Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 04/23/08

This week: truly fast reviews limited to two sentences each.

BIRDS OF PREY #117 - It's official: DARK VENGEANCE! is the new LEROY JENKINS! And if you don't love Misfit after this issue, I don't know what's wrong with you.

FABLES #72 - One reason they forgot to mention that Cinderella is the greatest secret agent of all-time; nobody had any idea she was a secret agent until recently and even when they found out they refused to believe it. This continues to be the best book on the market, bar none.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #20 - This is what I was expecting when I first heard Dwayne McDuffie was taking over this book - simple, old school tales of superheroics. As it is, this is the best story done with The Flash in recent memory.

SHEENA: TRAIL OF THE MAPINGUARI - Great one-shot, which, in a weird way, manages to set up the concept of the new Sheena character better than the five issues of the monthly series did. If it weren't for the gratuitous thong shots toward the end (which are doubly confusing as we see Sheena has a more full costume bottom before then) this would be a perfect 10.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Apparently, someone at DC is listening...

I know I'm not the first to have said it. I certainly wasn't the last to say it. But a whole lot of people have been saying - like when I wrote my Modest Proposal on How DC Comics could better appeal to young female readers - that a series centering around at least one of their many teen superheroines would be a very good thing.

Well, this isn't the revival of Amethyst that I predicted. It's even better.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade to become part of DC's Children's Line.

Mangaesque Art! And she's wearing tights! And doesn't look like Paris Hilton!

They're finally learning, aren't they?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

In Defense of Red Sonja #32...

I find myself amused that I feel the need to defend a comic that I was mostly indifferent to. But since another writer's work has painted a picture of the issue that I feel is manipulatory at best and that someone whose work as a critic I respect has been persuaded to ignore Red Sonja completely because of that review, I thought it fair to explain what this other critic failed to.

This is for you, dane, who said "I don't read Red Sonja, so I don't know why, um, NOT being raped and having your parents NOT die would make you evil, but going with that plotline, I'd like to see how much of the original Red Sonja exists". Rest assured - you DO get to see that.

This is for you, buttler, who said "I don't know who the heck that's supposed to be, but it's no more Sonja than it is, say, Wonder Woman. Which is to say, not at all.". No it isn't. But it isn't meant to be OUR Sonja.

And mostly, this is for kalinara, who has steered me clear on listening to one bad review in the past before. I hope that this may return the favor. This isn't the usual creative team. This isn't a usual storyline. And this is the very first "What If?" story the series has ever had since being revived at Dynamite. Go read Red Sonja #31 - it was a lot better.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the Red One, let me sum up.

Sonja was a tomboy peasant girl. Her entire family was killed by soldiers in the service of an evil god, imaginatively named The Dark God. Raped and left for dead, Sonja was visited by a goddess (mostly known as The Goddess) who promised to bless Sonja with supernatural warrior skills to aid her in a one-woman war against evil. Sonja would keep these gifts so long as she kept to an oath that she could not physically love any man who did not prove her better in battle.

Dynamite's Red Sonja series, separated firmly from the Conan mythos that inspired it, has centered upon Sonja's adventures as she gathered allies and fought the minions of The Dark One. But in Sonja's haste to stop The Dark One from being born into a human body, she accidentally fulfilled a prophecy that said that the death of a god in her plane would bring about the return of the Sorcerer/God Kulan Gath. Gath's evil proved to be even greater than the evils inflicted by The Dark One and Sonja gave her life to see him defeated.

For the last few issues, we have been treated to a number of one-shot stories as Sonja - now dead, but still apparently with a destiny ahead of her - is guided down the river Styx by a familiar ferryman who recounts the deeds of Sonja's life. In the most recent issue, #32, The Ferryman showed Sonja what her fate might have been had her family not died at the hands of The Dark One's soldiers.

In this "What If?" reality, Sonja and her father are able to fight off the soldiers. Sonja then receives a message from The Dark God himself, promising her blessings equivalent to the ones The Goddess granted Sonja. Nine years pass and Sonja is a warrior of great renown but with two significant differences. First, her costume is of much darker aspect; her chainmail is made of black metal instead of silver and she sports a metal torc with The Dark One's symbol. Second, this Sonja is not hampered by an oath of chastity; something we discover as Sonja is having her way with the King of Pah-Dishah after entering his service as a general.

Long time Sonja fans will note that this is in direct contrast to the original story in Marvel Feature: Red Sonja #1 by Roy Thomas. In that story, Sonja was hired on as a general by the King of Pah-Dishah, spurned his advances and eventually wound up killing the foolish king after he tried to force her into his harem.

