Sunday, May 31, 2009

What Is In A Name?

Why? Because it's the 21st Century. And it's about damn time that in one of these books depicting a married superhero couple that the woman's name be allowed to go first. It's just that simple.

I want to send a message. A message that this is not going to be Hawkman... with Hawkgirl. A message that this is not going to be Black Panther... with Storm. A message that this is not even going to be The Vision and Scarlet Witch mini-series.

Aside from that, I have five very practical reasons why the book should be restarted as Black Canary/Green Arrow and with a new #1 issue.

1. Less chance of book being confused with/lost among Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.

2. The title change allows me to further distance the new series from the old series.

3. Because based on the drawing power between the two headliners relative to their prominence in recent years, Dinah is the bigger draw. She's had more exposure in JLA, JSA and Birds of Prey than Ollie has in... uh, his book and the occasional JLA special and Green Lantern guest shot.

4. Because it may finally force DC Comics to update the message board names relating to these characters after two years. Seriously! How long would it take to change it from Green Arrow to Green Arrow/Black Canary?

5. It’s more alphabetically sound. BC before GA.

Also, I have an idea for an Silver Age style alternate cover for the first issue that involves Ollie bowing dramatically as if holding a door open and gesturing above at the Title saying “Ladies first.” to an eye-rolling, but still smiling, Dinah.

I’m thinking Adam Hughes or Kevin Maguire for that job.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gone Con-ing

Expect a massive three-weeks-worth of updates Fast Thoughts column next weekend.

I got last week's comics, but preparation for Why I Should Write Black Canary/Green Arrow has kept me from writing any reviews. I haven't gotten this week's comics yet, because I'm saving my money for Con Swag. And by the time I have time to get comics anytime next week, it will be next weekend.

Backtracking a little with that train of thought... did I say Con?

Yes, I did. Yes, I'm going to be sallying forth to A-Kon 20; likely The Biggest Anime/Manga fest in North America and certainly the biggest one in Dallas/Fort Worth ALLLLL weekend.

If you're in the area, you might be able to stop me and say hi. If I'm not at the Friday Night Rocky Horror Show (which I'll be MCing), I'll be hanging around the Pipoca Bizzarre/Deranged Comics booth, dancing for quarters in order to raise money for my library's Anime/Manga Club. Cause Daddy needs a complete set of Bleach for the children!

And if you can't make the Con and you like cute Anime-themed jewlery, check out Pipoca Bizzarre's website and buy something from them. I'd tell you to buy stuff from Doc too, but I'm not altogether sure if he has any swag left for sale.

Oh. And Part One of Why I Should Write Black Canary/Green Arrow will be out late Sunday night/Early Monday morning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

And THAT is why we call him Stan "The Man" Lee.

SOURCE: Atop The Fourth Wall

Linkara says it best in the video on his site, but allow me to sum up.

At the start of the year, the syndicated Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip changed to reflect the reality in the comics as of Brand New Day (i.e. Peter is still living at home with Aunt May, is still in college and has no girlfriend much less a wife). Peter just went to bed one night and woke up in his old bedroom in Aunt May's house. No deal with the devil occurred; it just changed.

The newspaper strip, it should be noted, is still written by Stan Lee; the gentleman who co-created Spider-Man and handled the writing of the character for his first 100 issues. Stan is somewhat better known these days as the elder statesman and spokesman for the comics industry in general and Marvel Comics in specific. He has always toed the party line for the company he helped bring to prominence and has never had a bad word to say publicly about anyone who has worked for Marvel since he left. He's never even criticized any of the various storylines Marvel has published in the last 30 years since he left his editor position. Not even the ones the fans really hated.

That seems to have changed, as of yesterday.

Yes. Stan has changed things back to the way they were in the newspaper strip. Because You Demanded It!

Well... maybe not.

Awesome as it would be if Stan Lee were actually listening to the fans (unlike some Marvel (mis)management we COULD mention), some fans think it unlikely that the dinosaur that is syndicated newspaper comics could possibly inspire THAT much negative fan response in these days of dropping circulations and numerous established papers going bankrupt.

