Friday, November 30, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 11/29/07

BATMAN #671: The best issue of The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul so far. That's not saying a lot, mind you, but at least I was clear on the action and we finally get an explanation of who is fighting who and why.

The short version? It turns out that Sensei - a very old school O'Neil/Adams Batman baddie (not to be confused with O Sensei, who is a good guy) - is Ra's Al Ghul's father and that he's been leading the faction of martial artists out to stop Ra's - currently a slightly more articulate zombie - from regaining true life again. Batman - in an effort to stop Ra's from killing either Tim Drake or Damien Al' Ghul (Ra's Grandson, Bruce's apparent son by Talia who has been hidden all these years) to get one of their bodies - agrees to guide Ra's to Nanda Parbat - DC's Shangri-La equivalent and home to The Fountain of Life, where Sensei and his assassins are already lying in wait.

Yes, that's the short version. You don't want the long one.

Grant Morrison is true to form here, balancing the exposition with a fair helping of action and writing Batman with the same skill he showed a decade ago in JLA. And artist Tony Daniel had managed n this issue to do something every artist on this mini-series has failed to do so far; draw a Ra's who actually looks like Ra's.

I'm glad to see the greatest Batman villain of all time (literally) returned. I just wish he had been given an epic worthy of him to mark the occasion.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #18: I note a disturbing trend with this issue that seems to have become a habit at DC over the past few years. This marks yet another comic where we finally are given a sympathetic and interesting portrayal of a new or long-neglected character only to have them die at the end of the issue. It happened in Identity Crisis with the Ralph and Sue Dibny relationship being highlighted in a way that hadn't been done since James Robinson's Starman. It happened at the start of the new JSA with the introduction and immediate death of Mister America. And now it has happened - apparently - with newbie Green Lantern and newly dubbed Ion, Sodam Yat.

This issue, split between a fight between a hyper-powered Yat and Superman Prime has been built up to with a number of recent comics. And while Writer/Editor Peter Tomasi does an excellent job with the story here, it still seems severely anti-climactic for The Guardians to remove the Green Lantern's restriction on killing, reveal the ace-in-the-whole that they have in Yat (as a native of the planet Daxam, he has powers equal to Superman's on a planet with a yellow sun) and given Yat a connection to the Green Lantern energy source that basically makes him a walking power-battery... only to have the issue end with his defeat and apparent death.

This is all the more shameful as we are finally given a damn good origin story for Sodam Yat in this issue. We learn of his troubled childhood on Daxam and how he dreamed of a live for himself in the stars - almost a high crime on the isolationist Daxam. We see him befriend a shipwrecked alien and see him defy his parent's attempt at reprogramming him into an alien-fearing drone like themselves. We see him plot to escape his stifling world, knowing not where he is going but knowing he can't stay home. We see all this and how he came to be chosen as a Green Lantern. It is wonderful. It is inspiring. And it is apparently pointless.

The art by Gleason and company is as good as ever, but it's all pretty frosting on a rather tasteless cake.

JACK OF FABLES #17: The cover of this issue is pure win.

That's all I can say except... READ THE BOOK!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daredevil #102 Review

Has any creative team been better suited to the book they were assigned than Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Matt Hollingsworth are to Daredevil? None that comes to mind as easily or as immediately.

I've written a lot of words praising Ed Brubaker's writing skills in he past but nothing I can say is ever enough to do him justice. What he does in this issue - and has done in every issue of this Without Fear storyline - is expanded a character who was at best a joke and a worst a thin rip-off of another established character from the "Distinguished Competition" of Marvel and changed him into something unique and truly frightening. I refer to Larry Cranston a.k.a. Mister Fear and how this storyline has turned him from a poor man's Jonathan Crane into a true menace and credible threat to Daredevil.

How? In much the same way that Frank Miller transformed Wilson Fisk (a.k.a The Kingpin) into a credible threat nearly thirty years ago - by sticking with the main idea behind the character that worked and developing that to its' logical end. Fisk was stronger than a normal man and possessed a keen tactical mind. Just ditch the gimmick canes and the death-trap lairs and you have one heck of an serious enemy.

Brubaker has done the same with Mister Fear, allowing his power over fear to become more varied and more powerful. He keeps a trio of beautiful women waiting in his bedroom by exploiting their fears of abandonment. He keeps an entire hotel staff at his beck and call by exploiting their fear of disapproval. And he's making Matt Murdock's life a living hell having used his enhanced fear powers to trigger a homicidal rage in Matt's wife Milla.

Brubaker manages a neat balancing act here, splitting his focus - and Matt's - between a meeting with a judge to try and get his wife moved out of prison and into his care before her trial and a street brawl between the minions of Mister Fear and aspiring crime-lord The Hood. All of this is perfectly captured by the art team, who are as adept at showcasing superhero action as they are the quieter scenes of Matt's day-job.

Consider the above scan, in which the grittiness of Hell's Kitchen is perfectly captured and how Lark is able to easily move between the offices and courtrooms and their respectable officers of the law and the city streets with its' colorfully costumed criminals with equal ease. Note the slightly washed-out colors used by Matt Hollingsworth that give everything a feeling of being faded and worn. Other heroes may live in a world of momentary brightness but Matt Murdock's works is forever muted in shades of gray in contrast to the deep, defining shadows of Gaudiano's inks.

Together, all of these artists and Brubaker have made Daredevil their baby. They have made this the most consistently enjoyable Marvel Comic of the past few years. Daredevil hasn't been this good since the days of Miller and Janson and given another few years, I think Brubaker and Lark might just well surpass Frank and Klaus.

For the love of Pete, what more do I have to say to get you to read this book?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 10 - Truth and Consequences

Peter - I guess I shouldn't be to upset by this, seeing as how Peter's memory is all swiss-cheesed to Hell... but it seems like his common sense/basic decency should have kicked in by now. Granting that everything he's seen of The Company is enough to convince him they're all-out evil and that he's just barely getting an inkling that Adam might not be being totally straight with him either... you'd think Hiro showing up and saying "Adam is a bad guy" might be enough to make him at least say "Okay... let's talk." rather than going Super-Sayien with the electrics.

Sure, he and Hiro met all of two times - and one of those doesn't count as it was Hiro from an alternate timeline - but Hiro has never given Peter any reason to think he wasn't trustworthy.

Mohinder - I had hope for a moment. We all knew after last week that Mohinder had to be the one to save Bennet. And when Mohinder mentioned the plan to bring down The Company and how it was Bennet's paranoia that brought them to that point... I thought that Mohinder's next words were going to be something like...

"You're lucky that I still know who my friends are. And that the one person they suspect less of being a spy than a humble doctor is the humble doctor who ratted out their old agent, who they now think is dead. They won't see either of us coming, now."

Because figuring out a way to make the paintings come true and then exploiting that to fuck The Company over... that's something a SMART person would do.

Where the hell is Bennet being held that The Company won't find him, anyway?