Assassinating the king in his bed and now sole ruler of Pah-Dishah, Sonja turns toward increasing The Dark One's power and eliminating the competition posed by a new god: The Celestial One. Ironically, this is the same being - a despotic god of purity - whom Sonja, as a hero in her real life, fought against in the first story arc of the current Red Sonja series. This battle leads Sonja to fight against many of her allies from her true life, including the warrior bard Osin.

This is where the review by mallet begins, showing the rape of Osin. While he scans the panels showing how effective this Dark Sonja has become in using her sexuality as a weapon, mallet neatly leaves out the panels where Sonja explains just why she feels the need to have her way with this man and why she gave herself over to The Dark God.

I will quote from the text here. I apologize for not having a scan handy but my scanner is kaput.


OSIN: But why? Why would you give allegiance to The Dark God?

SONJA: There are many reasons. But all can be tied into one word. Destiny. The Dark God's followers once tried to kill me. But they found themselves lying in a pool of their own blood. That was my trail. The God was testing me. I proved I was worthy of his blessing... and now I am here to carry out his will. You should be honored, Osin... Any other man would kill for this opportunity.

OSIN: You're insane, woman. You can kill me. Torture me. But I'll have no part in this madness.

SONJA: Fortunately, you have no choice. Suumaro says that you are the one. You cannot deny your destiny... or me.

OSIN: I told you... I... I'll have no part in this.

SONJA: Oh? And you believe you can resist? Your body betrays you, Osin.

OSIN: Damn you...


What gets revealed in the following pages is that Sonja has been given the honor of becoming mother of The Dark God made flesh. In essence, Sonja's only reason for raping Osin is because a prophecy said that he was meant to father the Anti-Christ (or the Hyborian equivalent) with her as the mother. That doesn't make it any less icky but it does give Sonja with a motivation past "Well, she's evil - so she must be a slut." - a subtext that I believe was mistakenly (although not, I think, intentionally) implied by mallet's original article.

So the baby Sonja is killing? That's the Anti-Christ. And Sonja quickly forgets doing the will of The Dark God when she realizes that the baby IS trying to kill her and that her faithful wizard Suumaro, has been planning to double-cross her this whole time.

Again, I quote from the text, as Sonja is going into labor.


SONJA: Summaro. It is time...

SUMMARO: Come. Sanctify this body. Bless this place with their blood!

SONJA: What? UNGH... What? What is this?

SUMMARO: Take of your mother's flesh as you will of the Earth! Baptize yourself in your mother's blood!


SONJA: No! Get out!


SONJA: You... you tried to kill me!



SONJA: And you, traitor... you would have let me die?


KULAN GATH: Yes.... Yes! Yes! The ultimate sacrifice has been made! The blood of a god has released me!

SONJA: What... are you?

KULAN GATH: I am Kulan Gath... and you are now my slave. I have planned this moment for ages.. and your life has been guided, designed for this moment.


Again, this ironically mirrors the events of the story thus far. Sonja is still responsible for bringing about Kulan Gath's resurrection, but this time she is forced into his service immediately and is destined for a dark end at the hands of the few remaining followers of The Dark One left.

Sonja herself, once this view of the world where she turned evil is finished, comments on how it seems that the ends were exactly the same. Her family still wound up killed. She still became a warrior manipulated by the gods. And she still died after having accidentally inflicted great evil on the world. The Ferryman agrees, but notes that Sonja's actions in the real world lead to Gath's defeat and also saved her from the path of damnation she could have followed.

So in conclusion, what is there to say?

Are these comic panels horrific? Yes.

Do they depict a Red Sonja who is out of control and fully given over to the forces of darkness? Yes.

Are they typical of your average Red Sonja story? No. And thank goodness for that.

I just wanted to include this here for the fans who don't read Red Sonja who might be biased by an account written by someone who - though they are reviewing a comic that has never been promoted as anything other than a Mature Readers title - concludes their review with the words "Hey Kids! Comics!". As if Red Sonja were on the rack with The Batman Strikes.

But When Worlds Collide, said George Pal to his bride...

SOURCE:DC Comics Vs. Mortal Kombat game in the works

Is Frank Miller involved in this? Because Batman throwing Sub Zero through stone walls definitely seems like Goddamn Batman in action.

I dunno. I think this will be a glorious train-wreck. Fighting games for DC Comics don't really work that well - something I remember all too well from the famous Justice League Task Force game which could end - seriously - with Green Arrow fighting Darkseid to save the universe in a one-on-one duel.

