Thursday, April 26, 2007

Looking To The Stars: Hellblazer - War Lord - A Review

If you’re like me, then you have far more books than you can actually read. You can’t go into a Barnes and Noble without getting something, you can type in your credit card number without looking while browsing and it takes you until June to work through all the books you got during the holiday season. In my case, this is true of a book that I got as a belated Christmas present and have just now gotten around to finishing; John Constantine: War Lord.

The first in a series by Bram Stroker Award-winning novelist and co-screenwriter of the first The Crow movie John Shirley, this book is an excellent introduction to the character of John Constantine for newcomers as well as a real treat for old fans like myself. The book actually opens with a helpful profile of John, his life and his personality as gleaned through the eyes of the mysterious “Servants of Transfiguration”, who will turn out to be the villains of the piece.

Set sometime after the end of the Mike Carey run of Hellblazer, the plot is fairly standard-issue but is executed quite well. John is unwittingly dragged into an effort to stop a doomsday cult (the Servants of Transfiguration I mentioned earlier) from using the global environment of fear and the deaths of the thousands killed in the Iraq War and elsewhere as the catalyst for resurrecting The War Lord – a god of slaughter and death in the Lovecraftian vein.

At first John is reluctant to help out, as per usual. That changes when he finds out the cult has gotten their hands on Mercury, a young woman with amazing psychic powers who – once upon a time – was almost John’s adopted daughter. This leads John to abandon his studies in white magic in an Iranian monastery and form a reluctant alliance with the spirit of a stoner telekinetic Californian (that is taking up residence in the body of a Muslim holy man) and an AWOL American soldier with the power to see the dead souls around him in order to save the world.

The novel has a real Jamie Delano feel to it, with social commentary on current political events (i.e. The War in Iraq) being mixed with a fair amount of true magic and John’s own personal mixture of hedge wizardry and bullshit. The theme of true evil being found, not in supernatural creatures, but in the human heart has never been stronger, with just as many villains being rich men who just don’t care as wily old magicians matching their power against John’s. And while the book does refer a bit to John’s old adventures and friends, all of these references are fully explained and not done in a “Ah, there’s old so-and-so from when I did blah” manner.

The one problem with the novel, and I admit it’s a small one, actually involves how some of the story elements of John’s past and the comics are used. Mercury, for instance, has very little of the spark that made her such a memorable character as a pre-teen girl and she could actually be almost any generic psychic woman if the plot didn’t require her to be someone John cares about.

Another example of this is the brief cameo by John’s old friend Rich; an aging punk, still living the punk lifestyle, who gave John his nickname of “Conjob” and made John the godfather of his daughter. Rich abandoned John along with all of his still-surviving friends at the end of Paul Jenkins’ run on the title due to John’s efforts to guarantee that The First of the Fallen wouldn’t try to get at John through his friends ever again – by driving all his friends and loved ones off. So seeing him hanging around John’s favorite pub, while a nice touch given how many of John’s close friends were killed off during Things To Be Thankful For, does seem a bit contradictory.

Despite this, I highly recommend War Lord to everyone, whether or not they read Hellblazer comics or any comics at all. If you’re new to the world of Hellblazer, this book is a fine introduction. If you’re an old fan like me, you may quibble a bit about some of the characterization and cameos, but you’ll enjoy yourself nonetheless. And if you’re just a fan of good scary supernatural yarn, you can’t do much better for your $6.99 American.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 4/25/07

52 WEEK #51: And we get back to the high quality moment here as we enter the home stretch. A lot of good character moments here, but if I had to pick a top five...

5. "Can we keep her?" as Starfire collapses on Animal Man's porch after saving him and his family from a group of alien assassins. Because honestly, what preteen boy wouldn't want his very own amazon space princess?
4. Buddy Baker's Homecoming. The perfect mix of silly and touching, especially the line about "He's got a hair-piece, I just flew across galaxies to get to you. I don't think there's any contest."
3. The explanation for Robin's new red and black costume - to honor Superboy, as those were his colors.
2. Clark's comment on Diana's new look in her new secret identity - "I like the glasses."
1. The return of Lobo as we know (and some of us love) him, making up for a year of almost complete pacifism in the only way possible - by killing a god.

AMAZONS ATTACK #1: You know, apart from one scene we really didn't need this book with Wonder Woman #9 out this week. But given the poor quality of Jodi Picoult's run on the book so far (more on that in a moment), I prefer to think that we really don't need that book compared to this one.

Why? Because the idea of the Amazons invading Washington DC - even without a single named character to latch onto as a focal point in the narrative - is infinitely more interesting than watching Wonder Woman and Nemesis banter back and forth during an ill-conceived jailbreak only to notice "Oh wow... Amazons invading Washington DC..."

Still, Hippolyta is back so that's worth something. Especially if we can get her back into the JSA. Yes, I know that's highly unlikely given that she's just tried conquering America, even if she has been doing it at Circe's whim. I'm just saying I miss having her in the JSA.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #3: I missed this one last week and for the first time I don't feel like I missed much as this was the weakest issue of the series so far. Maybe it's because I'm so disinterested in the new Blue Beetle, but I kept bearing through those scenes hoping for a continuation of the Supergirl storyline. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed and we do get a quick preview of next month's promised team-up between Lobo and Kara.

By the way, Mr. Mark Waid and Mr. George Perez? If you read this, I just want you two to know something. Regarding the scene with Kara showing Lobo something that she thinks is good for credit on paying him for a ride? The one with the leather coat that completely covers her costume? And the panel where it looks like she's not wearing anything under said coat as she undoes it and we see Lobo looking shocked?

You are bad, bad men. And God bless you both for it. :)

CONNOR HAWKE DRAGONS BLOOD #6: The mini-series ends and without any further disturbing (or if you're Judd Winick, incestuous) scenes of Shado playing kissy-face with Connor but with a whole lot of last-chapter "What the-" exposition.

Seems that the whole plan to summon and kill a dragon had nothing to do with saving China and everything to do with creating a fountain of dragon blood that makes anyone who bathes in it faster, stronger and immortal. The whole thing falls apart if you think about it a bit. But this is good fun action, which is all you can really ask of a Chuck Dixon Book.