Claire - I don't know if Hayden Pantierre is just talented enough to bring the full 9 out of everything she is given or if the writers just like the character of Claire so much that they give her the best lines... but DAMN, solid scenes all around.

Sylar and the Wonder Twins - One Down. One to Go. Please?

Everyone in New Orleans - You know what? I liked this whole bit. Much as I hate the WiR moment with Monica, a part of me is glad that photographic reflexes aren't being made out to be the be-all/end-all power like they are in certain comic books. Being able to memorize a Bruce Lee kata doesn't really help much if you don't have the tactical mind to be able to improvise the moves.

Hiro - Best cliffhanger of the year, even if the fight is going to be ludicrously one-sided.

So... the ads after the show has promised us that two heroes will die. But which two?

Well, it depends on who we consider a "hero". Powered people? The actual good guys? Is something going to happen that will redefine who all the good-guys are? Well, assuming that we aren't going to have any "don't count" deaths (i.e. Claire's blood bringing people back) and that all powered people are included...

Pros: Minor character, already injured, looking to prove herself - possible martyr
Cons: Too cool to die, no obvious method for her to die in next episode
Odds: 10 to 1

Pros: Minor character, Company Founder, also seems to be seeking some degree of redemption
Cons: No obvious method for him to die in next episode
Odds: 20 to 1

Pros: Main bad guy for this Series, Has it coming, Has one of the most powerful people on the show after his head.
Cons: Near impossible to kill
Odds: 10 to 1

Pros: Weakened condition, has threatened Molly, actor has to go on hiatus for movie role
Cons: Death now after last season would be real cheap, adverts have all but said he survives, death depends on Mohinder doing smart thing.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: None, save that The Company may want to silence her before she outs herself to the world as she threatened Elle.
Cons: Most popular character on show, most popular actress outside of show, near impossible to kill.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: None really. Everyone already thinks he's dead and he's being held captive in a Primatech facility.
Cons: Cheap to have him die so soon after a fake death, no obvious means of death other than anti-climactic one being shot escaping from Primatech
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Spends next issue facing off against two heroes who have best shot of actually doing it, according to previews.
Cons: Near impossible to kill.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Has been becoming more heroic all season - sacrifice here would mean redemption
Cons: No obvious means of him dying in the next episode, so far.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Apparently will be involved in fight at Primatech according to adverts - could get killed by Peter easily if caught off guard.
Cons: With warning, could use his powers as a good defense even against Peter, popular actor/character.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Noble sacrifice to save world totally in character, was last seen charging most powerful metahuman on the planet with a sword the last time we saw him
Cons: Most popular male character on show, most popular actor outside of show, will piss off too many fans.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: Suffering from Shanti virus and Mohinder isn't on the way with his promised cure, about to go into fight to save cousin in-law from gang-bangers, not a popular character
Cons: Ali Larter brings in horny 20-something male viewers
Odds: 5 to 1

Pros: Was in clutches of Sylar last time we saw her.
Cons: Unbelievable shit-storm if young girl is killed in this show.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Was getting ready to go into fight against gang-bangers last time we saw him
Cons: Unbelievable shit-storm if young boy is killed in this show.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: Was seen being carried off by gang-members the last time we saw her.
Cons: Unbelievable shit-storm if first black female hero on the show is killed in the same season that introduced her after failing her first mission as a superhero.
Odds: 100 to 1

Pros: No powers, going into confrontation with Sylar, no common sense
Cons: Tim Kring has stated Mohinder is one of few safe characters since he needs an everyman, God doesn't like me enough to smite Mohinder, Sylar needs him alive.
Odds: 500 to 1

Pros: Sylar's plaything, no common sense, most hated character introduced this season and possibly of the entire show's run
Cons: The writers have shown an annoying tendency to not give the fans what they want and we all want Maya dead.
Odds: Even Money

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 11/21/07

Very, very fast thoughts as I picked up a lot of books this week and only have so much time to write before I have to hit the road for Thanksgiving Dinner.

BATMAN ANNUAL #26: I don't care what you Greg Rucka fans say - killing off Ra's was a mistake and thank goodness Peter Milligan is here to correct it.

BIRDS OF PREY #112: I'm going to miss Tony Bedard on this title. Hell, I'm already missing him on every title he's helped write in the past six months. What's wrong with nice, fun stories like this where nobody dies and there's cute cameos by Hal Jordan and Cowgirl?

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #8: The first issue of this comic I didn't enjoy completely. Then again, I've never been a huge fan of The Flash or The Doom Patrol. And yet I have to ask...since when has Elastic Girl been a stretcher instead of a grower? I trust Mark Waid to know what he's doing in keeping track of these things but still... I always thought she was a giantess.

CONAN #46: This issue seems a fitting contribution to the mythos, for while Howard said that Conan was inspired by his grandfather's tales of far away lands and was easily bored by his own people, we have never been told of the impetus for how Conan came to leave home. This story, which Kurt Busiek ties into some of his own tales of Conan, seems a fitting answer to that question.

DETECTIVE COMICS #838: Even if you're not collecting this for the Return of Ra's, this issue is worth grabbing just for the scene where Ra's tries to win over Tim Drake. Some of the best verbal sparring in recent memory.

EX MACHINA #32: Should I feel ashamed that I found myself more interested by Mitchell Hundred's nightmares and the visions of supervillains fought in the past rather the current storyline involving a plot to turn Mitchell into a living weapon against The Pope?

HELLBLAZER #238: One of the best one-shot Hellblazer stories ever, with John reluctantly going on a rescue mission to save some urban explores caught in a shadow London where urban myths are real. Great story though a part of me wonders... wasn't Map killed off in the Mike Carey run of this book? Ah well... set it before that and it works just fine.

NIGHTWING #138: I look at Tiger Moth, Dragonfly and Silken Spider... and I think about how much I miss The Ravens and The Body Doubles, who were very much the same concept but not nearly as much of a joke, even when they were jokes.

RED SONJA #27: I'm still trying to figure out how an infamous evil wizard got elevated to godhood and wishing that Sonja would ditch the idiot millstone crew she finds herself saddled with. Still, this book is not a bad read though I suspect it reads better in the TP.

ROBIN #168: Tim is too smart to be this stupid. A rare miss from Milligan.

Gone on vacation from comics. I'll see you all in a week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Looking To The Stars: The Final Word On Batman and the Outsiders #1

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Partly because - this being Thanksgiving week in the United States - my schedule is full of activities with friends and family that do not involve reading comics or writing about comics. And partly because there's only so much breath I'll waste on this particular scandal.

You all likely still remember last week's Batman and The Outsiders #1 and these two pages, which inspired more than a fair amount of annoyance in the comics community this past week.

The GLBT fans were insulted by Batman referring to the lesbian relationship between superheroines Thunder and Grace in such a derogatory manner. Bat-fans took umbrage at the idea that a master detective like Batman would be unable to tell the difference between close friends and lovers. And the continuity cops took offense over the idea that Batman didn't know about the Grace/Thunder relationship despite having clearly been in the room when Thunder and Grace made their relationship pretty plain (the words "girlfriend" and "baby" were used) in Outsiders: Five of a Kind - Wonder Woman/Grace #1. But all of this offense paled in comparison to the annoyance that came later, when Chuck Dixon tried to justify himself on The Comic Book Resources board.