And apparently Roy Thomas may have announced four months ago on some database list that the change was planned to be a temporary one and that things were always going to go back to Peter and Mary Jane being married.

In either case, this is still a good sign for those of us who are hoping for a return of Mary Jane to the Spider-Man books and a return of sanity to Marvel Comics editorial team.

Why? Because Stan Lee is just as fastidious about continuity as he is polite about not saying a bad thing about HIS company. This is the man who established the interlaced nature of Silver Age Marvel, after all and set things up so that it was possible for other characters to cross-over with one another without any stories conflicting with one another. And it was Stan's plan that fans of the strips should not be confused by the comics (and vice versa) that lead to Peter and MJ marrying in the first place after Stan decided they should get married in the newspaper strip.

The fact that Stan Lee has allowed this split with mainline Marvel continuity as it is now says a lot about how Stan truly feels about the mess Joe Quesada has made of Spider-Man.

If it wasn't planned and honestly is the result of fan demand, than it's a sign that the fan outrage is finally working SOMEWHERE. It's not much - but our hopes weren't high with a company whose response to the massive outcry against Marvel Divas was to say "Well, you obviously aren't real Marvel fans, so why are you reading our books anyway?"

And if it was planned months ago, as Thomas suggests, it reflects badly on Quesada because it shows that Stan had no confidence in the idea being worth bringing over into his own work permanently.

Especially given that - by the way the text in the box at the end of the above comic is worded - Stan is painting it like fan demand WAS the cause for the change. That's a big F.U. to Joe Quesada and the first time Stan Lee has snubbed a editor like this.

And that is why we call him Stan "The Man" Lee.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nathan Fillion is Hal Jordan... in this Fan Trailer!

Sadly, this is a fan made trailer. But it looks a lot better than a lot of the superhero movie trailers of late. And did I mention it has Captain Tightpants himself as Hal Jordan?

Sadly, I fear Warner Brothers would rather go with a younger, "hotter" actor than Sir Nathan... like that new Captain Kirk kid. Which is a real shame because if Nathan can look this awesome in the part without trying, imagine how it would look if he were actually playing Hal Jordan for real?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

If you're not concerned, you're not paying attention...

SOURCE: Iowa Man Pleads Guilty To Having Obscene Drawings

I'm sure most of you saw this story and thought "why should this concern me"? I just read American comics and I don't read anything pornographic. This doesn't affect me.

Well, actually it could. Because of the exact wording of the statute used to charge Christopher Handley, who is now looking at 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, a lot of comic fans could be in danger. Because nothing I have seen has said exactly what materials Handley owned which inspired the charges. And even if he did possess something that would be considered pornographic, there is now a precedent for jailing people for possesing drawings - not photos but sketches - of underage sex.

Federal law prohibits the possession of any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexual conduct, including drawings, cartoons, sculptures or painting.

Sexual conduct? That sounds a little bit vague, doesn't it?

Does that include a teenage Sonja being raped by the soldiers that killed her family in Red Sonja?

Does that include the scenes of Mia Dearden working as a prostitute in Green Arrow: Quiver?

Does that include the depiction of Connor and Cassie's first night together in Infinite Crisis?

Has anyone who has read about this story seen any listing of exactly what it was he had that got him busted? I'm just wondering...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Life Sucks: A Dissenting Opinion

Written in response to a blog posted at

I just signed up for Wordpress to express my opinion of how horribly biased your review is and to tell everyone else out there in the Ether how wonderful I think Life Sucks is.

Let me first give everyone else an accurate description of this book- Life Sucks is what you'd get if Kevin Smith (of Jay and Silent Bob fame) wrote a vampire movie. I say this not only because the book centers around a man with a crummy job and a lousy love life at a Quick-Stop style business but because of the general tone Vis-à-vis the use of adult language and themes and dark comedy.

Based on your review, you don't seem like the sort of person who appreciates this kind of humor so I can understand you not being the target audience for this book. That's fine. But I can't understand why you're calling this "Twilight for boys".

Twilight for boys? Nothing could be further from the truth. The only things the two books have in common are that they are written in English and they both feature creatures named as vampires.

