Saturday, October 31, 2009

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Ambush Bug: Year None #7

GOOD THING: You know right from the start that no holds will be bared and that Giffen will be poking fun at the DCU and everyone involved in creating this book.

BAD THING: Fun as it is, you can't help but wonder just how much of this is a joke and how much of it is Giffen playing The Fool to Dan Didio's King.

Ambush Bug is one of those characters and series that is either hit or miss. Your ability to enjoy it is entirely dependent upon your ability to laugh at sacred cows being tipped over and, in the case of the scene where comic fans are depicted as barely-literate apes, your ability to laugh at yourself as well.

The world might not be able to stand it but I wish they did this as a monthly, if only because we could use more comics parodying One More Day, where Ambush Bug goes to The Demon Neron - not to have his marriage erased from history, but to get a recommendation for a good divorce lawyer. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps #41

I'm going to do something a little different with the Blackest Night tie-in reviews.

Rather than show a few scans and say what was good or bad about the book, I'm going to recount all of the good fight scenes because honestly, these three books are nothing BUT big running fight scenes and there's not much plot to discuss.

FIGHT ONE: Soranik and Iolande Vs. A Morgue Full Of Black Lanterns

WINNER: TKO To The Green Lanterns, who manage to hold the zombies off AND evacuate all of the still living patients from the hospital on Oa.

FIGHT TWO: Guy Gardner Vs. Black Lantern Ke'Haan

WINNER: Guy Gardner, who burns the meat right off of his former fallen comrade... only to see the ring fly off and look for a new host.

FIGHT THREE: Soranik VS. Zombie Jade

WINNER: Uncertain, but Soranik gets in a wicked punch in the last panel she appears in.

FIGHT FOUR: Arisia VS. Every Member of Her Family Who Was A Green Lantern

WINNER: Arisia, who burns through all three of them at once.

FIGHT FIVE: Kilowog VS. His Former Drill Sargent, Lantern Ermey.

WINNER: Kilowog, who beats seven kinds of crap out of the zombified corpse of his former teacher and is quite happy to do so.

FIGHT SIX: Green Lanterns Vath and Isamot VS. A LOT of Black Lanterns, including the Zombie Children Of The White Loeb.

WINNER: The Lanterns, as an Indigo Lantern shows up and mixes his light with theirs to disable the Black Lanterns.

You want high-action, zombie-slaying in space? This book has it in spades! Well worth reading, even if it weren't a major tie-in to the series.

Blackest Night: Batman #3

I'm going to do something a little different with the Blackest Night tie-in reviews.

Rather than show a few scans and say what was good or bad about the book, I'm going to recount all of the good fight scenes because honestly, these three books are nothing BUT big running fight scenes and there's not much plot to discuss.

FIGHT ONE: Deadman VS. Etrigan/Jason Blood

WINNER: Deadman, who is actually able to possess Etrigan long enough to make him an effective fighting-force against the Black Lanterns in Gotham.

FIGHT TWO: Batman, Red Robin and Deadman Vs. A Whole Lot of Black Lanterns, including The Zombie Flying Graysons and Tim Drake's Zombie Parents.

WINNER: TKO to The Batman Family, who freeze themselves alive with a stolen Mr. Freeze gun in order to slow their vitals to the point of the death, causing the Black Lanterns to disperse.

The best of the three tie-in mini-series so far. Small surprise since it is the only one written by one of the main Green Lantern authors. Tomasi sneaked a few references to his Nightwing run into this book and it is all the richer for it. Definitely worth reading.

Blackest Night: Superman #3

I'm going to do something a little different with the Blackest Night tie-in reviews.

Rather than show a few scans and say what was good or bad about the book, I'm going to recount all of the good fight scenes because honestly, these three books are nothing BUT big running fight scenes and there's not much plot to discuss.

FIGHT ONE: Ma Kent and Krypto The Superdog VX. Zombie Earth 2 Lois Lane

WINNER: Krypto, who is a very good dog. Assist points to Ma Kent for setting a corn-field on fire.