I'll avoid quoting the whole speech here. You can read it for yourself at the link above. However, I would like to make three points regarding Mister Dixon's comments.

1. Deliberately writing a story and then having the preview cut in such a manner as to inspire complaints from people who think you're homophobic doesn't prove that people are out to get you, Mister Dixon. All it proves is that you are out to get your critics. This kind of behavior on a message board would be considered trolling. This kind of behavior in a criminal case would be considered entrapment. This kind of behavior should be beneath an alleged professional writer like yourself.

2. You contradict yourself by saying that "the man doesn't care" regarding Batman's view upon same-sex relationships and then saying two sentences later, saying that you believe "Batman shares my personal views here." Your own personal views, Mister Dixon, being on record as being one who is firmly anti-homosexual. It is one or the other, Mister Dixon. You cannot have it both ways.

3. I have always thought you an intelligent man based on your writing, Mister Dixon. That being said, freely insulting your potential readers after releasing a new title is not an intelligent thing.

In the past, I have always respected you as a writer, Mister Dixon. You have always been a reliable scribe when it came to writing a good action yarn. Your Nightwing series was one of the books that got me into collecting-comics as a serious hobby. And you will always deserve high-praise for having come up with the concept for Birds of Prey.

I find it ironic then, Mister Dixon, that as the man who created Birds of Prey - a book which did so much to bring more female readers into the hobby - that you are now responsible for alienating so many of those same readers with your current behavior.

Are there people who jumped to conclusions following the preview of this book without reading the whole story? Yes.

Are their conclusions born out by the whole story itself? I have to say yes, yes they are. As you say, Mister Dixon - you believe that Batman shares your views on homosexuality. But I believe that Batman - whether he approves of girls dating girls or not - should be smart enough to tell the difference between "close friends" and "lesbian lovers". And I am hard pressed to think of any way - in the context of the story - for the phrase "special relationship" not to be a slam of homosexual unions.

By your actions, Mister Dixon, you may have caused your critics to jump the gun in calling you a homophobe. But by your actions, you have also proven them right and proven yourself a complete jackass in the process. As such, Mister Dixon, I still respect you greatly as a writer. But I don't respect you at all as a human being. And I won't be purchasing any book with your name on it ever again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wizard World Texas 2007 Report

Looking back on my report on Wizard World 2006, it occurs to me that something I said last year was double true this year; Often times, all the fun in a convention is there for the making... it's about the people you meet and the experiences you share with your fellow fans.

This occurred to me after reading a report on this year's Wizard World written by my close friend and writer/artist of Deranged Comics; Don Cook.

Don noted in his personal journal that it seems like fewer and fewer guests of note come to Wizard World Texas every year. The first year, we had the likes of Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes for media stars and legends such as Kurt Busiek and George Perez striding among us mere mortals and our $5.00 hot dogs. This year, we has some woman whose biggest claim to fame is being a MySpace babe and Lou Ferrigno. Three guesses who had the busier booth.

Granting that Don has a point on how Wizard World Texas in particular and Dallas Comic Cons in particular don't usually get the A-List in terms of professional support/attendance, I still stand by the idea that you can have fun at a convention with one vendor, the guest of honor is CarrotTop and the hot rare collectible being the first batch of fliers where CarrotTop was spelled with one 'r'.

Why? Because I had fun this year, despite the lack of any writers I cared about (well, writers I cared about who were advertised - nothing I read about the Con in advance mentioned that Jack of Fables co-writer Matthew Sturges would be there), only five artists I cared to get an autograph from and failure in my yearly quest to find a Starman Jack Knight variant figure. I got to meet a lot of very cool people; fellow stargazers all.

Some were established writers and artists with an independent published work, hoping to expand their fanbase. Others were aspiring talents, looking for a publisher willing to give them a chance. And then there are the common folk; the fans who just enjoy dressing up and sharing their love of a character and the joy of living every day like it's Halloween. Many fans, but all with a deep love of the genre no matter how they choose to express it as they journeyed through the World of Wizard.

Accompanying me on this journey was my good friend Halo Husberg - artist/photographer and probable Costume Contest Winner if I ever get her to show up at one of these things in her White Queen outfit. What follows is a brief photographic chronicle of where we were, who we met and how utterly cool a convention can be even when you are just there to work.

Writer Devin Richard & Writer/Artist Mike Charles of Angel Comics - a new Indy company based out of Houston, Texas.

Artist & Angel Comics CEO Roderick E. Thornton.

Artist Michael Brooks of Angel Comics

Some bloke whose name we didn't get who has a comic published by Drunk Duck! - a web comics community which hosts over 8,000 web-based comics.

Chasen Grieshop of Particle 9 Productions, hard at work on a new piece.

The gear table for Wrestling Wear Galore - the only place that I know of where you can get a real Iron Man, Iron Fist and Nacho Libre wrestler's mask!

Rowan Of The Wood author Ethan Rose, dressed as his own titular character.

A fearsome barbarian, on-call to train aspiring heroes courtesy of Barbarian Battles

The Barbarian tests his metal against young warrior Connor Yarbrough.

(from left to right) Jack of Fables co-author Matthew Sturges, DC Comics VP of Sales Bob Wayne,
DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio, Justice League of America artist Joe Benitez & Action Comics artist Adam Kubert.

The Scottish Batman, Quinten McKinnney. (Didn't Grant Morrison just do a comic about this?)

Fat Momma; first runner-up on last year's Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

Feedback; the winner of last year's Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

The Defuser (winner of this year's Who Wants To Be A Superhero? and Major Victory honor us with a pose.

Aspiring artist Marshall Wilson checks his portfolio.

1st Place Costume Winner - Toney Dempsey as DC Comics' Scarecrow

2nd Place Costume Contest Winners - Ryan McKinley and Matthew Ham of Central Oklahoma Ghostbusters.

3rd Place Costume Contest Winners - the husband and wife team of Ned and Margie Cox, here dressed as Hal Jordan and Katma Tui.

Costume Contest Finalist Chris Newman as Grim Girl

Costume Contest Finalist Mike Bartosh as Gambit.

Gemini Force model Amber Emery. She poses for her boyfriend's comic. Lucky guy!


President Nelson who did a great portrait for me in a short amount of time and refused to take extra payment for the rush.

Humbert Ramos, who stayed a little late to get through the line of fans who had been waiting for a while to get autographs.

Joe Jusko, who not only allowed me to get the perfect Christmas present for my girlfriend but also gave me the good news that the Sheena mini-series published by Devil's Due is indeed going to continue as a monthly series!

Phil Hester, who gave me an autograph and a quick Ollie Queen sketch in record time.

Michael Lark, who couldn't stop to talk but ran his booth with a sense of elegance, despite his speed.