Life Sucks is about as anti-Twilight as you can get. Yes, there are - as you point out - a lot of messed-up relationships at play. Yes, there is quite a bit of misogyny depicted. You have multiple instances of male vampires mind-controlling young mortal women into obeying their whims (with a "Yes, Master" no less) and an old boy vampire network that chuckles at a newbie vampire claiming his first "bride".

This is, as you say, disgusting.

What you fail to mention is that none of these relationships (such as those between surfer dude vampire Wes and his harem of surfer girls) are presented as being desirable in any fashion. You fail to mention that all of the misogynistic characters are depicted as being very bad people. You fail to mention that the protagonist Dave is actually horrified when he accidentally hypnotizes the woman he loves into becoming a mindless drone and that Dave - an avowed vegetarian before he became a vampire - is trying his damnedest NOT to become a blood sucking parasite, living off of plasma donation bags.

In fact, the whole basic theme of the book - that (un)life (as a vampire) sucks - seems to have passed you by completely. There is a lot of unpleasant content in this book and a lot of bad people, but none of it is glorified. Vampirism is depicted as being very much a curse - not a blessing. That's very much the opposite of Twilight, which glorifies not only the abusive relationships between Bella and Edward AND Bella and Edward's Stepford family but also completely mitigates and ignores the subtle horrors of being a vampire and growing old without aging as the world ages around you.

Case in point: Rosa the goth girl and romantic interest has all these Twilight-inspired visions of pale pretty boys in poet shirts with artistic souls who cry tears of blood after feeding as they wait for the one woman they are destined to bring with the into eternity with their loving and supportive family of Mormon vampires.

The irony is that while Rosa dreams of meeting a real vampire and becoming one, she spends most of the book being completely ignorant of the reality around her. She doesn’t know that half the people she knows are vampires and that most of them are tanned surfer boys or losers with crappy jobs, who were blood-bound into working minimum wage by older vampires who realized it was easier to create literal wage slaves than to hire good help.

I am faintly amused that you complain that the book is saturated with "immature teen boy banter" and feel that the book "will have tremendous appeal to teen boys" and then wonder how it wound up on the ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels For Teens" list.

Sounds to me like you just answered your own question. :)

Yes, there is a lot of "guy humor" in this book. But as a guy myself and a teen services librarian, I don't automatically think the use of modern vernacular or adult situations dismisses it as being a “great book for teens”. We can’t force them to read “A Separate Peace” and “The Outsiders” all the time.

What I really have to take issue with is this statement: "In the end, it wasn’t a coming of age story, it had no redemption for the main character, and it bore no resemblance to literature in any way." My issue is that – and your review seems to confirm this – is that you don’t like this book because it wasn’t what you expected it to be.

You wanted a coming of age tale. This book is not a coming of age tale, so therefore it sucks.

You wanted the hero to redeem himself. The problem is that Dave is more anti-hero than hero – he tries to be a good person but lacks the moral courage and strength for true heroism. He fails in his struggle, so therefore this book sucks.

You wanted literature. I think this book is literature but it’s not the kind of fluffy happy-ending fairy tale you seemed to want. This book is a tragedy on all fronts. Dave falls victim to his own weakness of character and embraces the darkness, becoming the very monster he hates. Rosa has all of her illusions shattered and is condemned to a half-life for her rashness. The villains are not punished for their crimes. And life, in a word, sucks.

You’re free not to like the book, of course. But to dislike this book for being a dark comedy set in an amoral world full of evil people is akin to disliking a fish simply because it is a wet scaly thing that breathes through gills.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Joe Quesada/Marvel Divas Scandal Made Simple

I've noticed that a lot of bloggers are now rushing to the defense of Marvel Comics and Editor In Chief Joe Quesada in the wake of his comments regarding the feminist backlash against Marvel Divas, based on a summary of the book concept written by the author and a preview of the cover of the first issue. Most of them are saying that it's blatantly unfair of them to be judging the book without reading it - neatly side-stepping the issue, as Joe Quesada did in answering one readers' letter...