DAREDEVIL #96: Okay, this is officially the best book being published by Marvel Comics and one of the best books published anywhere right now. And I'm not just saying that because it's up for a well-deserved Eisner as is its' author. My one complaint is that I really don't want this story to be heading where I think it is heading.

Melvin Potter was a rarity in Marvel and indeed all of comics: a former bad guy who was trying to get help for his condition. Now, as someone who has had friends with mental health problems, most of whom have been more successful than not - I kinda like the idea of seeing one character in comics who beat the odds and didn't stay like Joker or Two-Face. Someone who was a sweet and basically innocent guy who had some issues, worked through them and was now redeeming his past.

Of course the writer in me knows that the drama behind taking such a character and reverting him back to his old ways is irresistible. And I'm fairly certain that Brubaker has a few twists left so that it will turn out that this isn't what it looks like. Still, I worry about the character. And that is what makes this book so great - that I enjoy the story even though the story itself has me annoyed and worried about what may happen to one of the characters.

DORK TOWER #36: Give John Kovalic credit: he does not got halfway on the drama. Which is kinda funny when you consider that this is supposed to be "a funny book". But between Igor planning a convention that promises to be a total disaster, Matt's last-minute attempt to get his comic ready to sell at said convention and Ken's relationship with Sujata falling apart after she panics when he proposes, there is enough drama here for one of those serious relationship comics.

And that, in itself, is pretty funny. Funny "makes you think", not Funny "ha-ha".

Sure, this comic has laughs a plenty. But what it does better than any other gaming-related comic anywhere is show that underneath the somewhat silly exterior of people who CosPlay, LARP or go to Renn Fests, they are still people. People who are not the least bit different than the so-called "normal" people who don't have "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" memorized and who are stunned to know there are dice made with more than six sides.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #5: I loved this issue, plain and simple.

Was it the presence of Doctor Destiny? Yes.

Is it the fact that all the old-school Legion stuff is now cannon again? Yes.

Was it all the Sandman References? Yes.

Was it Batman having to fight nightmare versions of himself, plucked from the dreams of Arkham Asylum inmates? Yes.

Was it finally getting to see Sanderson "Sandy" Hawkins in a story ever since he changed costumes and started calling himself Sandman instead of Sand? Hell yes!

The one downside? That this has to get tied into the lackluster JLA issues dealing with the same plot. Geoff Johns can rock a story line this. Brad Meltzer can't.

NIGHTWING ANNUAL #2:Another one that I missed last week, this time intentionally. My thanks to all of you, who through LJ and e-mail, let me know that my query last week about "And when are they going to explain when Babs and Dick broke their engagement?!?!?"

Well, the answers are here. And I loved this story. And I think that - Marv Wolfman, be damned - we need to Marc Andreyko writing the monthly title ASAP.

You don't want to get spoiled, don't read any further.

I have to agree with Mark Poa. "Dick Grayson is a dick."

Honestly, all you people who are complaining about the Green Arrow/Black Canary engagement and how Oliver Queen is the filthiest, lying dog cheater on the planet? Read this issue and get back to me on that.

Dick Grayson hasn't been one of my favorite characters in a while, but he was in my top 5 back when Chuck Dixon was still writing the book. Still, it's a bit disturbing to me that Dick and Barbara's "first time" came six months after her accident and how it was a spur-of-the-moment thing that happened as Dick was coming to give Babs an invitation to his wedding.

I'm not saying that I can't see it happening and that something like this isn't in character for Dick. He's had spur of the moment romances before. I'm just saying that I'm still disturbed by it given the long romance between the two. Thankfully, this issue does explain just why things never quite reached that point until then as well as the Wuthering Heights-style chain of events that kept them apart as well as what point they are at now.

Incidentally, am I the only one amused that Starfire's "lounging around the house after a night of loving" clothes actually cover more than her regular costume?

Despite the infidelity all over the place, this was a very cute and surprisingly sweet issue. There's a lot of touching moments along with some laugh-out-loud comedy involving Dick having the natural reaction to being locked in close-quarters (i.e. a safe) with Batgirl and trying to disguise that fact afterwards by walking hunched over once he gets out. Can you say "doing math problems at the chalkboard"? :)

I recommend it to all of you old-school Nightwing fans who, like me, had been steering clear of the title since the dark days of Devin Grayon's run.

WONDER WOMAN #8: I had one of my local Comic Shop Guys ask me, as I was telling him about how badly Jodi Picoult's has been received and how all the fans on the web are clamoring for Gail Simone to take over sooner than Issue #13 say "She's a published novelist so she must be a good writer."

Now, I haven't ready any of Jodi Picoulet's books, admittedly. I can't say one way or another if she can write a good novel with original characters or not. I suspect, however, that she may be a writer who can do good work with original characters, but can't change their own style or internal speech-patterns when writing an established one. That's the only reason I can think of why Wonder Woman, in these last three issues, has sounded and acted like a Cybil Shepherd to Nemesis' Bruce Willis.

I think Ragnell nailed this last week when she said that the greatest part of Diana's personality is confidence. No matter where she is or what she is doing, she does not back down from her right to be there or to do what she thinks is right. She should not sound like a confused sorority girl, worrying about how popular she is, what people think of her or any of the normal things that female characters in modern literature obsess over.

And on a personal note: Wonder Woman should not ever call anyone a pervert.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

As reluctant as I am to give these guys more attention...

... it isn't often that I seem something my own Rocky Horror troupe could easily outdo with our miniscule effects/media budget if we made half an effort. We even have an actual spandex Riddler suit!

Be forewarned: This is Mystery Science Theater 3000 worthy and even cheesier than Adam West's entire career as Batman. Avoid if you are lactose intolerant.

EDIT: Dear Mother of all that is Good and Plenty... they made a second one!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Looking To The Stars - The Week In Reviews For 04/23/07

My comic shop didn't get a few titles, so this isn't quite a complete review of everything I wanted to read this week. But it is a complete review of everything I did read this week.

52 #50
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Artist: Various

The book that managed to be everything that World War III wasn't. Which is ironic, as World War III was meant to be everything that 52 wasn't.