Mike Hankins of Dorm Dorks, who had what is easily the funniest new web-comic I've seen in a while. Expect a full review later.

The gents at Cat Torpedo Comics, who remembered me from All-Con 2007. A fact which is nearly as impressive as their stellar work on WonderTeddy and The Silver Spectre.

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 9 - Cautionary Tales

Line of the Week: Did you pack Mr. Muggles doggie bath?

Hiro: Nothing surprising here - Hiro tries to do something and changes his mind when he realizes the damage he might do. And I think we all figured out by now that Adam/Kensei was the one who killed Kaito. I would have liked to have had Hiro mention Charlie and how trying to go back in time to save her didn't work. Don't get me wrong - I loved his speech at the end, but it seems to me like Hiro has already learned this lesson.

Matt: Figures - the minute Matt starts becoming a bit less of a tool they have to make him start going evil.

West: I still like him. I don't know why everyone else is so down on the guy although I have noticed a co-relation between the people who read the on-line comic liking West more than the ones who don't. The first comic of the new year centered on West and was just about him taking joy in the freedom his power gives him.

Claire/Bennet: Pure Grade A awesome. Jack Coleman (Bennet) needs an Emmy nod for this episode. SERIOUSLY.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DCU: Counting Down To Final Crisis Special Report!

I'll have a full report on Wizard World Texas with lots of pretty pretty pictures later this week. Right now, though, I have some exclusive news on various DC Projects that I thought you all would like to hear about A.S.A.P.

* Keith Giffen has just signed an exclusive contract with D.C. Comics. Amazingly, he did not have a rider in his contract that he is allowed to sneak Ambush Bug into anything he writes although the possibility of more Ambush Bug stories in the future is not out of the question.

* Long-time Green Arrow artist Phil Hester will be the artist on a new El Diablo title to premiere in 2008.

* Western fans rejoice! There will also be a new Bat Lash series in 2008.

* A future issue of Countdown will feature a battle between Superman Prime and Mister Mxyzptlk.

* Countdown: Arena will feature characters from at least 26 of DC Comics 52 multiverses.

* Final Crisis will be a stand alone title with no "required" tie-in books.

* In a future episode of Booster Gold, Booster will act to save Barbara Gordon from the attack that ends her career as Batgirl and leads to her becoming Oracle. There will also be a special #0 issue coming out between issues #6 and #7 that will tie in to Zero Hour.

* Green Lantern #25 will be a double-size issue and it will contain a preview of the last part of the "trilogy" by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver - Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro War being Parts One and Two.

* In answer to a request for more kids books that aren't a spin-off of a cartoon, DC is releasing three new children's titles. Tiny Titans - a book based off of a popular children's cartoon in the DC Universe which is based on the Teen Titans; a new Superfriends comic that will tie-in to a new action figure line by Mattel; and Shazam! - a new Captain Marvel series in the spirit of Jeff Smith's recent mini-series.

* Fans of James Robinson's Starman who have wondered why the remaining uncollected issues haven't been collected in a TP Format, wonder no more. Starting early next year, DC will be re-releasing Starman in an Absolute format. The first volume will collect the first 17 issues of the series.

* Blue Beetle #26 will be written entirely in Spanish.

* Sadly, the JLA/Hitman series did not sell well enough to draw consideration to an immediate re-collecting of the entire original Hitman series in TP format. However, The Powers That Be have not ruled out finishing collecting the series at a future date.

* DC Comics Editorial has no new information regarding a DC Comics MMORPG or the JLA Movie.

* Dan Didio shot down any suggestion that DC Comics would consider doing an on-line archive service similar to the one which Marvel Comics announced this week - one which allows fans access to read comics on-line but not download them for a monthly fee. Didio's reasoning? "We want people to actually own the comics they're paying us for."

* There may be plans in the future to use Terry McGinnis (the Batman of the Batman Beyond future) in a story.

* There may be a mini-series centering upon the new Ion (Sodam Yat) in the future.

* Grant Morrison is signed to continue writing Batman into 2008 and beyond.

* Adam Hughes is still at work on All-Star Wonder Woman. Beyond that, the only thing that can be said about the All-Star Line is that "books will continue to come out".

* Regarding plans for any future Green Arrow stories by Andy Diggle, Dan Didio said "Not yet".

* All-New Atom still not in danger of being canceled, according to Dan Didio.

* Manhunter WILL return.

* Breach (the Captain Atom of Wildstorm Comics) will return in Countdown: Arena.

* There are more DC Comics straight-to-video movies on the way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wizard World Texas- Friday Report

I was at work all day, so naturally I wasn't at the convention.

However, my good friend Don Cook, author of Every Day is Halloween, did go. He has a report on his blog that is quite amusing. You should go read it. And while you're there, read his comic and tell him how much you like it. He could use the pick-me-up after being snubbed by the Suicide Girls.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I just got forwarded an e-mail from the head editor at Comics Nexus.

Seems somebody has become so offended by my Titans East review that not only does he refuse to get comics news from us anymore (which is odd as the site switched to a mostly-reviews/criticism format a LONG time ago anyway) but he is going to "have us added to the corporate block site at work".

That's probably for the best, anyway. Unless you work for a comic company, you probably shouldn't be reading about comics at work. I know my workplace frowns upon such things.

I just can't help but reflect upon how funny it is I only ever hear this boo-hoo-hoo stuff from Judd Winick fans and not... oh... say... Chuck Dixon fans.

I'm going to bed. Work tomorrow and then.... Wizard World.

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 11/14/07

FABLES #67 - This book becomes more and more difficult to review with every passing issue. The English language allows me only so many words to describe the exact greatness of Willingham and Buckingham's Magnum Opus. If Fables has a flaw, it is that it is so complex and so epic that it is impossible to begin reading in the middle of an arc.

It has been particularly difficult to review The Good Prince - the storyline which has taken up the book for the last half-year - for this reason. Unless one has been reading the book since the very first issue, one cannot really appreciate the story and the grand transformation that has made the comic Flycatcher (aka Ambrose, The Frog Prince) into an epic hero, great leader and all around bad-ass.

If you've been reading Fables, this issue is a perfect 10. If you haven't, I fear it will be too easy to be lost and confused as to who is fighting who and why reading this issue, though the heroes and villains are made plain. Still, there is quite a bit of good action here and Buckingham's art does not disappoint, as per usual. So if you haven't been reading Fables - and I can't imagine why you wouldn't be - do yourself a favor and pick up the first few trades before catching up on the recent issues. I promise you'll be glad you did.

SPIDER-MAN/RED SONJA #4 - You either hate this book or you love it. Me? I love it.

Yes, I know that the covers by Michael Turner are - even by the lax standards of Michael Turner covers – abysmal. By Crom, Sonja appears to be a ballerina stretching on a pole rather than a warrior maiden wielding a sword!

Yes, this book is based on an unmitigated silly concept. It’s centers around the concept that an evil wizard is awakened, transforms New York City into a Hyborian metropolis, everybody but Peter Parker is changed along with it and Mary Jane is possessed by the spirit of Red Sonja.