FIGHT TWO: Supergirl and her mother, Alura VS. their father/husband, Zombie Zor-El

WINNER: TKO to Alura, who gets herself and her daughter to safety as she has a force-field put around all of New Krypton to keep her husband out, while also trapping herself and everyone else on the planet. This also neatly explains why the angry planet of Kryptonians isn't doing anything about the zombie holocaust.

FIGHT THREE: Superman, Superboy and Krypto VS. Zombie Psycho-Pirate and Zombie Earth-2 Superman.

WINNER: Team Superman, who manage to subdue the zombies using the Psycho-Pirate's emotion-manipulating mask.

A serviceable mini-series all-around, which does answer some questions as to why certain parties aren't appearing in the Blackest Night main book. Robinson's dialogue is a little unnatural at times (especially the scenes showing the common folk of Smallville) but the man can do a good action scene.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Doctor Who #4

GOOD THING: Unlike the vast majority of New Who stories, this one seems to revel in the rich history of the show, pairing The Doctor up with three members of alien races he has fought in the past (only one of whom has appeared in the new series) in order to escape from a prison ship.

BAD THING: The artwork is WAY too dark and over-inked at times.

For those of you Whovians who are itching for a fix as we await the last appearance of David Tennant as The Doctor and the first appearance of Matt Smith, this monthly book is just what The Doctor ordered.

Yeah, even I'm ashamed of that joke. But seriously - it's a good book.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Jon Sable: Freelance - Ashes of Eden #1

Two books written and drawn by Mike Grell in one month? Santa came early and I've apparently been a good little critic this year. :)

GOOD THING: It's Mike Grell, returning to his greatest original character, writing AND drawing while tackling topical issues with an action movie twist. In this case, blood diamonds.

BAD THING: Mike Grell is very good at drawing the human form. And while he's usually an equal-opportunity offender (his heroes wind up naked as much as the heroines), this issue DOES get a little heavy on the fan service.

You either hate John Sable or you love it. I love it. And if you are the sort of person who enjoys high-action tales of troubled men who have lost it all, trying to do a little good in the world, I think you'll get a kick out of this series.

That being said, I wouldn't recommend this to new readers, though. Better to track down the original Jon Sable, Freelance collections, available at most fine bookstores.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Power Girl #6

GOOD THING: For the first time in I can't remember how long, a superhero actually tries to reason with not-so-villainous "villains", who are really guilty of nothing more than possible/accidental manslaughter and poor judgment. It's a refreshing change and it's played well here.

BAD THING: There was no spoiler warning on this preview of the next Seth Rogen movie. For shame!

In all seriousness, this is a fun little book and I recommend it to everyone.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Secret Six #14

BAD THING: Much as I usually like how Simone writes Wonder Woman, I can't see Diana - what with the Amazon's history of being forced into slavery by Hercules and what not - threatening someone who killed slavers because, well... they're slavers. I suppose that for Diana, allowing them time to get away before she starts looking for them IS merciful, but still... it feels off.

GOOD THING: It's hard to pick just one, but I have to go with the final page and Deadshot - yes, Deadshot - showing that moral alignment isn't a matter of where you stand - it's a matter of which way you're facing when the fight starts.

My favorite book every month. The perfect balance of good art, comedy, pathos and action. If you're not reading it, you need to start.

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Fables #89

Witches: Part Three, in review.

GOOD THING: It does have a great last page. Who knew that reading was a superpower?! As a librarian, I heartily approve.

BAD THING: The most exciting part of the issue is the preview of the Cinderella mini-series at the end; nice to see there's at least one positive female character in this series who hasn't been marginalized yet.

Still no sign of Rose Red. In fact, this time, there's no sign of the pregnant Beauty and barely anything involving the titular witches. What we do get, however, is comic relief flying-monkey Bufkin playing unlikely hero. Which is okay, but... female character going crazy... another one giving birth to a monster... shouldn't that be getting a mention right now since they're kinda main characters?