52 was meant to explain away exactly what happened to everyone during the missing year between the end of Infinite Crisis and the start of One Year Later. It didn't, and World War III was created, in part, to answer all the questions that 52 left open.

It didn't do that either. So what exactly did 52 accomplish?

Well, it was entertaining more often than not. And quite honestly, I'm a lot more interested in the various mad scientists and what the heck Rip Hunter and Booster Gold are up to than I am resolving just how the new Firestorm got unscrambled from Cyborg and started connecting with Firehawk.

Also, I'm somewhat pleased to see Power Girl taking a major role in taking down Black Adam here as opposed to in World War III where the job of tackling the big heavy is limited strictly to a group of powerful male characters. I'm just saying.

Grade: B

Birds of Prey #105
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood

Okay. So you have the Birds. And they rock.

And you have The Secret Six. Well, technically The Not So Secret Five, but why quibble? And they rock.

And you have Nicola Scott's artwork. Which rocks in socks.

And you have Gail Simone writing and bringing Ice back from the dead. Which rocks foxes in socks.

How - HOW do they make this comic rock even harder?

Two Words: Harley Quinn.

Seriously, we need to bring Dr. Seuss back from the dead so that he can create a letter to go before A in the alphabet, so that I have a better grade to give this book every month. Alas, it shall have to, as usual, settle for an A. Again.

Grade: A

Conan #39
Company Name: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Timothy Truman
Artists: Cary Nord & Rafael Kayanan

And here is another book which is testing my ability as a writer to continue to say original kind things about it. Honestly, there's not a lot I can say about Truman's writing I haven't said before - how he has kept the tone of the book consistent with that of Kurt Busiek before him to the point that I had to double-check and make sure the book had changed writers. I've already said, many times, that his work is done in a style and format to do Robert Howard proud. And even with a fill-in artist this month, I can't complain about the artwork as it is still quite good, despite Kayanan having a different style than Nord.

You know what? Since I have nothing really new to say about Conan, I'm going to bring in a substitute reviewer. That's right - I'm going to take the lazy route this time. I'm going to quote the beloved Chris Sims of Chris' Invincible Super-Blog and what he had to say about this issue.

Conan is one of the rare books that's managed to maintain a consistent, high level of quality not just for the past three years, but even through the change of writer from Kurt Busiek to Tim Truman, so it's often pretty difficult for me to think up something new to say about it. Really, once you've reviewed one issue, you've reviewed them all: "Conan acts like a badass, kills a bunch of dudes, and it's really, really good."

That just sums it up perfectly.

Grade: A

Hellblazer #230 & 231
Company Name: Vertigo Comics
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Leonardo Manco

Somehow, I missed the first issue of Andy Diggle's Hellblazer last month and now that I got it and his second issue this month, I am kicking myself furiously. I had been looking forward to it so much, after all, having enjoyed Diggle's work on Lady Constantine and his all too brief run on the new Swamp Thing series. And with Diggle penning the upcoming Green Arrow: Year One, I was a little anxious to see how he handled my favorite anti-hero before handling my favorite hero this summer.

Without giving too much away, the plot of these two issues centers around John finding himself in a rock and a hard place, ready to take the fall for a gang-related murder of a notorious London gangster's daughter. Of course the real murderer is the thug charged with the task of seeing that John gets what is coming to him and the first half of this story ends with John tricking up a magical solution to his problem.

The second half shows John dealing with the consequences of his solution and trying to do the right thing, only to wind up having things go pear-shaped. All par for the course for John Constantine, naturally - but in these two issues Diggle manages to capture the essence of the character completely.

Is he a bastard? Of course he is. But Diggle argues, as Ennis, Jenkins and Carey did, that John has become a bastard by necessity and that deep down he's still the 20-something punk who is trying to do something to make the world a better place by using his magical power against all the bastards, mortal and immortal, who abuse the power they were given by birth and not by right. As much as he may deny it, there is still a good person in John Constantine trying to get out. And that good person is seen here, trying to do the right thing by the ghost of the daughter of an old friend only to have it all go wrong with John able to do little more than apologize.

Diggle has proven himself to be a masterful Hellblazer scribe and has found the perfect balance of "total bastard" and "sad bastard" to John's character. The artwork by Leonardo Manco is dead perfect too.

Grade: A

Justice League of America #8
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: Ed Benes and Sandra Hope

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I love Brad Meltzer's character moments, even if I hate his plots.

There is just a certain amount of brilliance to little scenes here.

Batman: Clark has him listed as a Level 15 fighter.

Black Lightning: Is that good?

Batman: Put it this way. Clark has me listed as a 12.

This leads to a scene in which a time-displaced Karate Kid jumps Black Lighting, dispatches him easily, Batman easily blocks the attack aimed at him and then thinks to himself about how much he enjoys proving Superman wrong.

So there's that. The three-way chess match between Hal Jordan, Mr. Terrific and Black Canary. The war games between the various JLA and JSA members. And the splash-page full of conversations with everyone... especially the conversation between Batman and Power Girl regarding the collecting of first edition war journals and Doctor Midnite's attempt to hook up with Black Canary again yielding the same answer.

"I'm not selling." Classic.

That being said, the actual plot of the story - involving time-displaced Legion of Superheroes members (who aren't related to the current incarnation of the Legion of Superheroes, oddly enough) - is somewhat flat and uninspired in comparison to what the characters are doing in their down time. This is a bad sign in a comic that is nominally a high-action adventure book.

Roger Ebert had a good rule about judging the inherit goodness or badness of a movie's story; if your idea for a movie is less exciting or amusing than the idea of a movie about your actors having lunch together, it's probably a bad idea. That seems to be a good appraisal of Brad Meltzer's comic work so far. In fact, I'd love to see him write something akin to Geoff John's old "JLA/JSA Thanksgiving dinner" stories rather than write a story involving missing heroes from the Future.

Grade: C

World War III #1-4
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Keith Champagne
Artist: Various

Why were these comics collectively called World War III?

Because Shakespeare already holds the copyright on Much Ado About Nothing.