Yes, I know that the fact that it is an unmitigated silly concept that has its' roots in a story that was created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne back when they were both at the top of their game excuses nothing.

Yes, I know the fact that this book is being overseen by Mel Rubi and Michael Avon Oeming – the team who brought Red Sonja back to greatness in her only monthly book – also excuses nothing.

And yes, even I admit that Kulan Gath being possessed by the Venom Symbiote is probably one of the stupidest things I’ve seen in comics all year.

And yet, I don’t care.

Because all is shattered by the sheer unadulterated awesome that is Joeseph, Son of Robert; Rebel Leader!

Seriously. You do not get better comics than the Joseph “Robbie” Robertson speaking faux-Shakespeare wielding a sword and getting ready to put the smack down on a group of trolls without help. And if you can’t appreciate that, then you really can’t appreciate this book.

Yes, this book is a bit silly. But it is unashamedly silly, like a child with a towel tied around their neck insisting in all seriousness while smiling widely that they are in fact Superman. More than a lot of comics today, this book is fun. And that can allow me to forgive a lot these days when so few comics – even the ones I enjoy – are truly fun.

WONDER WOMAN #14 - Gail Simone takes over the title with this issue and not a moment too soon! Of course, it goes without saying that this issue is at least 1000% better than anything done with Wonder Woman since the beginning of One Year Later. But if I don't say it, this will be a very short review.

In all seriousness, this is a stellar premiere issue. Given the problems this title had over the last year, coming into this mess and trying to do anything - much less build upon the generally loathed status quo - would be a daunting task for any writer, even one as experienced and capable as Simone. After Amazons Attack and the farce that was the Jodi Picoult run, I think most comic fans would be happy to have a Wonder Woman book that is readable much less wonderful.

Rest assured though; the first issue IS wonderful. What Simone has done here is captured the essence of everything Wonder Woman is and should be. She is tough. She is smart. She is clever. She has a dry sense of humor. She is more than capable of handling herself in a fight but is always looking for ways to avoid fighting when possible. She is compassionate. She is understanding. She is, in short, every bit the wonder her name implies.

All of this is accomplished through one heck of a fight-scene with the forces of Gorilla Grodd. But apart from giving us talking ape assassins– something which automatically bumps up any comic a full letter grade in my book - Simone has crafted a perfect entry-level story. If you've never read an issue of Wonder Woman before (and given the last year, who can blame you?), you can safely pick this one up and rest assured that the status quo will be made clear. Indeed, Simone manages to give us all the back-story we need and then some without it seemingly like we are being exposited to.

Simone even manages the neat trick of bringing back what appears to be a new Etta Candy, who appears to be a slightly over-weight hardass like her Golden Age predecessor. And yes, even Hippolyta – unseen and forgotten in the months since Amazons Attack – even she is seen to be doing something in the background that will no doubt have major repercussions in the months to come

Coupled with the excellent artwork of The Dodsons, I’d say that Wonder Woman is in good hands. Of course it’s still a bit early to say that Simone can completely undo all the damage that has been done to the mythos of Comics’ First Lady. But I have every confidence that she will. Diana Prince isn’t the only Wonder Woman in comics, after all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Double Review of Titans East Special #1 & Batman and the Outsiders #1

Many of you are probably wondering why I'm reviewing these two books together. Is it because of some compare/contrast essay I wished to pen? Was I trying to create a sort of Zen balance by reviewing one book each by one of the most outspoken liberal writers in comics (Judd Winick) and one of the most outspoken conservative writers in comics (Chuck Dixon)? Did I wish to compare Winick writing an entirely new team book to Dixon taking over the team book Winick left?

These are all very valid guesses, but they are wrong. The main reason I'm combining my reviews for these books is because I can't be bothered to write a full review for both of them. It's more than I can take.

So granting off the bat that both of these books contain a level of hack writing that is becoming increasingly commonplace at DC Comics and that the artwork by Ian Churchill and Julian Lopez is woefully sub-par, which of the following points should we comic fans be most insulted by?

a. Judd Winick and/or his editor failing to do the basic research to learn that Hawk is Dove's younger sister - not her older one. A fact easily discovered after 30 seconds on Google.

b. Cyborg apparently knowing about Power Boy's "run-in with Supergirl" (i.e. the stalking, kidnapping and attempted rape of Supergirl) and not having any problem with this guy being on his team.

c. Yet another Judd Winick one-shot ends in death, in order to promote a new series.

d. Batman making an unprovoked disapproving remark about Thunder and Grace's lesbian relationship.

(The Following Transcript was provided by a man who has asked only to be identified as 'Roy'. He had the issue in question but no scanner, but was none-the-less willing to give me a transcript of the next page of the comic.)

THUNDER: WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GRACE AND ME? Have you been spying on us? You like watching, freak?

BATMAN: You have too many issues competing with your primary role in this group. You have skills. You may be even be gifted beyond your powers. But you're not ready. The simple fact that you would interfere with me while your teammates are in the field proves that. And I surmised that you and Grace were good friends by observing your body language when you're together. I didn't know it was more than that until you told me.


e. The idea that the World's Finest Detective is unable to tell the difference between close female friends and lesbian lovers.

f. The return of generic 'Batman is a dick' characterization.

g. All of the above are so equally offensive, it's hard to pick just one.

Me? I've got to go with G. I'm giving both of these books a 1 out of 10 rating and welcoming you all to record your votes at the Comics Nexus boards . You will need to register to vote, but if you've never been it is a fun little forum with more intelligent conversation than most comics news boards.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 8 - Four Months Ago

Peter/Nathan - Glad to have it resolved just how Nathan survived, what the deal was with the visions of his burned self and where the heck Peter has been all this time. Clearly The Company is big enough that Bob was able to keep Peter under wraps without Angela being any bit the wiser.

Elle - Huh. Sociopath who likes electric-play. Again, I can hear the fanfic being written across the Internet as we speak.

Angela - More hints that she has some kind of power involving hyperpersuasion. There were hints of this last season with her touching people as she's trying to get them to listen to her (i.e. talking a reluctant Nathan into going along with the plan to let Peter die)

Niki - Okay. On the one hand, I'm glad they've finally confirmed that she's DiD. And I think - now that they HAVE confirmed that - Ali Larter's acting has become a lot better as a result since we got to see her do a lot more this episode than "intense/sultry" and "worried". On the other hand, that STILL does nothing to explain the vanishing tatoo.

DL - I liked the guy last season and now I'm pissed as hell that not only did he find a way to redeem himself AND use his powers in a way that let him be an effective hero... but that he went down like a total punk. He didn't even get the dignity of last season when he almost got killed taking a bullet for Niki, tossing himself between her and Linderman.

Maya - Okay... did we REALLY need another two instances of her freaking out and killing random extras? She can't control her powers and her brother can defuse hers while being immune to what she does. WE GET IT. It has been established TO DEATH. Get on with Sylar killing them!