One Good Thing And One Bad Thing About Red Sonja #49

BAD THING: The cover on the copy I picked up, which - even by the standards of Red Sonja and making allowances for the tropes of the sword and sorcery genre - is frelling ridiculous. At least the interior artist had the decency to give her furs to put over her armor whenever she went to a snowy climate.

GOOD THING: This waste of a series is finally over and is coming back with a new writer who has proven himself capable of writing Red Sonja in the past!

In case you are wondering how the series ends... it's with a whimper and a sob, not a bang. Sonja kills the man who killed her husband. Sonja kills the fake goddess/sorceress who has been manipulating her for an apparent eternity. Sonja is apparently now completely mortal, unbeholden to any goddess or oath and the series ends one year later with her partnering up with her bardic companion Osin to look for someplace that is "not boring".

So... yeah. Pretty much everything about Sonja that makes her unique and interesting has been tossed out the window in favor of another blank slate. Except it isn't really a blank slate since you need to know all about the stupid "her goddess is a sorceress" retcon from THIS series in order to understand a lick of it.

Maybe the new series will be better. We can only hope.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heroes: Season 4 - Episode 6: Strange Attractors

Right. So the preview showed that this one is going to center on Parkman (FINALLY!) and Claire. Naturally, as they set up that GREAT Cliffhanger with Hiro last time, there's no indication he'll be in this episode at all. So... yeah. That's Strike One.

Strike Two is the fact that Matt is, once again, the series Butt Monkey.

Let's see if there's a Strike Three tonight.

PARKMAN/SYLAR'S MIND: Matt is making love to his wife. Sylar takes over, because he's a dick like that. The ultimate insult? Matt's wife - who, as has been noted before - is a total whore who cheated on him and broke his heart, gets off on the rough sex. Matt feels even lamer.

Matt shouts at Sylar and tells him that he can't control him. Sylar points out that Matt really can't fight back against him and that he's just becoming more and more erratic to everyone else's eyes the more tries to talk to Sylar.

Matt tries to get away from his wife and son before he hurts them. Naturally, despite everything she's seen in the last three seasons, she thinks it's an excuse to get out of trying to rekindle their relationship. He finally comes clean with her on the mind wipe. She tells him to stay there and she and Matt will go somewhere else... probably to call the guys from the funny farm.

Again, with everything else that has happened in their life, it is totally unbelievable to her that Matt could really be holding a bad guy prison inside his head.

Matt, showing uncharacteristic intelligence, tells his wife not to tell him where they are going. Sylar calls him on this and points out this STILL does nothing to get rid of him.

Matt tries calling Mohinder but, thankfully, Mohinder isn't answering his phone. And it is then that Matt discovers the key to keeping Sylar under control; booze!

Yes, heavy drinking makes Sylar weaker and as Sylar tries to taunt Parkman further (your wife said "why can't you be more like this all the time?" last night when I was doing her), Matt keeps drinking. And drinking. And realizes Sylar is afraid of dying (who isn't?) and howls in triumph as Sylar passes out, fades away and then Matt falls on the floor.... as his wife returns with the men from the funny farm.

No wait - it's Matt's AA sponsor. He tells Matt they need to start over, Matt agrees, goes into the next room to take a shower... and then Sylar takes over Matt's body completely, saying that Matt drinking himself into a stupor only enabled Sylar to take the driver's seat while Matt was passed out. Which begs the question of why Sylar didn't just do this while Matt was... you know, asleep.

Oh wait... because that wouldn't allow us the illusion of Matt showing basic competence for at least one episode and getting even ONE victory.

NOAH/TRACY/CARNIES/SYLAR'S BODY: Noah is trying to get Jeremy the Healing Kid from last time out of jail. Only problem is the sheriff has a vendetta and is out to see Jeremy swing. Noah calls in Tracy, hoping that "Aunt Tracy" can get the kid sprung where Noah the family friend couldn't.