That's a crap joke, I admit. I know Shakespeare is long dead and his works are in the Public Domain, so logically the joke makes no sense. And yet, if you're the pedantic sort to argue this point while missing the point of the joke - that World War III was "much ado about nothing" - then you're probably the target audience for this book.

A little back story for those of you who read this column to keep up on the comic news without actually reading comics; a little over a year ago, DC Comics had most of their books jump forward One Year in time following the Infinite Crisis storyline. They created a new weekly title, 52, that was meant to cover everything that happened during the missing year.

This allowed the writers to start their books over with some completely new and interesting premises meant to encourage reader interest, if only by confusing them into reading more just to understand what had happened. In some cases, such as Birds of Prey and Detective Comics, it worked. In other cases, the results were confusing and turned off more readers than it brought in. Such was the case with books like Aquaman (aka Conan of Atlantis), Greg Rucka's Supergirl and Nightwing (aka OH GOD THE BURNING!)

The problem is that right now we're on Week 50 of 52 and there's still a LOT of big mysteries that haven't been touched. Enter World War III which tries to explain away some of those mysteries away. To be fair, some of the big mysteries are seemingly clarified in these four books. One of these involves J'onn J'ozz and his sudden "badass" attitude in his new solo title. This is, I think, explained away here as being the result of J'onn having been telepathically connected to Black Adam when he got pounced by the JSA. Somehow, the connection made the highly empathic J'onn more like Black Adam.

The problem is that there are a lot of mysteries that aren't even touched and there are quite a lot of things that are even more confusing once they are explained.

The destruction of Atlantis and salvation of Sub Diego, for example. Now, I haven't been reading Aquaman but I knew that basically part of San Diego was sunk and that the people there mysteriously developed the ability to breathe underwater before OYL started. Well, just as suddenly, according to this book, they were being slowly killed by the ocean and this had something to do with the ancient Ocean gods being pissed about surface dwellers being in their domain. So Aquaman wound up using his own magic, saved the people of Sub Diego and turned himself into Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean.

You heard me.

Also, Supergirl - who disappeared during a Zeta Beam explosion during Infinite Crisis - apparently didn't return until Week 50... which leaves her two weeks to hook up with Power Girl, get some Kryptonian power suits and then decide to go into the Bottle City of Kandor, fighting crime there... for some reason... at the start of HER book One Year Later.

And despite being elected mayor and not having been seen for over a year ANYWHERE according to his own book, Green Arrow is among the heroes assaulting Black Adam as he stages a one man invasion of China. So is Black Canary, who was supposed to be in a rice field somewhere in Southeast Asia training with...

You know what? Forget it. It's not worth going into any further. It sucks. Don't buy it. Just read 52 #50 and whatever books you want and you won't miss a thing.


And when are they going to explain when Babs and Dick broke their engagement?!?!?

Grade: F

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Detroit Gotham City - Spider-Man, The Musical announced.

SOURCE: Spider-Man Musical to Take Gotham in Upcoming Reading

What amuses me greatly is that many, many comic geeks are flipping out "But - but - but - Spider-Man is in New York City, not Gotham City! That is the home of Batman, as anyone who ever read a Batman comic could tell you!" before running off to their message boards of choice to vent their spleens in sad, sad acts of rage.

Of course, it would help if they read said article and found out that the title was actually referring to New York City... and that Gotham is another name (long story why) for Manhattan Island.

It would also help if they read the article and found a whole OTHER reason to be pissed off and/or worried about this Spider-Man musical...

The character breakdowns provide some insight to plot points as the character Arachne ("female, 20-35 years old, any ethnicity") is described as "a beautiful, boastful young woman turned into a spider for her hubris and lack of respect for the gods. She subsequently appears to Peter Parker and the audience as in turn a powerful spider-woman who comes from another time to inspire Peter; an otherworldly lover; a bride; a terrifying (and sexy) dark goddess of vengeance; a dance partner in a charged and violent spiders dance of death; and, finally, a lonely, fragile young woman." Casting is seeking a "strong Celtic, Balkan style, e.g., Sinead O'Connor," noting, "outside the box ideas are welcomed. Could be someone from the music industry."

Also, a "Geek Chorus" consisting of "three teenage boys and one girl" are described to "meet to ritualistically retell the greatest Spider-Man stories."

Honestly - you've got U2 doing the music and... it's freaking Spider-Man. Superheroes are the stuff of Opera anyway and... it's freaking U2! You don't need all the fruity ritual dance stuff OR a subplot involving a spider goddess.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Good News/Bad News about Wonder Woman


Good News: This is something fans have been clamoring for since before One Year Later started. Shame that it took countless book delays, three writer changes and a critical dismay to bring it about.

Bad News: This means I'm going to have to fix Green Arrow myself now. ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who's Who in the DCU Special- How To Fix Green Arrow

Hello, everyone. I’m afraid that there won’t be a new Looking To The Stars for the second week in a row. Don’t worry – I’m over the flu and those nasty sentient triangles won’t be troubling anyone ever again.

No, I’m afraid the blame for this sits firmly upon the shoulders of one Mister Mathan Erhardt and one Mister Tim Stevens. You see, in last weeks Who's Who in the DCU, they completely ignored the question of one Glen, in order to crack wise about my dislike for Judd Winick’s tenure on Green Arrow.

Now, I don’t mind these two making jokes about me or even insulting me in earnest. I’ve got thick skin. But to completely ignore a reader’s question in favor of making jokes shows a serious disregard for one’s duty as a columnist. It is all the more shocking when they actually do answer a similar question from the same reader in the same column in complete seriousness.

This is a complete dereliction of duty. As such, under Comics Nexus Directive 196156 I have taken command of this column in order to rectify this serious breach of writer’s etiquette.

You’ll never get away with this you mutinous-


Ah-ah. What did I say about trying to get out of the gag, Tim? Now... how do you format this thing?

Ah. There we go...

Glen's the man, going to work. Got his tie, got ambition.

How would you fix the Green Arrow series?

Well, I’d love to write it myself and I could easily come up with a list of story ideas and concepts like my colleague Christopher Bird did with his Reasons Why I Should Write Legion Of Superheroes list. But since I doubt that DC Comics will hand it over to an untested author like myself, let’s pretend that I’m Editor for a Day at DC Comics and get put in charge of hiring and making decisions on book direction.