What makes this last part truly annoying is when you consider all the people who COULD have gotten a scene here but didn't and all the stuff that could have been shown. Like, say...

1. Bennet having to explain EVERYTHING to his wife and son and why they'll be moving.

2. The reaction to Linderman's death. I'd just love to see Candice's reaction that her meal-ticket just snuffed it.

3. Matt having to explain to his wife where he'd been for the last few weeks.

4. Matt meeting with Mohinder and going about figuring out how a soon-to-be divorcee and an immigrant/visiting alien are going to adopt a young girl.

5. How The Bloody Fornication Did Sylar Get Away, Get Captured By The Company And Wind Up In Mexico?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fast Thoughts - A Goodly Number Of Reviews

DAREDEVIL #101 - For the last two years, this had always been the one Marvel Comic I could always count on enjoying. Part of this is because the creative team, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, were stolen away from DC Comics where they had an established track-record of being able to do good, gritty street-level stories. The other part of this was that Daredevil somehow managed to remain free of the contagious stupidity that infected almost every other Marvel title, thanks to countless, endless crossovers that promised to break the Internet in half.

I far these salad days may be over based on this last page.

I've only broadly been keeping up with what has been going on in New Avengers, but the short version is that relatively new criminal "The Hood" is making a bid to become the new Kingpin. So far, his plans have been limited to attacking Tigra (who, curiously, did not fight back against the man assaulting her, despite having always been one of the most temperamental of Avengers) and this apparent attempt to bring down Daredevil baddy Mister Fear.

I don't know how this is going unnoticed in Tony Stark's brave new SHIELD-run world. Perhaps The Powers That Be are too busy hassling the registered superheroes over paperwork and cracking down on unregistered superheroes to keep an eye out for this sort of thing?

Ignoring that, this issue is more of the same fine work that we've come to expect from Lark and Brubaker. I can only hope that The Hood's time here will be brief and not a precursor to a longer storyline tying into whatever Brian Michael Bendis is doing with his latest man-crush character.

GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #6 - I find myself at a loss as to how describe this series other than to say that this is easily the best Green Arrow story in years. What Andy Diggle has presented here is a portrait of Green Arrow at his purest.

Diggle has managed the amazing task of retelling a classic origin story that has - for good reason - remained largely unchanged since the Golden Age of Comics while modernizing some of the trappings. He has taken the past continuity of not only Green Arrow's origins but of several key Green Arrow stories and added elements to this origin that will go on to foreshadow future adventures. What is most impressive is that he has done this in a way that is easily accessible to new readers while speaking to the old-fans like myself.

But even those words do little to convey just how perfectly Diggle has captured the essence of the character of Oliver Queen; who he is and what he becomes. And it certainly does nothing to display the skill of artist Jock, whose talented line-work has made this book as wonderful to look at as it is to read.

I think the only thing that can possibly convey the beauty of both the writing and the art is a scan of this page.

THIS is Green Arrow. He is Robin Hood in the modern world. The defender of the defenseless. The savior of the oppressed. The man who never gives up no matter what the odds are against him. The man who flips Evil the bird and then tries the impossible, rather than bargain or beg favors from it. The one who stands up and says "no".

He is all that. And a damned good showman to boot!

This is my Green Arrow and I will miss him until someone at DC has the good sense to put Diggle and Jock to work on the character on a monthly basis.

HELLBLAZER #237 - With the 20th Anniversary of John Constantine's monthly book's first publication fast approaching, it seems a fitting time to reflect upon what has come before while considering how things are now. This is ironic considering that despite the many changes this book has gone over two decades the state of things is remarkably close to how they were twenty years ago.

Andy Diggle made Hellblazer his own book from the very first issue and set about seeing John reborn. This was necessary since the last substantial run on the book, penned by Lucifer writer Mike Carey, ended with John alienating nearly every ally and friend he had left, most of the London magical scene and John destroying his entire storage-unit of magic books and artifacts. With none of his resources and connections, but all of his enemies and his tendency to attract trouble when he isn't actively looking for it, John underwent a magical rebirth of sorts and emerged looking slightly-older and somewhat-wiser but still the same loveable rogue he was way back during the Jamie Delano run.

The similarities between Diggle's run thus far and Delano's run extends past their portrayal of John as a character. Delano's stories drew heavily upon the history and legend of magic in England as well as the theme that while there are horrible things in the Earth, the true horror lies in the hearts of Mankind. Diggle has established the same themes in his Joyride storyline, as a dark magician uses the Druidic magic of England to develop his own power while simultaneously corrupting dozens of relative innocents by promising them the power to get revenge on their enemies.

I make this comparison as praise for Diggle's ability to exploit the continuity and themes that have come before him in order to tell new stories that ring true to the original intent of Hellblazer - not to suggest that he is ripping-off a long-established writer. Far from it.

Indeed, Diggle's work here is the work of a true master. Like all the great Hellblazer writers before him, his work has a unique voice all it's own and yet it still seems as if his vision of John Constantine - drawn as it was from the works of others - is true and definitive. I miss Mike Carey's work on the title but if he were to return, I would miss Andy Diggle just as much.

This skillful writing is partnered with an equally skillful artist. Leonardo Manco is a perfect choice for Hellblazer, which requires an artist who can depict in equal parts the horrific fiends and terrors of the Abyss as well as the more mundane horrors, such as a horrific hit-and-run accident and the facial expressions of an astrally-possessed punk, who finds out that he raped his own sister while he "slept".

Vertigo Comics longest running title is in good hands. I highly recommend that if you're not already reading Hellblazer, you start next month with #238 and the new arc.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #10 - I was, like many of you, nervous when the news came out that the Superman of Kingdom Come would become a part of the JSA team for some time. Kingdom Come was, of course, one of the best graphic novels written in the last twenty years and a tribute to the ideals of DC Comics, America and heroism in general.

Given the attempt to recapture that same magic with the lackluster The Kingdom mini-series to say nothing of the varying levels of success with which certain elements of the KC Universe have been added into the reality of New Earth (a time-displaced Thom Kallor as the Starman of three worlds and three times, Ma Hunkle's granddaughter as a new Red Tornado, Damage now wearing the costume of "The Atom" among others), we fans can be forgiven for being somewhat skeptical of this storyline.

We can be forgiven... but we can also be relieved.

For with Alex Ross assisting with the story and Geoff Johns (the one writer at DC Comics as trustworthy than Mark Waid in regards to respecting the past of the company) handling the writing chores, this story thus far is very true to the spirit of Kingdom Come.

Ross also contributes a few painted panels, but the lion's share of the artwork in this issue is ably illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, who is - as ever - a master of both high-action and facial expression. He is one of the best visual storytellers in the business and even during the confusing moment in which Superman must fight his way past the entire JSA, change into his costume and rush to save a woman attempting suicide, the progression of action is smooth and logical despite occurring in a matter of seconds.

This story isn't really a sequel to Kingdom Come. And as good as it is thus far, I doubt very much that this story may prove to be the equal of Kingdom Come. But taken on its' own merits, it is a damn fine story about Truth, Justice and The American Way. And that is all that it needs to be.

