Shelter in Metropolis, which is being run by a reformed Harley Quinn and "The Goddess Athena" (aka a disguised Granny Goodness).

Impressively, Dini does a good job of bringing people who might not be reading Countdown up to speed on the new status quo with Harley and Holly as well as the conceit that The Riddler has reformed and set himself up as Gotham City's newest and greatest private-detective for hire - a situation that has Batman more than a little bit annoyed. This makes this book a perfect "first book" for new readers and anyone who hasn't been following half the books in the DCU right now. His only misstep in not "explaining it all" comes at the end, in which there is no explanation given for why "Athena" is talking with one of the more evil New Gods.

But it is in the dialogue and characterization that Dini shines, which is no surprise to those of us familiar with his Batman: The Animated Series work. His Riddler, Harley Quinn and Holly are genuinely likeable people in spite of their former villainy. One cannot help but be sympathetic for them and their efforts at redemption and hope that, however unlikely, their new turns as heroes will stick.

What really makes this impressive is that despite their new positions and desire to change, Harley and Eddie Nigma still haven't changed that much as people and are still the same old characters we all knew and loved as villains. Harley is still sheepish and co-dependent - she's just changed masters. Eddie is still a smug intellectual show-off - he's just found a way to get paid legally for showing people how stupid they are.

It seems likely then that had Dini taken full-authorship duties, Countdown would not be quite so problematic a series. And if Don Kramer had been hired to do all or at least half of the issues, the artwork would no be quite so uneven. As it is, this book makes me mourn for what might have been. But it also makes me rejoice for what is, under Dini's pen, the best Bat-book on the stands. Would that he could write it more regularly.


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artists: Pat Gleason and Prentis Rollins

There are a lot of ways I can talk about just how awesome this book (and The Sinestro Corps War in general, for that matter) are.

I could harp on about the amazing artwork presented by Pat Gleason and Prentis Rollins. I could talk about how each of the unique alien races is depicted as being truly unique and alien. I could note that all of the regular alien Green Lanterns are easily identified - which you'd think wouldn't need to be a bonus in a series like this, but having read a lot of bad Green Lantern comics with a lot of art where you couldn't tell Hal Jordan from Arkkis Chummuck, I always make note of it when it happens.

I could talk about the masterful writing by legendary Watchmen artist (and no mean writer, it turns out) Dave Gibbons. I could talk about how, despite this issue centering upon one big massive battle in space, the personalities of each character, good and bad, come through perfectly in what brief conversation is allowed. I could even talk about Gibbons' eye for detail and past continuity and how this story (which takes place at the same time as the most recent Green Lantern) seems to fall into perfect alliance with the prophecy regarding the destruction of the Green Lantern Corps laid out in Alan Moore's classic Green Lantern story "Tygers.

Yes, I could talk about all of this. But nothing would make these points better than for me to show this panel.

Why is this so important? Long-time reader (and no mean comic historian himself) Mark Poa wrote an article explaining it all on another blog. He recognized, as I did, that both the alien races seen in the above panel have appeared before in a rather obscure story - "Nobler in the Mind" from GLA #5. What is impressive about this is not only that continuity is rarely used in such a fashion these days but that Gleason perfectly apes Bill Willingham's style rather than creating his own "look" for the chicken-like inhabitants of the planet Qualar IV.


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Alan Burnett
Artist: Patrick Blaine and Jay Leisten

This book is a puzzler. It's not bad at all but somehow, I can't give it a top grade either.

It's not that the art isn't good. It is.

It's not that the writing isn't good. It is.

I think the problem lies in that there really isn't much interest in the main character of this book. There is little human interest in the very inhuman Cyborg Superman. Even he admits as much in this book, as he recalls his previous life and how he wound up in his current state - a monster, more machine than man and virtually unable to die. He has been further empowered by the Sinestro Corps with one of their yellow fear-powered rings and is also (thanks to his powers to command electronics) commander of the infamous Manhunter robots.