Still... Black Canary vs. Sonja Blade. That has possibilities.

Thoughts On The New Comics - 4/2, 4/9 and 4/16

I know. I know. I'm a bad critic. Work stuff got me and I didn't get anything one week. I'm all caught up now, though.

COMIC FOUNDRY #2 - Only two issues in and this little magazine (billed as The #1 Men's & Women's Pop Culture Magazine) has already been nominated for an Eisner. If there is any justice in this world, it will win it. Smarter than Wizard and less pretentious than The Comics Journal, this is the magazine for the discriminating fan.

My favorite features this issue?

* The "All-Star Batman and Robin Drinking Game" (One drink when Batman tells someone to shut up. Two drinks if it's Dick Grayson)
* A profile of the Too Much Coffee Man opera.
* A preview of Season 3 of The Venture Brothers.
* Brief interivew with Kristen Bell and Masi Oka
* Brief review of Grant Morrison's oft ignored classic series The Invisibles
* Profile of the men behing Milestone Media

There's also some stuff about Manga and Matt Fraction that didn't interest me too much, but that's okay. This magazine has a little something for everyone so even if you don't feel the need to read the whole thing cover to cover, you can be guaranteed there will be something worth your time. And hey, it is cheaper than Wizard.

DOCTOR WHO #3 - I dunno. Maybe this is just me but this comic just doesn't hook me like the new series did. I suspect that may be because I'm less than enamored of the Doctor Smith/Doctor Jones pairing than many who fans are and I see the "Mary Sue" complaints that were frequently made about Rose Tyler being a lot more obvious in Martha Jones. Still, this is a harmless bit of fluff with The Doctor saving cat people - who are not, despite the cover, affiliated with the cat nuns of New Earth - in the far future. It's not really all that bad but - thus far - this series has done nothing but retread old characters and ideas from the show, save for a subplot involving the aliens who were apparently the true Egyptian gods.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #23 - So what did we learn?

Bastards rhymes with Asses, according to Guy Gardner.

Mongul has a butt-load of Yellow Power Rings, a minion and a field full of Black Mercys (i.e. telepathic parasitic plant that makes the one it attaches to envision their perfect world as they slowly waste away)

The Guardians are still idiots.

"Change Hope Into Fear" - that isn't foreshadowing at all, is it? What with Hope and Fear being diametrically opposed on the emotion color wheel.


HATE is to LOVE as RED is to VIOLET
FEAR is to HOPE as YELLOW is to BLUE
GREEN is the BALANCE between.

HELLBLAZER #243 - There are no words for how awesome Andy Diggle's Hellblazer is.

Not only did he take a very simple high-concept (The Vatican create a room God cannot see into so they can indulge in their vices guilt free), introduce a fairly simple complication (the sins build up until all Hell breaks loose - literally) and milk it for everything it was worth by dragging John Constantine into the mix. He also threw an 11th Hour curve-ball that made total sense and yet totally surprised me at the same time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Get this Man writing Green Arrow/Black Canary post haste!

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #138 - Lots of Gary Gygax tributes this issue - both in the comics themselves and in the columns. This is only fitting given that this is the premiere gamer comic and - with Dungeon and Dragon vanished into the Ether, perhaps the premiere gaming magazine as well.

As for the comics themselves, there's quite a lot to like here. We finally get a glimpse of book publisher Shelia Jackson and the horror of horrors that a woman who doesn't like role-playing games is about to take a hand in trying to design one from the ground up. (I foresee a LOT of D&D 4.0 jokes coming). Gordo transforms his wheelchair into a Dalek costume and one of the most infamous gags of the old KODT days threatens to return as Brian, Dave, Sara and Bob discover another portal to Bag World.

Not a great issue to jump in on, but a great comic bar none. Check out the freebies (including the Dalek story) at

RED SONJA #32 - A surprising "What If?" story in which we see the path Sonja's life would have taken had her family survived the bandit attacks that set her on the warrior's path. One of the better filler issues I've ever read, would that the regular series had been as interesting and as true to form as the different stories by different writers we've been reading these past few months.

SERENITY: BETTER DAYS #2 - A bit of a filler issue for a 3-part mini-series. Then again, if you're reading a Joss Whedon comic, you probably won't object too strongly to a story that is basically 80% all of the main characters sitting around and talking about what they'd do with a ton of money.