TALES OF THE SINESTRO CORPS: SUPERMAN-PRIME - Based on what I've seen on the message boards, you either hate The Sinestro Corps War or you love it.

Me? I love it. I love it as a brazen Green Lantern geek who has always dreamt of a story in which Sinestro gathered an army of like-minded individuals and set to spreading terror across the universe. I love it as a comic history geek who recognizes the numerous references to Alan Moore's work on Tales of the Green Lantern Corps as well as his unpublished proposal for a story involving the end of the DC Universe titled "Twilight of the Superheroes".

And this issue - despite some erratic artwork caused by two artists with dissimilar styles - I even love it because it has given Geoff Johns a chance to do what he does best and do something he wasn't allowed to do during Infinite Crisis. Namely, he has given us a look inside the head of Superman Prime a.k.a. the boy formerly known as Superboy Prime.

Johns spells out Prime's origin in detail. How he was the one superhero on his Earth. How he finally won the love of the girl of his dreams and had a chance to be the hero he wished to be as a child. How all of that was destroyed and how he sacrificed everything in order to save the multiverse and give it a chance to be reborn. All of this gives us an insight into his character that was lacking during Infinite Crisis. We now see how an idealistic young man - a Superman in the making - could come to be so filled with anger at the universe and become convinced that he had to make things right by any means necessary.

We also see how very different he is from our Supermen and the difference between them. While our Superman relishes the gratitude that others bestow upon him for his good deeds, he does not expect it. Superman Prime is still a lost child seeking the praise and approval of the parents and loved ones he lost a lifetime ago through the teaming masses he is working to "save". He is not worthy of the name Superman. He isn't even worthy of the name "man"

It is a credit to Johns' skill as a writer that he can write a tale in which we can feel both sympathy and contempt for the same character for the same reasons. And it is that level of writing which has made the entirety of The Sinestero Corps War a real treat.

Shamelessly Promoting A Friend

One of my partners in crime over at Comics Nexus has also recorded his thoughts upon Wizard Magazine's decision to snub the female half of their former core demographic in favor of more articles about how much they enjoy pixilated cleavage.

Words of Questionable Wisdom: The Pop Culture Column For Men!

Give it a look-see. It's even better than my column despite containing 100% less Al Bundy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Wizard: The #1 Irrelevant Men's Magazine

Hello children! Sorry I've been gone so long. You know how it is. You take one week off for Halloween and then you wind up taking another week off because you're feeling sick and the doctor's bill wiped out your budget for buying comics that week.

But I'm here now! And ready to hop back in the saddle and take up arms against the grand old dinosaur - Wizard Magazine.

"Now Starman", I hear you all say metaphorically. "Why are you even bothering to write about Wizard Magazine? Nobody I know even reads that hack-rag anymore!"

You explain to me further, "Their comics pricing guide is pointless in a time when there are many websites that offer the same information for free and ebay has created a much more accurate gage of what people will pay for a comic. You can get all the latest mainstream comics news, reviews and comedy from any number of on-line sites, like your very own Comics Nexus and the magazine has become more about pop-culture and less about comics in the last few years, anyway."

And then you exclaim, "Why, apart from the occasional interview and the photos of a half-naked Kristen Bell, there's no reason at all for anyone to buy Wizard Magazine anymore!"

Well, you know what, oh nameless rabble with whom I am having an imaginary and increasingly long-winded conversation? You are all absolutely right!

To use a metaphor, Wizard Magazine is a an aging athlete. We've all seen this type of person - probably even knew one in college. He was the guy who graduated but is still in denial about his salad days being over. He talks non-stop about how good he used to be in attempt to make himself still seem good. He still goes to the same bar he went to as an undergrad after work, still hits on the same co-eds with no success and wonders in his quieter moments when the world passed him by. He wonders why everyone acts like he's an adult when he still feels like a care-free, wise-cracking 21-year old. He used to be respected but now the world has no use for him.

It's a fair comparison. Apart from being an organizer of some of the biggest and best conventions in the Sci-Fi/Comic Con game, Wizard hasn't really been relevant to the Comics Business for a good long while. Sure, the big boys at DC and Marvel throw them a bone once in a while, but The Internet has ended the days when Wizard was the be-all and end-all of Comic Book News and Reviews. Why wait a month to pay five bucks to hear what Joe Quesada has planned for Marvel Comics when you can read about it once a week at Newsarama for free?

So why am I writing about them? Because of this latest sad attempt at relevance.

The #1 Men's Pop Culture Magazine!


Now, this did cause quite a stir last week. Naturally, a good number of female comic readers were offended at the fact that the most prominent print-periodical for comics in the world basically said "We're a boys only club" - an idea that the industry itself and feminist comic fans in particular have been fighting for years. The fact that the same issue had semi-nude pictures of "Heroes Hottie" Kristen Bell didn't help matters. Nor the fact that the issue had a game wherein the reader is supposed to identify a female video-game character by her upper torso. Guess what this feature was so tactfully named?

Of course several came to the defense of Wizard. Some pointed out that the offending comment was only on one of their three alternate covers and further suggested that it was probably just a joke. But Wizard itself has been silent on the outrage, in so far as I can tell. This suggests that Wizard honestly doesn't care if they offend female comic fans and that they honestly are trying to reinvent themselves more as a general pop-culture magazine for men rather than as a general-interest comics magazine for everyone. Which, given reports of Wizard having gone out of their way to get female feedback at their conventions this summer, is a double-slap to the face.

As for me personally? I can't get too worked up over this, though I did feel the need to comment upon it. Wizard Magazine is a business and if it improves their business to cater to the lowest common denominator and the baser instincts of heterosexual men-child than to provide quality comics news coverage, more power to them. There's plenty of other print-magazines out there that still do provide comics news without the boobs (Comic Foundry comes to mind) so it's not as if this is the huge disaster it might have been a decade ago for fangirls and fanboys with a conscience. And there's always all the fine folks on The Internet News Sites and Blogs, right?

So with all that in mind, join me next week as I enter the belly of the beast and report from Wizard World Texas! Where the guest of honor is... Smallville Supergirl Laura Vandervoort?!?!

To quote Han Solo, "I have a bad feeling about this..."

No Fast Thoughts for 11/7/07...

... on account of I didn't have one single comic to pick up this week.

Now... to catch up on the backlog of books I did get in the last fortnight...

Thoughts on HEROES: Week 6 & Week 7- The Line and Out of Time

True to their promise, this season IS moving a lot faster than the first and things appear to be well on their way to a good mid-season conclusion before they start CHAPTER THREE.

Bob - I can't wait to hear this guy's story. I'm beginning to think that his story about The Company changing direction might be true. By all accounts, Linderman and Mr. Petrelli were partners before joining The Company and both were A-Type Personalities. Ditto most of the people affiliated with The Company that we've seen who were in a position of power who have been whacked since then.