Get Gail Simone as a writer - Gail has proven herself capable of writing a damn good Ollie during his appearances in Birds of Prey and Villains United. And Double Date, the episode of Justice League Unlimited that she wrote – featuring Ollie as a major character - was one of the best of the series.

Also, given current editorial plans to bring Ollie and Dinah back together and given that one of the biggest concerns about this decision is Dinah being marginalized into the “girl hostage” role in Green Arrow stories, it would help keep fan confidence to have the woman who made it her goal in Birds of Prey to move Dinah past that kind of characterization on-board any book that would feature Black Canary in a prominent role.

Get Mike Grell back as an artist - While some fans disliked Grell’s no-powers run on Green Arrow, few deny that the man is one of the best in the business when it comes to drawing a high-action comic book series. Nobody can draw a menacing man with a medieval weapon quite so well as Grell. Take a look at this piece, a cover for the Pittsburg ComicCon.

Anyone who can make the lame Smallville Green Arrow costume look cool on paper is someone we need drawing Green Arrow on a regular basis. Indeed, let us compare this...

... to this...

Mike Grell has been away from DC Comics for far too long and I think this would be the project to bring him back on.

Focus on The Family - One common theme to every member of Ollie’s extended family is that they all had an extremely dysfunctional childhood.

• Oliver Queen was orphaned at a young age and spoiled rotten by a succession of babysitters.
• Roy Harper was orphaned at a young age, nearly kicked out of his tribe when his first foster father died and abandoned by his second foster father when he needed help the most.
• Connor Hawke’s mother was borderline neglectful, doing her own thing for most of the time and leaving him to his own devices.
• Mia Dearden was abused by her father, ran away from home and was forced into prostitution.
• Dinah Lance was a latch-key kid with both her parents away fighting crime in one way or another.

Kevin Smith and Mike Grell both explored this theme in their run by examining Ollie’s overwhelming need to be a father and Smith put forth the idea that all of these characters are, in a small way, joining together not just to fight crime but to build the family that they always wanted.

With that in mind, I would shift the tone of the book to something more akin to Fantastic Four than Batman. Don’t make it a book about superheroes that live together – make it a book about a family that just happens to be made up of crime fighters.

That may not sound like a big thing but in truth it’s what separates The Arrow Family from The Batman Family. Bruce adopted his respective children for the express purpose of fighting crime and had them grow closer to him. Ollie adopted his respective children because he wanted to be a dad and had them all turn into crime-fighters under his watchful eye.

Relationships - This goes along with the idea of Green Arrow as a family book, but I want to see a lot of exploration of the relationships between all the characters. Especially...

• Dinah and Mia – there have been off-hand references to Dinah having had a hand in training Mia. I want to see this. Mia’s mom died when she was young and she could use a positive female role-model.
• Mia and Roy – again, there have been some off-hand references to Roy having spoken to the young woman who took over his name but no books have actually shown the two talking, as far as I know.
• Roy and Connor – the best issue of Winick’s run featured these two sons of Ollie attempting to bond. Why limit it to one issue?
• Connor and Dinah – they met a few times but there’s never really been much discussion about how they feel about one another. Is Dinah weirded out by a younger, nicer Ollie? Does Connor think of her as a second mom?
• Lian and Sin – Roy’s ass-kicking daughter and Dinah’s adopted ass-kicking daughter. It will write itself.

Bring Back Arrowette - I miss the character and I want to resolve the issue of whether or not Ollie is her dad and it’s hard to do that with Cissie Jones in limbo. Besides, Bonnie King is a never ending source of drama for any story her stage-mom self is dragged into.

Team-Ups And Guest Stars Galore - with all the connections between the various Arrow family characters and other DCU characters, there’s a lot of room for team-up ideas. To toss out a few possible connections...

• JLA - obvious with Dinah and Roy on the team
• Birds of Prey – again, obvious. But I want to see Mia teamed up with Dinah’s friends.
• JSA - Dinah’s an ex-member and should have her favorite uncles come visit
• Checkmate - Roy’s an ex-member and almost wound up on the new team
• Kyle Rayner - Connor’s best friend, I don’t think they’ve teamed up once since Black Circle nearly five years ago.
• Warlord – put the whole family in Skartaris ala Land of the Lost for a few issues and bring back the old Ollie and Travis Morgan are long lost twins gag.

Revamp The Rogues Gallery - Bar none, Ollie has the worst Rogues Gallery of any hero in DC Comics. Most of his villains were one-shot wonders or complete jokes. So, once again, to toss out a few names of forgotten or unused characters who could be used to great effect in a Green Arrow story.

• Lord Kalesque – a British Lord who is obsessed with being the world’s greatest archer, he killed innocent people in an effort to force Ollie into agreeing to an archery contest to prove who was better. He’s a pompous aristocrat with no regard for the little people or human life. Sounds like the perfect foil for Ollie.
• Hatchet – Sure, he had a lousy codename and a lousy costume. That doesn’t change the fact that this man with the downloadable arsenal of solid light weaponry still gave Connor a hard time during his Green Arrow days. Update his look and he’ll be good to go.
• Clock King – give him some of Gabriel Walker’s old gear to play with and bring him back as a time traveling thief.
• Rainbow Archer – a failed artist turned counterfeiter turned evil version of Green Arrow, he used trick arrows that were every color BUT Green. Team him up with Rainbow Raider (another failed artist turned supervillain) and have them make nuisances of themselves on a semi-regular basis. Have Mark Waid guest-write the issue and bring Hal Jordan in to see if Raider’s yellow fear beam has any effect on him (It won’t).
• Ra’s Al Ghul – sure, he’s dead but since when has that stopped him before? Bring him back in style attempting to lure the somewhat politically like-minded Ollie into joining forces.