About the “hating” on Marvel Divas, let’s call it what it really is—criticizing how sexist this book appears to be. If Marvel produces comics that are offensive to female readers, why shouldn’t people “hate” on it? Why would I want to support a company that produces offensive, sexist material? Why shouldn’t everyone speak out against it? While the book hasn’t come out yet, what has been released so far is blatantly sexist. But what troubles me the most is that Marvel thinks people want to read this, and this constitutes strong female characterization. Does Marvel actually want to attract female readers or is the whole point that Marvel Comics are only for guys?

I’m going to go on a limb here and assume you’re a Marvel reader. It’s an assumption I’m making based upon the fact that you’re responding to this column. If you’re Marvel reader and truly feel we’re sexist, then why are you reading our books? Now, perhaps you’re not a Marvel reader, then if that’s the case, I’m not quite sure what you’re criticizing if you don’t read our books?

...You haven’t read a lick of this story yet! Please, I can buy you saying that you’re cautiously pessimistic based upon what you’ve heard so far, but to throw around allegations like that is completely unfair, not just to Marvel or myself, but to the creators and editors who are working on this book. Have you ever read any of Sacasa’s work? Have you ever found him to be a sexist writer? Is the cover image provocative, perhaps, but it’s no more or less than any other book we do.

The cold hard reality of publishing and trying to sell our books to as many people as possible, so here’s an example of what happens more often than you may think here at Marvel. From time to time, we’ll be launching a title that doesn’t focus very heavily on the super heroic. From time to time I’ll get a cover sketch and it doesn’t have a costumed hero or villain on the cover, what we internally refer to as a “quiet cover.” On those occasions, more often than not, I ask my editors to direct their cover artist to give me at least a first issue cover with the characters in costume. Why? Because it will help launch a book that will most likely have trouble latching onto a large audience. We want to give every title the best possible chance to be successful. Marvel Divas is no different and that’s why you’re seeing our strong female leads in their super hero personas. Let me try an example outside of comics. I’m a huge fan of Pink, I really dig her music and love her voice. Love her or hate her, I would say that she’s an amazingly strong and intelligent female performer and song writer in the pop genre. In many of her songs she even criticizes the over sexualized female pop stars of the day and their over the top videos. But when you look at Pink’s CD covers, while she’s looking strong and like she’s looking like she’s having fun, she’s also looking really sexy. The reason is simple, she’s trying to grab people’s attention and sell some albums. Comics are no different and as much a part of the entertainment business as any other medium, and the cold hard truth is that if we were to launch Marvel Divas with a “quiet cover,” I guarantee you the book would be canceled before it hits the shelves. That’s it in a nutshell, I could sugar coat it for you and give you a million other reasons that would sound plausible, but that’s not what I do.

So, where does that leave us? Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you somehow feel you know what this book is about sight unseen, then by all means just pass it up when it hits the stores. If you feel like giving it a try, drop me a line and let me know what you think. What I’d like you to avoid however is globally unfair statements like Marvel is sexist. And if you feel like you’re not being heard or like your opinion doesn’t matter, just look at how much column space I devoted to your question. Most companies would just duck stuff like this, but you guys are the reason we do what we do and if you have a concern or criticism, I want to try to address them as best I can. Thanks again for writing and for your question.

Uh-huh. So basically, here is Joe's defense, paragraph by paragraph.

1. I don't know why you're indulging in this double-plus ungood behavior. If you don't like our books, you shouldn't be reading them. And if you aren't reading our books, you shouldn't complain. Therefore, you don't like our books, so you have nothing to complain about.

2. I know I'm already assuming you don't read anything we publish, so I feel safe in telling you the man we've hired to write this book has never written anything anyone would find sexist. Also, I'm not saying the cover is sexist, but even if it were it's no more dehumanizing to women than all the covers for the books we publish that aren't aimed at a female audience.

3. Sex sells and it has to be used to sell anything that is aimed at women. Even angry grrrrl punk rock stars dress sexy to appeal to the men in their audience - not because they want to wear what they damn well please. So you see, it's not my fault that the industry is sexist... it's the fault of sexy rocker grrrls.

4. Remember - your opinion matters, even though I completely ignored your question and dismissed your right to make any complaint because I don't think you actually read anything we publish.