Tracy has a heart-to-heart with Jeremy about know what it is like to lose control of a power, kill someone and feel guilty about it. Unfortunately, the Cracker Sheriff is still determined not to release the kid because - oh wow - some other teenagers said he killed animals for fun and his notebook is full of emo poetry. Noah points out that's hardly different from what most 17 year olds write but the sheriff refuses to budge.

Out in the street, Samuel shows up and talks with Tracy, somehow magically teleporting her to the carnival and telling her that it's the home she and Jeremy need. This is even lamer than it sounds thanks to some piss poor green screen work.

Samuel shows her around and sends her off with Lydia. Sylar/Nathan shows up and starts insisting that he knows Tracy and that he remembers having sex with her. Samuel insists that the memories he has aren't his, being unusually testy as he does so. Sylar/Nathan asks where his memories are then...

Somehow, Noah finally convinces the hick sheriff to let the kid go. I'm guessing a scene got cut here. He makes arrangements for Jeremy to go live with Tracy, not too far from him. Sadly, there's a violent mob outside the jail waiting as the emo kid is released, one redneck gets through the police to try and grab Jeremy... he dies almost instantly and rather than listen to Noah's pleas to heal the guy and save him, Jeremy goes back into jail with the cops who are pulling guns on him and freaking out.

As an aside, if this type of thing can happen at any time, anywhere, with who knows how many witnesses and the press covering things... how the hell did The Company keep superpowers quiet for so long?

One of the cops takes it upon himself to give Jeremy "the Jasper treatment", which Jeremy doesn't resist. Noah and Tracy find his bloody, dragged to death corpse in the middle of the town square streets an hour later. Tracy tells Noah never to call her again, pulls the compass out of her purse - it spins around to point east and Samuel shows up in town the next day, causing the police station to collapse in on itself as he causes a freak earthquake.

CLAIRE/GRETCHEN: Claire and Gretchen are about to talk about "the kiss", when they are kidnapped by the sorority elders. They are tied up, put in a car trunk and get to have the awkward conversation while in bondage. Somewhere, fan fiction is being written.

They get let loose in a slaughterhouse and are told they have to find some thingy in order to escape from Hell Week rushing. Problem is that the Slaughterhouse does seem to be rigged to be a lot more harmful than it should be and yes, I know that by any decent standard this is highly illegal and that no real sorority would ever do something like this without being shut down immediately.

There is more bonding and more death traps and I die a little more as I realize precious screen time is being wasted on this that could be spent on Hiro rescuing Charlie and messing with the timeline so none of this happened.

Long story short, The Evil Invisible Girl tries to kill Gretchen, Claire stops her but is critically wounded in the process and Claire's powers are revealed to two other sorority girls. Oh, and Evil Invisible Girl runs off after HER powers and identity are revealed.

The Final Verdict: So what did we learn? Don't be an emo teen in small-town Texas. Never join a sorority. And drinking booze will get rid of the evil voices inside your head.

At least the preview promises next episode will be All Hiro.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Heroes: Season 4 - Episode 5: Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa = blank slate in Latin. A reference to Sylar, certainly, but usually each episode title has a double meaning - what else is getting blanked or starting over?

Hiro/Emma - After teleporting to Peter last time and collapsing, Hiro is rushed to the hospital. Peter takes Hiro's power and teleports away, asking Emma - who is looking for more answers regarding her power, to keep an eye on Hiro while suggesting he talk to him about power.

Hiro attempts to offer what little advice he can (i.e. Powers are awesome!) and makes a pain of himself by doing a magic show to cheer up the other patients, using his powers. He also allows Emma to see what her power is like with time stopped and apparently she can touch sound waves, as she moves the colors around while they are stopped. This sounds much more interesting than it is, but it does explain a lot. Anyway, Emma is apparently inspired by this as well as Hiro's refusal to despair in the face of death. Shout Out to Season One: Hiro mentions Charlie, who was just as brave in the face of her death.

Hiro teleports away before Peter can get back, leaving behind an envelope containing part of his Bucket List. The envelope says "Save Charlie". We close on Hiro, still in a hospital gown, walking into the Burnt Toast Diner in Odessa, the day Charlie is supposed to die.