Secret Identities - This is a rather important point that needs to be sorted out. Most of the recent Green Arrow stories have hinged upon the idea that Ollie and his family members all have secret identities. The problem is that some major past Green Arrow stories, which are still frequently referenced, depend upon Ollie having a public identity, including Longbow Hunters, Where Angels Fear To Tread and Quiver

It is also worth nothing that Connor Hawke, during his time as Green Arrow, didn’t operate with a secret identity and indeed had trouble getting insurance during his brief time as an apartment manager because he was an openly known superhero.

My idea is that we can sort this out in one of two ways. First, we reboot the continuity completely and write everything from this point on to conform to what Andy Diggle says in his upcoming Green Arrow: Year One mini-series and then just rewrite the history from that point to the present. This will be a lot more work for the writer but given the conflicts in the last ten years, it may be necessary.

Or, the second plan, we can do a Times Past story ala James Robinson’s Starman and have it revealed that while he was still The Spectre, Hal Jordan used his powers to erase all evidence to the world at large that Oliver Queen was Green Arrow and that any of his family and friends were connected to Green Arrow.

A cheap cop-out? Yes. But Hal did it for Wally West in The Flash so that he could have a secret identity again and if Hal would do it for his favorite nephew, I’m sure he’d do it for his best friend. And it’s not like there’s no precedent for this kind of thing happening. After all, if Hal Jordan didn’t use his phenomenal cosmic power to screw with the lives of his friends, Oliver Queen wouldn’t even be alive right now.

The Dead-Beat Dad Question - One way or another, we are going to resolve the issue of whether or not Ollie ever knew about Connor before Hal Jordan told him that Connor was his son in Green Arrow #96 or if Ollie was a dead-beat dad who walked away from his son for one reason or another, as suggested in The Archer’s Quest. One more Times Past issue to write in the future.

Now, I have no objection to the idea that Ollie – before he became Green Arrow and had his social conscience raised – be portrayed as a womanizing scoundrel who might have abandoned a one-night stand with a child. Oliver Queen did a lot of bad things during his early life – one more will not make him any worse of a character, so long as we keep in mind that he is a changed man today. I would just like to see the issue settled.

I can easily see Ollie wanting to start a family and proposing but Moonday Hawke pulling the “independent woman” act on Ollie and refusing his proposal, saying she wants to marry out of love - not because she has to. It would fit her portrayal in Chuck Dixon’s run as a fiercely independent romantic and it would fit Ollie’s portrayal as a wannabe dad trying to get the family he lost back. It could even be this loss of his first young love and the son he always wanted that fuels Ollie’s descent into alcoholism and womanizing. Just a thought.

Do something with Mia’s HIV - The most controversial point on this list, to be sure, but something I feel quite strongly about.

I have no objection to the idea of an HIV-Positive superhero. I object to the concept being used only for the sake of cheap publicity and any examination of the concept being limited to pep talks about how it is possible to live a full healthy life with HIV despite the complications.

Let us see some of those complications! There’s a goldmine of potential drama here just waiting to be explored. Let me toss this one into the ring – the entire Arrow family wind up trapped on a tropical island. Now, given the level of survival training everyone has, this isn’t a huge problem. But with Mia out of her medication, suddenly there’s a clock on how long they have to get rescued.

There’s a long tradition of heroes with some form of handicap overcoming their respective deficiencies. It is far past time that Mia be allowed to become part of this tradition. And if nothing can be done with the idea, then she should be cured.

Outrageous? Yes. But isn’t it equally outrageous that Barbara Gordon remains paralyzed because somehow it makes her a more interesting character even though there is technology that could heal her shattered spine? The only reason that Barbara has remained handicapped is that the tragedy behind her transformation from Batgirl to Oracle works as a concept. Mia being HIV Positive does nothing to further make her character more tragic – she was already an abused teenage runaway prostitute. Making her a recovering junkie with HIV is just icing on a very nasty cake.

So assuming we just can’t clear this away with the news that the first test was a false positive, here’s another idea – take the concept above, but use Skartaris instead of a tropical island and put the spin on it that there’s some rare plant that can be found only there which the natives have used as a cure for “the wasting sickness” but how the only known meadow where the plant grows is under the control of a hostile tribe.

The family manage to save enough of the plant to save Mia but the rest of the valley is set ablaze during the battle. You get an ecology message, a preservation message, a cool fantasy story and all the problems with Mia’s inconsistent portray solved in one fell swoop.

I hope that answers your question, Glen. As for me, that’s the news and I am outta here! Be back here later this week when Mathan and Tim return. And come back next week when I return to my usual Monday tomfoolery in Looking To The Stars!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 4/11/07

52 WEEK #49 - Much better than last week's dull, plodding mess, this issue is just further proof that mad scientists make everything better. And mad scientists with hypno-goggles trying to hypnotize Power Girl make everything dark near perfect.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #7 - This am worst issue of All Star Superman yet! Me hate the use of Bizzaro here and conclusion of old non-Bizzaro Bizzaro Superman who am Bizzaro Superman we have seen before. Me not reccomend this book to anyone, or the trade of the first six issues that did not come out this week!

CONAN & THE MIDNIGHT GOD #3 - The weakest chapter of the series so far, but that's only because we've seen this scene (mysterious witch offers help to Conan before turning on him) before in other Conan stories. Indeed, it ammused me that Conan himself seemed to see the "trap" coming a mile away. At least the atwork is still good, but this issue felt like filler.

FABLES #60 - A fairly slow issue but it is the first part of an arc building to something bigger. I do like the focus on Flycatcher, who has been one of my favorites since his first appearance. And am I the only one who thinks that here, with the full beard, he looks somewhat like a depressed Tom Baker?

FRANK FRAZETTAS DEATH DEALER #1 - I suppose if one is going to do a story based around a famous painting, this is the way to do it. At least the artwork, while not quite Frazetta style, is interesting - but the dialogue is uninspired and the story seems to be fairly standard fantasy fare.

GEN 13 #7 - Been a while since I picked this up, but the cover - a tribute to the original Gen 13 #7 - caught my eye. Needless to say, it was hillarious but more impressively, Gail Simone actually came up with a GOOD reason for Caitlin to remove her costume and don a jungle-girl fur bikini (It involves dehydration, tropical climates and her costume being mostly plastic) even as Grunge removes his costume for the same practical, but less pure reasons (i.e. building a new society, free of pants).