So to everyone who is rushing to Joe's defense and complaining about how we can't judge a book by its' cover? Bullshit! Take it from a trained librarian - our entire publishing industry, comics included, is based around the concept that not only can you judge a book by its' cover but that you need to devote as much effort toward packaging your book as you do creating it.

Thousands of graphic artists are employed to make covers appealing to the eye. Millions of marketing people are employed to argue over how to best promote new products, works and ideas. And the whole idea behind Marvel Previews and all the little extras and previews put up on or the Marvel MySpace page is to catch the interest of potential readers and get them to try new products BASED ON THE COVER OF THE BOOK!

That's why everyone is refusing to buy this book, Joe. And that is why they have every right to criticize the promotional materials they were given. You tried to promote this series as being something women would want to read - Sex In The City with superheroines - and you failed miserably. You asked them to make a judgment and then got pissy when the judgment was the exact opposite of what you wanted.

You tried to give women what you thought they wanted and are now trying to ignore them as they try to tell you what they want.

The problem here is not only that this promotion failed to snare its' target audience - it has failed in an epic fashion and alienated most of the potential audience Marvel was trying to reach. And Joe Quesada's reaction to the outraged audience has been to dismiss their concerns and ask why they're reading giving him money in the first place if they honestly think he's sexist.

Good question, Joe. But probably the last one that you should be asking a bunch of pissed off fans who are asking you why they SHOULD read your comics if crappy cheesecake like this and promises of "sudsy fun" are your idea of a what a comic for women should be like.

I Need Your Help... To Fix Green Arrow/Black Canary

Yes, I'm talking to you.

See, I had this idea a while a few weeks ago while on one of the scans_daily replacement sites. It's hardly an original one. Christopher Bird has done it. Actually, he's done it twice and I found out The Spoony One is doing it now with movie scripts.

Regardless, I started discussing some of my ideas for this elsewhere. And the response was positive enough that I apparently won a fan just for two posts worth of navel-gazing. So now I feel a certain responsibility to write the whole thing out, if only to get it out of my head and into the ether.

I have a list written. I have more than enough ideas to run for a month. And yet, I have this aching feeling in the back of my head I forgot something. So, figuring that I'm going to have a lot of you asking me about various things once I start this anyway, I'm asking all of you to get it out of your systems now.

Pretend I'm the guy who has the fate of Green Arrow/Black Canary and the whole extended family of archers and martial artists in his hands. Ask me any question you'd like and voice any concerns in the comments here. If I like your question, I'll keep this going past the first month and keep writing these entries for as long as there's questions, until I get tired of it or until DC Comics files a cease-and-desist order and/or hires me to fix the book for real.

We can dream, can't we?

So, starting on June 1st, look for I Should Write Green Arrow/Black Canary every day.

I await your questions and comments.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 05/13/09

This time: Another War of Light Battlefield Report, a double-size Knights of the Dinner Table, a review of Power Girl (finally!) and the funniest issue of Secret Six yet!

FABLES #84 - The great crossover continues, with Jack's bastard son finally catching up with dear old dad as Jack throws the Animal Farm into semi-chaos by masquerading (somewhat accidentally) as a resurrected Boy Blue and romancing a listless, depressed and suicidal Rose Red. Again, I shall say it; grab the trades and catch up on this book ASAP.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #36 - Okay. Not a lot of expansion on the Green Lantern Mythos here, but a lot of good character moments and some information that will likely be vitally important later.

* Sinestro reveals exactly how he has a daughter who is now a Green Lantern. Long story short - Mom went into hiding and gave the daughter to her friends to raise after a political argument with Sinestro - something he agreed to wanting to keep his daughter safe and having some idea of the battle he would be fighting to "save" his world from chaos.

* Along with the prophecy about the threat to his planet he received from Empire of Tears member and Red Lantern leader Atrocitus, Sinestro also received this prophesy: Two Korugarians with One Mind and One Corps to right all that is wrong in this corrupted and darkening universe. He believes it refers to himsekf and Soranik and warns her that the Red Lanterns intend to kill his daughter but, for now, they have no idea who precisely she is.

* Things are becoming nine kinds of worse inside the sealed prison levels underneath Oa.