Peter/Noah - Peter teleports to Noah, figuring that Noah probably knows someone with a healing power that can save Hiro. Noah does - a boy he "bagged-and-tagged" several years earlier.

Claire, who is there doing laundry, asks why she just can't use her healing potion blood to help Hiro and Noah gives an answer that I think is total BS... but hey, give the writers credit for actually trying to give an answer. For those who care, the explanation is something about Claire's blood only causing the disease to spread faster... which I guess might make sense if Hiro had some form of cancer and Claire's ability made those cells grow faster as well. But since they never actually defined what Hiro has exactly, we don't know for sure.

Anyway, Peter and Noah jump gto the kid's house and find that the plants, animals and people inside are quite dead. The kid tries to blow Noah away with a shot gun but Noah tries to talk him down. It seems that the kid's power is such that he can control the flow of life energy, enabling him to heal or hurt others with a touch and he's trying to keep everyone away for fear of killing again.

At this point, Peter chooses this moment to teleport in front of the kid and freeze time as he is raising his gun to shoot Noah. Peter does stop time - but not before he takes a shotgun blast to the chest himself.

In what may be the most anti-climactic commercial break of the show's run, Noah figures out what happened as time restarts and gets the kid to get it together so he can heal Peter. Peter takes the kid's power, Noah calls in a favor to get Peter a personal plane to NYC and Noah stays to help the kid get things together.

Sylar/Carnies - Samuel, the Carnie leader, figures out that Sylar doesn't have any memories. Further consultation with Lydia the Empath (yes, according to HeroesWiki her power is sensing others' emotions) confirms that it's like there's two people warring inside Sylar. More, as they start trying to get him to remember things, the memories that come back sound more and more like Nathan Petrelli's.

Desperate times calling for desperate measures, Samuel hands "Sylar" over to a carnie who has some power that can restore memories: we'll call him The Jamaican since he has dreadlocks, doesn't speak much and his power seems to be the reverse of The Haitian's. Sylar has a bad LSD trip amongst some green screens masquerading as a Hall of Mirrors and begins freaking out as he sees every single person he killed.

Samuel, being a dick, invited the head cop and his family to the carnival. He goes to the freaked out Sylar, says the cops are there and that if he gets discovered, it could doom all the people who have been treating Sylar nice all this time. A confrontation is forced in the Hall of Mirrors and if the show still had a decent effects budget, the mirrors would all break and cut Ernie Hudson to ribbons. But they don't, so they don't. The job is left to super-speedster knife-freak Ray Park, who proves himself a cut above (ha-ha) after Sylar electrocutes the heck out of Ernie Hudson but cannot kill him outright.

The scene ends with Sylar being adopted into the Carnie Family - with a Baptism no less - and Sylar wandering off with Lydia to her trailer while speedster Ray Park look son and glowers because everyone likes Sylar better than him and now Sylar is making it with his would-be girlfriend.

The Final Verdict: I'm feeling a bit mixed. It's probably the best episode all season, but that's damning with faint praise if ever there was such a thing. The performances are top-notch and the writing has apparently been done by someone who watched Season One.

Masi Oka shines in all the scenes with Hiro and seeing the sweet, gentle geek who wasn't a complete idiot (well, he IS putting on a magic show despite being under doctor's orders to stay in bed) made me nostalgic in a good way. And when we see that Hiro's goals for things to put right before dying include "Save Charlie", you awwwww before you realize that's actually what he's gone to do.

Incidentally, I know nothing will come of this... but the hope that Hiro might somehow screw the timeline up and cause the last three seasons to have not happened by stopping Sylar before he kills Charlie is all the reason I need to tune in next week. Which means there will probably be nothing done with Hiro's story next time.

Jack Coleman also gets some nice moments here, playing Noah Bennet as we have never seen him before: vulnerable and actually wanting to help people rather than protect them. It's an important distinction and one he has just now woken up to. Pity the angry teen he's playing against isn't able to keep up.