GREEN ARROW #73 - The Countdown to Cancelation Continues. You've heard me grouse about the title enough and I'm honestly sick of grousing about it. Indeed, I'm numbed at the prospect of talking about this book except to make one point - just how the hell did Ollie get elected to high office in the first place if the Mia - the young lady living with him - a former teenage junkie prostitute, who I don't think Ollie ever legally adopted - had outstanding warrants on her? You'd think SOMEONE in the press would have caught that during the campaign.

SPIDER-MAN FANTASTIC FOUR #1 - Note to everyone at Marvel except Dan Slott, Dwayne McDuffie and Ed Brubaker. THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT!

TEEN TITANS #45 - Not much happens here, except I'm glad to note Duela Dent isn't evil. Her whole reason for joining Deathstroke's team? She wanted to be a Titan and they asked. She switches sides the minute she gets an invitation to join the team with all her friends. It's nutty. It's silly. It's everything I love about the character.

WONDER WOMAN #7 - Ho-hum. That about sums it up.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Stolen from

If the Globe Theater had an internet message board frequented by comic fans:

"FUCK YOU SHAKESPEARE! WHERE DO YOU GET OFF KILLING OFF ROMEO AND JULIET? Clearly, you have no conception of how drama is supposed to work, since you won't let your characters be happy!"

"It was a total rip-off of the sub-plot from Midsummer's Nights Dream anyway. Talk about unoriginal."

"I'm still waiting for WS to explain the continuity errors in Antony and Cleopatra. There is NO WAY that both AAC and Julius Ceasar can take place simultaneously!"


"Ugh, you think the Julius Caesar continuity is bad? Falstaff fucking disappears between the second part of of Henry IV and the start of Henry V! It's like WS forgot all about him!"

"yo tardo falstaff dies inbetwen storis lololol"


"Of course Shakespeare wants his characters to be miserable. He's the last person I'd go to for something fun. All he writes is gorey garbage like Titus Andronicus and continuity porn like the Henry plays."

"He so badly wants to be Kit Marlowe it's kind of sad."

"The worst was King Lear. Cordelia's death was just another cliche 'Woman in an Icehouse' moment from Hacks-peare."

"The man clearly has issues. I mean, Taming of the Shrew? Women are shrews? I feel sorry for his wife. No, I don't, she must deserve it if she has so little self-esteem to be with him. Othello is one of the most offensive and racist pieces of filth I've ever had the misfortune to see. And Merchant of Venice is just as bad. I'm honestly surprised people still give him work, he so clearly has an anti-diversity agenda."

"Is he really all that bad? I thought Hamlet was sort of okay."

"Oh, please, the plot of Hamlet makes no fucking sense. There's a ghost and incest and an army on the border, yet they have time to fart around with stupid little plays that do NOTHING to advance the story? It's stupid. And he clearly killed Rozencrantz and Guildenstern because of his anti-fun agenda, as has already been noted."

"According to 'Reclining in a Ditch' WS doesn't even really write the plays anyway."

"With incompetents like Hackspeare writing plays, it's no wonder that kids today spend so much time at the bear baiting pits instead of going to the theater."

"Shyea, whatever, I'm waiting for the folio anyway."

Saturday, April 7, 2007

No Looking To The Stars For 04/09/07

Due to his suddenly being called away to protect the world from a series of sentient triangles masquerading as human beings who are plotting world domination, "Starman" Matt Morrison was unable to write a column this week. Or so he claims.

The truth, we suspect, is that Mr. Morrison is suffering from some manner of flu or the side-effect from the flu medication he is taking. At any rate, he is feverish, hallucinatory and making even less sense than usual.

We apologize for the inconvenience and would like to assure our readers that Mr. Morrison will be back next week. Hopefully the sentient triangles will not.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 4/04/07

52 WEEK #48 - Is it time for Countdown to start yet?

Seriously, this was the biggest yawnfest of the week. Then again, I seem to be alone in finding the "Rene Montoya Becomes The Next Question" arc to have been the weakest of the series, so keep that in mind when considering my opinions. No surprise then that - for me at least - the best part of the issue was the last page involving the mad scientists. Cause mad scientists always rock!

DETECTIVE COMICS #831 - Paul Dini writing Harley Quinn! What else do you need to know?

Seriously. That's all that needs to be said.

Look, it's the guy behind the best episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series" writing Batman. That should be all the motivation you need to pick up this book.

Fine. You want more? This issue pairs Dini's most famous comic character creation with the most inspired new character of his brief, but always exciting, run on Detective Comics so far.

Buy this book. Seriously. That's it.

FANTASTIC FOUR #544 - I somehow missed out on this issue and am kicking myself for doing so. McDuffie has made this title his own in a few small issues. But what truly amazed me is how McDuffie easily anticipated all the complaints that his critics had about the idea of Black Panther and Storm move into the Baxter Building while Sue and Reed go on vacation to work on their marriage and answers those questions here.

Why are they staying there? The Wakandan embassy was destroyed during Civil War and Reed generously agreed to let them use The Baxter Building as a temporary embassy.

Shouldn't he be running his country instead of staying in New York? The Superpower Registration Act is of great concern to his country and he is working with other concerned nations through the United Nations. As such, it's best that he stay in New York for the present.

Why are they joining the Fantastic Four? They aren't joining the Fantastic Four - the Fantastic Four is a family, at its' heart. However, since they are guests in the Fantastic Four's home, it is only fitting that they do what they can to help around the house... even if the help does involve traveling to other dimensions and stopping alien invasions.

Throw in a healthy helping of dry humor from all the characters (My favorite line: Johnny's note, when asked on a way of getting The Watcher's attention - "We could set something on fire. I'm good at that!") and you have one more sign that not all is hopeless at Marvel Comics.

JACK OF FABLES #9 - One of the funniest books on the market, but also culturally important. For too long, the menance of the Belgium Mafia controlling Vegas has been covered up by corrupt cops and politicians who are too busy raking in cash on the illegal waffle-smuggling operations that filter in and out of Nevada diners. I may not ever write another column again for daring to speak the truth and I may wind up in a landfill somewhere for saying this - but good on Bill Willingham for finally standing up to them!