* Back on the Fear-Corps beseiged planet of Daxam, Green Lantern Sodam Yat makes an apparent suicide run on his planet's red sun in order for reasons that are too complicated to go into. Suffice it to say, I can't wait for the next issue.

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #150 - Annoyingly, none of this issue's comics deal with the major cliff-hanger that came of the end at last issue. But for a ten-years-in-the-making sequel to the classic "Luck of the McCaw" pirate RPG story as well as Sara's revenge on the guys for killing her character on the weekend she was away from the game, I can deal with it. All this, and an honest-to-dawg "Dawg, The Roleplaying Game" based on cast character BA's infamous failed first attempt at publishing an RPG, all for $9.00 American.

POWER GIRL #1 - My shop was sold out of this last week, so make of that what you will regarding the quality of this book. Sure, Amanda Conner's artwork is heavy on the cheesecake. But like PeeGee herself, buxom and showing it doesn't equate to exploitative. And you have to give props to any comic that follows the First Rule of DC Comics; when in doubt, have the hero fight a gorilla. And when said gorilla is a psychic madman known as the The Ultra-Humanite, you just know it's got to be even better.

SECRET SIX #9 - A Battle For The Cowl tie-in that really isn't, this issue sees the Secret Six reduced down to a Recondite Trio as Bane and Catman work to stop a series of anarchist attacks on the children of noted captains of industry as Ragdoll tags along to play Boy/Girl/It Wonder... in his/her/its' own Robin costume.

Honestly, Ragdoll steels the show every issue but this one was a more difficult battle than usual with Catman - the most moral of the Secret Six - playing at being a hero because there's a part of him that honestly DOES want to be a hero and Bane playing at heroism because of his own issues with children being endangered. All the while, both of them deny their own heroic impulses AND that either one of them would wish to follow in Batman's footsteps. But even the touching scene Bane gets with a child he is horribly unprepared to comfort and Catman's own "awwwww" moment cannot compete with Ragdoll facing the revelation that ANYTHING sounds perverse when he says it... and proceeds to spend most of the rest of the issue testing that.

"Pea Pods! Velvety Throw Pillows! Tuna Salad! Hold the Mayonnaise! Ewwwwwwwwww!"

Greatness. Absolute greatness. And I'm not just saying that because Simone writes a heroic Bane the same way I wrote a heroic Bane, once upon a time during one of my few stabs at fanfic.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 05/06/09

In the words of Joel Hodgeson, "Looks like it's a big, brawny, hairy, glistening, two-fisted, manly day!"

KULL #6 - Why, WHY must this be a mini-series and not a monthly?

Great art. Wonderful action sequences. And a wonderful storyline that expands on and continues from Howard's own classic Kull tale, The Shadow Kingdom. Not much else I can say besides that, except that you should pick up the forthcoming trade if you can't get the back issues where you are.

WARLORD #2 - Ah, now THIS is more like it.

This issue features a lot of exposition, with Travis Morgan's bard relating the story of how he became the Warlord of Shamballa. Useful for those not familiar with the previous Warlord series, but it could probably have been put in issue one.

But don't worry - it's not all bard's tales. There's more action in this issue than in most six-issue mini-series, with an entire battle vs. a gang of slavers depicted in just two pages! Because that is how Mike Grell and the Warlord roll.

Get this book while you can, kids. It's sword-and-sorcery, just the way your dad liked it.

This Summer... the horsing around ends forever.

Easily the best fan movie I've seen this year; behold the horrors of Michael Bay's My Little Pony!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Two Weeks Of Comic Reviews

Because I just didn't feel like writing this past week.

CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #10 - So, Conan? Do you think this month's issue of your comic was a good one?

No. No, sir you do not.

The adaptation of Robert Howard's Black Colossus continues and remains true to the spirit of that classic tale. Truman borrows quite a bit from Howard's dialogue and scenario, but does get in his own original work as he explains precisely why Conan was wandering the streets when he is discovered by the queen, who was told to hand command of her armies over to the first man she met in the street that night.

The artwork by Thomas Giorello is excellent and has grown on me to the point that I think I'm beginning to like his work slightly more than Cary Nord on the original Dark Horse Conan series.