And yet, for all his power, he has no desire for power like Sinestro. He works against his greatest enemies - Hal Jordan and Superman - and yet he has no real desire for revenge. No, what the Cyborg Superman wants is death. He wants peace. He wants oblivion. And as he leads the assault upon Earth as the rest of the Sinestro Corps escape their various battles in deep space, he laments not that the coming battle will be difficult but that Superman is both unwilling and unable to kill him.

The one flaw with this issue is that it doesn't feel like essential reading. While one could probably skip the previous Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Parallax special, one wouldn't want to since the story brought forth some amazing revelations regarding Kyle Rayner's character as well as what looked like a key turning-point in the battle between Kyle and the evil that possesses him.

This issue doesn't offer the same urgency. Sure, it serves as an excellent history primer for those unfamiliar with the character of Cyborg Superman. And the story does a good job of painting Hank Henshaw in a light that is both sympathetic and horrifying as an immortal man who has lost everything and who longs for death so much that he's willing to help destroy the universe, since that may be the only way he can die. But apart from explaining away why Earth's heroes may not be any help in the battle against The Sinestro Corps, this issue doesn't seem to advance the main story of The Sinestro Corps War at all.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 1 and Week 2


Wow. Hiro hero-worship. So funny and yet so... sad. And is it just me or does Kensei look and sound like Cary Elwes?

Nice to see Mohinder being given something to do besides being the walking rube.

Ditto Matt being creative with his powers and being a lot less of the whinny bitch he was for most of the first season. Can't help but wonder if his wife's baby is his. Somehow, I don't see Matt being the type to abandon a woman who is having his child. Then again, I can see his wife not giving him much of a choice.

And hey - how about two single guys raising a girl together. I can hear the slash-fic being written already.

Claire. Oh, you still rock. Even if it does look like you're getting manipulated by a creepy flying stalker.

Bennet is still a bad-ass, even if he is in a dorky shirt and nametag.

Maya and her brother are interesting, though the comic explains what is going on with them a lot better. At least, it suggests that she is a walking plague carrier and her brother is a natural cure.

I find Nathan so much more likeable now that he's a guilt-ridden alcoholic. Ironically, it's given him a lot more of a spine.

Speaking of which - the man who killed Hiro's dad. I think it was Nathan. He was in a position to know all of mom's friends and figure out who was involved in the whole plan to rig the explosion and set him up on the path to the White House. Plus, it would explain how he was able to get away so fast without being seen.

And... hey it's Peter. In a box. In chains. With no shirt. Wearing what appears to the The Haitian's necklace. And unable to remember anything. I sense bad slash-fic being written somewhere...


Hmm. More Isaac paintings. Looks like my favorite character still has a presence.

Nice to see Hiro playing hero. I wondered if he would actually step in to replace Kensei or would keep wasting time trying to inspire the drunk that is the real Kensei. Still, it looks as if he isn't without his own resources. Another regenerator. Cool.

Peter's plot is thickening nicely. In the first season, his powers were dependent on him being able to remember a person and think of them to access the power they had. Now, not only is he accessing powers as needed without any memories, he's accessing powers he probably wasn't aware he ever had ever come in contact with (i.e. he phases through the ropes keeping him tied up, despite never having seen DL Hawkins, who get got close to once, phase through something)

Ah - Mohinder the Rube is back. Looks like any theories about The Haitian being involved in Peter's amnesia may be out... although it'll be nice to see him joining up with Team Bennet again... which begs the question of just how he was able to find him again.

Just like I thought - Maya is a Typhoid Mary (the real one, not the Daredevil villain) and her brother is a natural vaccine. No idea on if this will figure in with the virus Mohinder is fighting.

Hmmm... someone tries to take out Mama Petrelli. Someone who can disappear, mess with electrics... and Nathan just happened to be there. Maybe he's teaming with Claude?

Not much for Claire this week. I'm surprised we didn't see Mr. Muggles eat the toe. :)