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7 - I have a love/hate relationship with this book and indeed most of Brad Meltzer's writing. On the one hand, there are certain characters that he can just NAIL and he can deliver some very genuine pathos. On the other hand, he can - on occasion - do things that just flow so completely against the grain of what the character is about that you have to wonder if he's ever read a comic and is being coached on the fine points of character history.

It happened in Archer's Quest, which was a great insight into Oliver Queen's personality - until the final chapter revelation where Black Canary was written horribly out of character and we find out that Ollie Queen - in defiance of years of continuity and characterization of having always wanted kids - was a dead-beat dad.

It happened in Identity Crisis, which was a great insight into the relationships between the various JLA members that explained so much (Why was Batman so paranoid about other superheroes, How did the Ollie/Carter feud REALLY come to a head, The differing portrayals of Doctor Light, etc) and yet was built upon destroying the happiest, longest-lasting marriage in comics history and many head scratching moments such as Green Arrow bossing around Wonder Woman and the "who done it" itself, which was the worst kind of hack mystery cheat.

And with this issue, it has happened with JLA.

There's a lot of things I do like. I like their being an actual Hall of Justice in Washington DC as well as The Watchtower. I like the fakeout scene where Dinah becomes League Chairperson (She's got the power, she's experienced and she won't back down to Bruce... yeah, I vote for Canary too). I like the incongruity in Batman putting together the Trophy Room. And I loved the scene with Roy "graduating" and his favorite Uncle and Aunt (Dinah would kick his ass if he ever called her Mom) tearing up at the sight of him in his new costume.

But there's a lot more I don't like. I don't like how the "Red Tornado Becomes Human" story ended in the most cliched way possible - the tragic android romance was done before and done better with Vision and Scarlet Witch.

I don't like seeing Oliver Queen - who was put into a young man's body not too long ago in the comics - is still grousing about getting old and Hal Jordan talking about how Roy will be surpassing him soon.

I don't like how Roy credits Dinah solely with being the one who saved his life when he turned to drugs. IIRC, Hal AND Dinah were the ones who got Roy to the hospital and into rehab.

But what I REALLY don't like is how - despite the team being nearly half-women for the first time in its' history - most of the female characters are limited to supporting "approved" roles.

Despite being elected chairwoman, Dinah is just there to cry over how Roy looks in his Red Arrow costume. Diana just shows up for the team photo and in a few panels here and there talking with Superman and Batman. Hawkgirl is just there to comment on how stupid Roy looks. And Vixen gets one page of "talking on the phone" time before showing up for the group picture. Most of the comic is devoted to Black Lighting talking with Superman, Black Lighting talking with Batman, Black Lighting talking with Geo Force, Green Lantern talking with Green Arrow. Nary a girl talk moment to be seen.

We'll see if it gets better...

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #125 - Two things I loved about this issue.

1. The Bob/Earl Scene - had a lot of talks like that during my time working at the game store.

2. Squirrley Runs With The Loot - When Bob, through his own stupidity, gets jumped by three trolls, Squirrley just runs with the loot. This is funny in itself but it made me laugh because I did the same thing in one of my early D&D games. I was the only one with any previous gaming experience, playing a thief in a group full of macho teenagers who were all playing fighters. They gave me hard time about looking for traps and being so afraid... until they wandered into a Beholder's lair, got vaporized and I ran off with all of the valuable loot. Ah, memories.

SAVAGE TALES #1 - Book of the Week, this one. The first issue of a monthly anthology series doing stories in the same vein as Robert Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. And what does this first issue offer?

* A Ron Marz-penned Red Sonja story about Sonja's encounter with a kindred spirit witch
* A tale of Howard's Atlantis - before the days of Kull the Conqueror!
* A story centering upon The Hunter - the villianous dark cultist from the current Red Sonja title.
* A Lovercraftian/Howardian hyrbid tale of how The Elder Gods and Great Old Ones came to Earth in a land before time, when man was young...

Something for everyone and well worth the $5.

SUPERGIRL #16 - Give Joe Kelly credit again. He has managed to take all of the disjointed, broken "hints" about Kara Zor-El's past that had been hinted at in the writings of Loeb and Rucka and has made sense of them. Granted, he had to fudge a few details (i.e. Kara's dad not being a truly bad guy) but the story he crafts here easily stands alongside Busiek, Donner and Johns recent reimagings of Kryptonian Culture before the disaster as well as explaining away much of Kara's confused behavior in a way that doesn't have to be written off as "three writers without a direction".

Highlight for the spoilers:

In short, Zor-El - Jor-El's brother and Kara's father - theorized that The Phantom Zone his brother discovered wasn't truly empty and that there might be beings there that they could not percieve. He became convinced of his theories as, the more and more criminals were put into the Phantom Zone, the more crime increased as his fellow Kryptonians became possessed by spirits - spirits who were becoming more and more corrupt based on the presence of other people in their home dimension.

He discovered that Sunstones - the same crystal Jor-El used in most of his inventions- could drive the spirits out of a body, but that this often required mortally wounding the possessed subject. Still, he judged this a lesser evil than allow a person to die with their own spirit tainted. He did experiments on his daughter using the crystals that allowed her to carry their power within her. He then used Kara as a plan to "cleanse" Kara's school, after Kara realized that most of her fellow students were possessed. Zor-El himself was sentenced to the Phantom Zone for his actions but before he could be transported, SOMETHING came out of the projector coinciding with the last big quake before Krypton exploded.

Jor-El, putting aside his differences with his brother, told him that he had designed a rocket that might save his child. Zor-El adapted the same design to save his daughter, fearing that the ghosts that haunted his family would go after Kal-El. It was then that he left her instructions - confused by Kara's swiss-cheesed brain following hibernation - that she must be ready to kill Kal-El if neccesary.

So there we have it. Kara isn't crazy. Her dad wasn't a bad guy. And Jor-El wasn't nearly as perfect a scientist or a man as we previously thought. Honestly, this read like vintage Alan Moore in terms of execution and like Doctor Who in concept. Good stuff.