DETECTIVE COMICS #853 - The long-awaited conclusion to Neil Gaiman's Batman story.

How is it? Well, that depends entirely upon your tolerance for Neil Gaiman and - at the same time - Grant Morrison. Because this issue manages to simultaneously be a fairly typical Gaiman story about the power of stories and a perfect continuation of Bruce's fate following Morrison's Final Crisis.

On one level, it is an examination of the concept of the death of Batman through the eyes of many characters, which concludes that the details of how Batman dies are unimportant. What matters is that the only way Batman's story can ever end is WITH the death of Batman since, by definition, the main defining characteristic of Batman is cannot ever give up his quest for justice except in the face of the ultimate ending. And yet, because the concept of Batman is so powerful, he cannot ever truly die.

On the other level, this issue does go along neatly with the how Bruce was killed in Final Crisis and the idea of The Omega Sanction, which traps the person targeted in a series of alternate realities, each worse than the previous one. Most of the realities we see are indeed worse than the main DC Comics universe and we do see Bruce being reborn.

All in all, I recommend this story to all but those who would say "Oh... it's Neil Gaiman telling another story about stories!" It is that... but so much more as well. If nothing else, the end works as a neat little tribute to Goodnight Moon.

EX MACHINA #41 - Things seem to be going into the home-stretch for the final run of the book, with Mayor Hundred setting a dangerous gamble going into the final year of his administration to leave the city forever if he can't fix the budget. Journal and Kremlin step up their plans to bring down Hundred's administration before then. And it looks as if The Great Machine's arch-enemy has returned. Nothing but set-up this time around but it looks like it's setting up one hell of an ending. I'll be sorry to see this book go.

GREEN LANTERN #40 - Okay. Time for a War of Light update.

* Former Green Lantern baddie, turned Sinestro Corps member turned Star Sapphire Corps member Fatality is out looking for John Stewart. Probably to apologize for holding a grudge about his failure to save her home planet from blowing up.

* Scar, the injured female Guardian, appears to be going more and more unbalanced. This is no surprise to those of us who read the Black Lantern back-up stories a few months ago, which she narrated as she discussed the dead loved ones of various DC Comics Heroes.

* Hal still can't get the blue ring off his hand and hoping for World Peace isn't good enough. :)

* Orange Lanterns are created when a sentient being is killed or otherwise absorbed by an Orange Lantern projection. They are then transformed into a being of orange energy, controlled directly by Agent Orange.

* Orange Lanterns appear to have the ability to absorb/devour the energy output by Green Lanterns. Even the Guardians cannot harm them directly. For some reason, this ability doesn't seem to apply to the energy of Blue Lantern rings.

It's getting heated.

HELLBLAZER #254 - I can't say I'm really enjoying Peter Mulligan's run on the book so far. It's not that it's bad, persay. But it does seem like he's trying a bit too hard to be Jamie Delano.

This story briefly continues the thread from last issue with John's latest romance blowing up in his face, intermingling with a colleague of John's asking him to use his mojo to disrupt the plans of the rich-pricks remodeling London for the 2012 Olympics. There's also flashbacks to a possible ancestor of John's, who is faced with the prospect of whoring out his daughter to escape a plague-filled London or making a literal deal with the devil.

This is all very interesting, but the flashback doesn't seem to be connected at all to the main story with John and it seems to be a slippery slope giving us a flashback without a more direct connection in a two-part story. Delano and Ennis did this sort of thing quite often and to good effect but they usually limited such stories to one issue and never cheapened themselves as to make confusion the main impetus for buying a second issue.

The art by Goran Sudzuka is crisper and cleaner than I'm used to seeing the art in Hellblazer be. In fact, I think this may well be the "brightest" the book has ever looked. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Nice as the art looks. it just seems right to me that Hellblazer should be dark as anything with more shadows than color in the artwork.