Oh, there's a little action too - with Mal and company playing Big Damn Heroes in stopping a robbery. But as per usual, the magic is all in Whedon's dialogue and the moments between the characters - both the tender (Wash describing his ideal life with a big ship of his own and a ton of kids to play dinosaurs with) and the hillarious (Jayne asking Simon for advice on approaching a Companion).

WONDER WOMAN #19 - Damn fine book. That's all I need say.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Marvel is the new DC and DC is the old Marvel.

I had this revelation yesterday while having a conversation with a colleague, regarding Final Crisis and Secret Invasion and how he was enjoying the concept of the latter more than the build-up to the former. He's more of a Marvel fan. I'm more of a DC fan. It went a little something like this.

Him: I'm just sick of the reboots. Writing an entire universe into a corner and then destroying said universe is not my idea of good writing, especially if your goal is to reboot said universe and say "ha ha, just kidding".

Me: Yeah. I just hated when Marvel did that with 'House of M' and 'One More Day'.

Him: Well, I didn't care for House of M or One More Day, either, so at least I'm consistent.

Me: True. And I stopped reading 'Countdown' about eight issues. The only part of 52 I liked was Lobo as The Space Pope and I haven't even bothered with 'Death of the New Gods', so it's not like I'm really enjoying most of DC right now either.

And that was when it hit me. Consider this list of generalities.

Traditional Marvel Comics (i.e. Silver Age through 1980s)

Characters emphasized over concepts. Comics more like soap operas (i.e. I wish I could afford to take Mary Jane out, but how else can I pay for Aunt May's dialysis!)
Tightly-woven universe with frequent meetings between individual characters. (i.e. This Issue: Daredevil vs. Namor, The Sub-Mariner!)
Greater number of unique female characters. (i.e. Invisible Woman, Marvel Girl and Wasp vs. Wonder Woman and Black Canary)

Traditional DC Comics (i.e. Silver Age through 1980s)

Concepts emphasized over character. Comics like action movies. (i.e. What is Superman's Amazing New Power?!?!)
Individual characters pretty much in their own universe, save in team books like JLA and World's Finest. (i.e. Only The Flash can save us now!)
Prominent female heroines tied to male heroes. (Batgirl, Batman's sidekick)

Now consider where we stand today...

Modern Marvel Comics

Concept emphasized over character. Comics like action movies. (i.e. A World Where Mutants Rule! A War Over Superhero Registration!! Who Do You Trust?!?!?!)
Individual characters pretty much in their own universe, save in team books like Avengers. (i.e. How many times did New York get blown up this month?)
Prominent female heroines tied to male heroes. (Storm married to Black Panther and regulated to sidekick status, Spider-Woman and Ms. (Captain) Marvel probably most prominent female heroines)

Modern DC Comics

Character emphasized over concept. Comics like soap operas. (i.e. This month - the secret origin of Hal Jordan and his real first meeting with John Stewart!)
Tightly-woven universe with frequent meetings between individual characters. (See: Countdown - the fate of all worlds is in the hands of some characters you never really cared about... Until Now!)
Greater number of unique female characters. (i.e. Birds of Prey, Power Girl and Black Canary lead JSA and JLA respectively)

Just a thought...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's Not About The Sexism. It's Not Even About The Dialogue. It's AboutTruth in Advertising.

I'm so glad that I'm not giving Marvel any more of my money.

Why? Well, there's many reasons, but here's the most recent one...

This is not a Photoshop job. This is not from a comedy book. This is an actual panel from Mighty Avengers #11 by Brian Michael Bendis. A writer actually got paid for this dialogue. An editor actually approved of this.

Now, I know I'm a little slow in commenting on this because - as I said - I don't read anything Marvel publishes anymore and I just heard about this after reading another blog. And no, I haven't read the entire issue in question. In this case I don't think I need to. Because this line, as has been pointed out by many people by now, is not only grammatically unsound: it is also so horribly out-of-character for Doom that it makes any further review of the issue unnecessary.

Of course, since one of the more famous Feminist comic-bloggers wrote one of the most visible criticisms of said issue, the usual charter members of The He-Man Woman Haters Club are crawling out of their caves and their mother's basements and screaming defense after defense of how Bendis isn't sexist and how very silly it is that the womenfolk are complaining about Doom saying bad things about a woman because Doom is a very naughty man who says and does very bad things.

Of course, had these fine specimens of manliness actually bothered to have - you know - read said article, they would have found out that Ms. Fortuner's article was not about Ms. Marvel being called "fat" or "cow" or "whore". It was about how while Doctor Doom probably is a Misogynist (by simple virtue of him thinking himself superior to everybody), he has always been portrayed as being the chilvaric "women on a pedestal" sort of sexist.