Bob though... Bob seems different. The whole season, he's seemed like a man in a positon of power who is unused to it and adjusting to suddenly being the one in charge. We know so little about him aside from that his power lets him change other metals into gold (and more, if one interview witht he writers can be believed) and that he's apparently had some medical and scientific training.

So imagine this: a scientist who discovered, as he was working on something and wishing that he could get a reaction to work more quickly, that he was able to do so just by thinking about it. It would fit the show's idea of a person getting powers based on their personality or their needs at the moment of activation and it would explain how the heck he'd detect having a power as obscure as an alchemical/transmutationary touch. It would also explain him being a lot less "showy" than the Company founders we've seen who are healers, master swordsmen and... whatever Mama Petrelli is.

Just a thought... it would explain why he backs down so quickly from Mohinder. It would also show The Company has changed a bit as he goes out of his way to help Monica. And why - as Niki points out - he decides to put her to work for The Company rather than killing her outright when doing so would certainly be easy enough.

Niki - So am I the only one who said "Oh, Thank You Lawd!" when it turned out that DL's sudden appearance wasn't Niki trading one DiD personality for another? And cheered when Niki found the control to fight Maury and stabbed herself rather than hurt another?

Nathan - I also liked the fact that it was Nathan who tried to get through to her. They did have that nice talk about her son way back in the first episode of Season 1 and Nathan does know better than anybody what it is like to be fighting to get your kids back and regain control of your life right now. Nathan is impressing me more and more as a character with each episode.

Matt - Speaking of impressed... wow. The shlub finally grew a pair... and they're the size of basketballs!

Out of Time should be the script the HEROES people hand in for Emmy consideration this year because there is not a slow moment or a weak performance in the whole episode. And out of all of the sheer awesome in this episode, the most awesome moment has got to be Matt confronting his dead-beat dad as well as his own fears and coming to that moment of divine catharsis where he unleashes 20 years of anger and worry in one psyche-crippling blow.

"No! I'm not scared of you anymore! I'm a good man; I'm a good cop. I'm a good father, which is something know nothing about. You don't know what it's like to fight for someone that you love; you left. You left. All you have are your nightmares."

Powerful stuff.

Hiro - And speaking of sheer awesome... wow. The jaunt to the past ends in grand fashion with Hiro pulling the mother of all grandfather paradoxes out of the fire. The "I become my own legendary hero" story has been done before but never with quite this much style. And as much as I usually loathe some of the angsty "tragic love" stories that this show has given us... this one, I liked.

Still, even Hiro can't be too heavy-hearted and the scene where he goes to Ando with a gift was pure win. :)

Can't wait for the inevitable "Kensei? You're alive?!?" moment...

Sylar and The Wonder Twins - I actually got into an argument earlier in the week regarding D&D Alignments, the cast of Heroes and how Sylar cannot be "Chaotic Evil" because his power involves understand the inherit order of things.

First- for those of you who aren't D&D fans - let me explain. In D&D, all characters have a moral alignment based on two things. Law vs. Chaos and Good vs. Evil. Law vs. Chaos measures how much you consider a codified set of rules neccesary to living day-to-day life. Good vs. Evil measures how much you tend to put yourself before others.

A Chaotic Evil person is somebody who does whatever they want to further their own ends, regardless of ethics, the price others have to pay or the laws of whatever society they live in.

Now, call me crazy, but that seems a pretty apt description of someone who traveled around the country, killing people in order to steal their super-powers along with anyone else who got in his way (we see Sylar kill a truck driver, a homeless man and several police officers in the comics)... all so that he could feel "special"... even if he did have some half-assed justification involving an evolutionary imparitive involving natural law/survival of the fittest.

Secondly, we only assume that an ability to know how things work is exactly what Sylar's power is. It's never actually been spelled out just what the heck is going on inside his head when the clocks start ticking. Even if that is the case, there's no moral connection between the ability to understand how things work and living according to a natural order. And even then "the natural order" (at least so far as Nature is concerned) is True Neutral in D&D terms.

Why do I bring this up? Because Sylar's desire to control Maya, so that even if he can't get his powers back he'll still have some degree of control over who lives and who dies... that is some textbook Chaotic Evil behavior there. To say nothing of the fact that he is corrupting a relative innocent - also classic CE behavior.

Claire/West - First of all... HA! to those of you who insisted he had to be a Company plant or her brother or every single whacked out conspiracy theory that said West was anything other than a smart-ass kid who had issues with authority.

I loved the scenes with Claire and West, though. Especially the Chaotic Good/Neutral Good argument about whether or not what they did with the head cheerleader was right after the fact. Small wonder they put her in all but one episode - Claire is a great character and Hayden Pantierre is a greater actress.

I just hope he didn't fly out of the show completely. There's already too much love angst on this show.

Bennet - I think this poster I made sums it up best.

He's always been a grayish character at best - a good man willing to do bad things for the right reasons. But now it's become entirely about getting revenge on The Company for what they've done to his family - the goal of trying to save others from being killed or manipulated by The Company has been forgotten. Without that balance, Bennet is becoming a lot sloppier, a lot more dangerous and it's no surprise that Mohinder decided to turn on him.

The Paintings - Nothing else shows that the show's speed is picking up better than this. We're promised a set of 8 paintings that connect to this big disaster. One comes true in the very first episode. The last one suggests the death of a major character. And now, after one episode in which three of the events happen and we find out two events happened in the last episode, we have six of the events identified with #7 and #8 neatly set up.

Just in case you didn't catch them when we saw them briefly, here they are...

#1 - Kaito Nakamura's Death

#2 - Claire's "Death" after West dropped her

#3 - Bob's hand holding a vial with the different strain of The Shanti Virus

#4 - A mind-controlled Niki trying to break down the door to Bob's office.

#5 - Peter looking on in horror at a large pile of bodies through a window.

#6 - Hiro duels Kensei.

#7 - An angry Mohinder, with a broken nose, shoots a Company-issued gun.

#8 - A man in horned-rimmed glasses lies dead, shot through the eye, as a young couple - the woman a blonde in a cheerleader's skirt - embrace over his body.

Peter - Didn't get much done in the first episode, but wow... what an ending. Of course we all knew some kind of new disaster had to be on the horizion. And given everything else going on, it's not hard to see what the cause was going to wind up being.

I'm pissed that Caitlin has been taken out of the picture and hope Peter can get himself together in time to get her out of the future. He's got enough angst without losing another girlfriend and I really don't want to see the WiR list for this show grow any more than it has to if she winds up dying in an alternate future of a lethal plague.

And yes - I kinda saw 'Adam Monroe' being Kensei coming even before this episode made his links with Maury more obvious. Some of the original material on the show's websites kind of hinted at it, what with The Company having been founded in 1978 - the same year that Linderman came into posession of several authentic Kensei artifacts.

What I'm still trying to figure out is... did he found The Company with the intent of eventually using it to get back at Hiro, who would have been an infant then, after meeting Hiro's dad? Or did he have some other falling out with the group he created and not realize that... "Huh... my co-founder has a son named Hiro Nakamura..."