Saturday, December 29, 2007

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nice little present to come back to.

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

SOURCE: Atheists Outraged By Film Trailer

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

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

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

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

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


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

You'd THINK that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Going On Vacation!

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

Have A Happy Holiday Season!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ammusing Typo

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

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

Joey Q's terrorist brother? :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 12/12/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Atheists Outraged by Film Trailer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That, to my mind, is not disrespectful.

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

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

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 12/05/07

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

Friday, December 7, 2007

JLA #15 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 11 - Powerless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hee hee... Matt's riding Nathan.

Hee hee hee. "Flying Man!"

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

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


That was fast.

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


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

Damnit. Bennet kicks so much ass.

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

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

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

Huh. Another press conference to out the Company.

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

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

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

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

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

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