Doom has also never been the kind to stoop to simple insults, particularly physical ones. He may insult a woman's stupidity for being trapped so easily but Doom would never stoop as to comment on her weight or her sexual habits. Because Doom, whatever else you might say about him, is a classy guy. He'll throw a banquet for his arch-enemies so that they have a good last meal before he kills them. He honors his agreements and shows at least a modicum of respect for those he contests with. And he'll even, should the world be at stake, put aside his vendetta against the accursed Reed Richards and those who would aid him in the name of the greater good.

So why did I feel the need to comment on this when so many other more distinguished luminaries, including that master parodist Christopher Bird, have already weighed in on this issue?

Because of something that the children's librarian in me remembered from reading through a catalog and something that I think is rather important. Namely, that this book - Mighty Avengers #11 - was rated All Ages by whoever it is that Marvel has rate their comics for age-appropriateness.

Yes. All-Ages. As in, you're supposed to be able to give this to anyone without fear of it containing inappropriate material.

Now, I'm not a prude. Far from it. Anybody who has read my work, knows my reading habits or is familiar with my weekend exploits as part of a Rocky Horror troupe can vouch that I am not easily offended nor am I a Helen Lovejoy "Won't Somebody PLEASE Think of the children" type. But I have to ask: Since when has "whore" been an acceptable word for use in children's books? Even children's pictorial bibles don't drop the W-bomb!

Before now, I was content to limit my ban on Marvel Comics to my own personal reading habits. Now, I'm enforcing it at my library. Because if I can't trust Marvel Comics to honestly and fairly rate their own materials, then I can't be bothered to take the risk on anything they publish.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

FILM REVIEW: Superhero Movie

The Short Version: It is worth seeing and was a lot funnier than I thought it would be. Definitely give it a see if you can catch a cheap show or once it is out on video.

1. Fair Warning - the movie poster and the trailers are a total lie. This movie is not, in fact, a parody of a whole bunch of different superhero movies or one big mockery of the Marvel Comics universe. It is, baring a few random scenes that don't have much to do with anything, a fairly straight-forward parody of the first Spider-Man movie.

This is, however, a good thing as the worst material in the movie involves Our Hero's brief visit to Xavier's School for Gifted Non-Asian Kids. The best gag in the whole sequence is one that was cut from the movie but included in the closing credits as we see the unfortunate mutant with toilet-paper dispensing claws who has the unfortunate task of wiping Wolverine's ass. Why? Well, apparently this Wolverine can't retract his claws.

I freely admit this is disgusting and unfunny. However, this is freaking Marx Brothers compared to the rest of the scene, the gags involving Professor Xavier's wife and children (all bald and in wheelchairs) and Pamela Anderson's cameo appearance as Invisible Girl.

2. Speaking of which - all of Pamela Anderson's appearance in the movie is in the trailers. Seriously. She's in the movie for about 30 seconds. So if you're just going to see this movie for Pam, stay home. Despite this, I still think she did a much better job with the part than Jessica Alba.

3. Drake Bell plays Rick Riker. Good choice for the lead as he looks like Brandon Routh's skinny cousin and sounds like Michael J. Fox. Perfect faux Parker in other words.

4. I'd be willing to bet this entire movie started with the concept of "Leslie Nielsen is Uncle Ben" and went from there. And that's not a bad thing at all. Because while the movie does recycle a lot of jokes from The Naked Gun (Superhero Movie's penultimate gag is exactly the same as Naked Gun's final gag), Nielsen is still a skilled enough performer to make them new.

Nearly all the best moments in the movie have Nielsen involved in them, from his attempts at refuting Rick's "You're not my real father!" complaints (I raised you like a father would! I had sex with your mother like your father did!) to the funeral that had me rolling in my chair as Nielsen attempted to negotiate his way through the fine print on a coupon.

Don't ask. Just watch.

5. Best joke that got cut? A direct reference to the first Spider-Man - in which Rick watches the girl of his dreams through her bedroom window as she is getting dressed and she "just happens" to have a stripper pole there.

6. Best joke that was left in the movie? It involves the revelation that due to budget cutbacks The Daily Bugle is now having to share its' building with an insane asylum.

7. Biggest question after the movie was over? How long before Keith Giffen sues over this?

Ambush Bug and Dragonfly? Separated at birth? You be the judge!