JACK OF FABLES #33 - The plot thickens with Jack's bastard son by The Winter Queen (who has now become Jack Frost somehow) leaving home to seek his long-lost father. Babe the Blue Ox dreams of being a Conan expy named Brom Wilderhart. And Jack, fed up with having to deal with Bigby Wolf for five minutes, declares that he is quitting the book, going back to Fables and taking the artist with him. Not a good time to jump onto Fables, but an enjoyable story that shows why this is the best book on the market today... along with the other two Fables books that are out now.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #32 - Well, I finally dropped this book. I just don't have the patience to wait around while DC Editorial gets their act together and gives Dwayne McDuffie to write the same kind of stories he did when he was writing Justice League Unlimited. The entire JLA idea has been put on hold because of all the A-List heroes being busy elsewhere and the Justice League concept being put in the hands of James Robinson for a mini-series.

Even as a James Robinson fan who has really been looking forward to the new Justice League, I think that stinks. But what really stinks is that Dinah Lance continues to get no respect.

This issue opened with Superman questioning her decision to shut down the Justice League of America rather than compete with Ollie and Hal's scab team. While I think Dinah acquits herself well with the argument (i.e. "you think it's okay for ME to be the leader when you, Diana and Bruce need time off?" and "the resources to unite everyone for big problems are still there - there's just no team meetings on the satellite"), it doesn't say a lot that everyone else on the team is defying her orders and continuing to meet without her. And even though they refuse to elect a new team leader and John Stewart gets a page-long speech where he explains why Dinah is the best leader the JLA ever had and the main reason he refuses to take a leadership post is because it will make it a lot easier to convince Dinah to come back if nobody is actively replacing her, it doesn't ring true.

The last few months have been like asking a gourmet chef to make you a sloppy joe and DC needs to get its' act together and free McDuuffie up to do something like - oh, I don't know - a monthly Static book?

THE LITERALS #1 - A very funny issue in which we learn a little more about Kevin Thorn and the rest of the Literals family as he goes looking for a muse as he plans to rewrite the whole world. I love this if only for the fact that Comedy is Groucho Marx with a goatee.

"If it's a muse you want, I'm the guy to ask. I've got enough good material to amuse you all day!"

I think Comedy is probably the ones pulling the strings on this story already. Because at the end of the issue, in the greatest literal pun of all time, Kevin Thorn makes a monkey out of Bigby Wolf.

RED SONJA #43 - Horrible. Just horrible.

Granting that Red Sonja has always lent herself well to cheesecake portrayals (something too many of the covers have been devoted to), the various artists working the interiors of the book had been fairly good about not going overboard on this sort of faked posing.

No more, I'm sad to say. Nearly every page of this book seems to be a splash-page and we get more up-skirt shots of Sonja (if the phrase "up-skirt" can be applied to a chainmail breechcloth) in this issue than in the other 42 issues before combined. Still, I guess we can say we now know the answer to just what Sonja wears under her armor... even though the answer (leather short shorts) doesn't make a lick of sense.

Throw in the visions of the inner form of the Cthulhu-like beastie who Sonja is fighting (four-words; green-haired Lady Godiva) and you have a lot of flash with no substance at all.

WONDER WOMAN #31 - Much has said about how, to paraphrase Kingdom Come, the minute you make The Super more important than The Man, you lose what is most important. Oddly, I don't think anyone has ever applied this same sentiment to emphasizing The Wonder over The Woman.

I mention this, because in one panel Gail Simone has managed to ground Diana and make her seem like a real person and less like an imaginary goddess. And suddenly, she's a lot more interesting and likable for it.

Is this a little silly? Yes. But it's just so overwhelmingly refreshing to see a Wonder Woman who is allowed to make jokes, ogle her boyfriend and not be The Perfect Princess or The Amazon 24/7 that I like the idea. And the more I think about it, the more it seems right in the same way that Superman is more Martha Kent's boy than the Last Son of Krypton is right.

Don't worry though - there's still plenty of Wonder in this issue, including Diana punching a missile, a ton of Spartans on winged horses storming the UN and the return of Ares and Athena. Oh, and we finally get an answer on just who this crazy Genocide woman is and we get to see a use of the power of the Gods that truly makes sense in the contents of how the Greek Gods did operate and - in fact - probably WOULD operate in the DC Universe.

I gush on the writing but I should mention that the art is very good too. Great book - highly recommended.