Unfortunately, all of the good acting and character moments belay the fact that the writers are deliberately drawing out the drama for the sake of drama and while individual characters are written well, there are moments of stupidity that shatter the great character moments and remind you good and god damn well that you are watching something scripted.

For instance...

1. Why does Peter take the healer kid's power? Why doesn't Peter just teleport himself and the healer kid back to the hospital? Faster than waiting for a car to take him to a plane and then spending several hours in the air. Especially when Peter knows Hiro is loosing control of his power!

2. Granting that I am happy someone thought to explain why Claire couldn't do a healing-blood transfusion to save Hiro, I am severely annoyed that they brought this up NOW after ignoring it at the end of Chapter 4 when Nathan was freshly dead and they needed a live Nathan to convince The President that illegally imprisoning the superpowered was a Very Bad Idea. So bringing this up now just makes Noah look like a jerk/idiot because he should have known better.

3. Why in the bloody hell does Samuel seem to think that restoring Sylar's memories would be a good thing, given that Sylar = amoral psychotic genius who specializes in killing other people with powers?

Still, five episodes in - and no Mohinder!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Comic Reviews - 09/30/09 and 10/07/09

I still haven't gotten my comics for this last week yet and I probably won't be able to until next weekend. Still, I have two weeks worth to catch up on... so let's get to it, as I give you my thoughts on the issues of the past two weeks plus one page scan (or, in one case, one scan made up of parts of two pages that go better together) from each book.

So come along, if you are at all interested in Batman: The Widening Gyre #2, Blackest Night: Titans #2, , Green Lantern #46, Jack of Fables #38, Knights Of The Dinner Table #154, Warlord #7 and Wonder Woman #36

BATMAN: THE WIDENING GYRE #2 - Kevin Smith's writing seems to be hit and miss with most people; you either hate it or you love it. With me, it hits. And in reading this most recent issue, I've noticed something regarding one of the more common complaints about Smith's take on Batman; specifically, how Smith's Batman curses and uses common slang.

"I'm embarrassed I let him run me this far. Look at him, the big fat mess. Under any other circumstances, at this point, I'm watching Gordon's men load him into the meat wagon, with breaks that will never heal. You're so lucky you fat, bloated turd... So lucky you're holding that kid. He plays the hostage card, banking on me going after the (falling) girl instead of him. Dammit... I hate being predictable."

The interesting thing is that after this issue I think I can justify this by comparing it to Principal Skinner from The Simpsons and the old line "I know you can read my thoughts, Bart. Just a little reminder - if i find out you cut class, your ass is mine! Yes, you heard me. I THINK words I'd never SAY." Because if you look carefully throughout this book - and Smith's other Batman works - you'll note that Batman never actually says "Dammit." or "You bastard!" or the like... but he sure does THINK them loud.

This is not to say that this isn't jarring for those of us who aren't used to getting an internal dialogue in a Batman book. They haven't been in vogue for a while now. And Smith's other great flaw is that the story so far - and this issue in particular - go all OVER the place on the fanboy in-joke/continuity scale.

Here's the quick summary: We start out with Batman in an amusement park, fighting a child molester/serial killer with a hostage who appears so have been taken from the Doll's House book of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Batman has a quick flashback to himself and Robin fighting Toyman with an assist from Superman. He returns home to have a quiet moment with longtime 70's love interest Silver St. Cloud. And the issue ends with Batman going after Cornelius Stirk -a telepathic cannibal from the Dark Age of Comics. And throughout all of this, there is a mysterious goat-masked hero who is helping Batman out from the shadows

Yes, that's the QUICK summary.

So what does Smith get right? A lot more than he gets wrong, for my money.

While the story does go over the place and is a bit reference heavy, Smith explains it all effortlessly and without making it feel like he's info-dumping on the reader. And the Funland reference is more of an Easter Egg for Sandman fans more than anything, as you don't have to have read Doll's House to appreciate this story.

And I must say that more than any writer in recent memory, I do love Smith's take on Alfred.

The artwork is excellent as well, with Walt Flanaghan effortlessly switching between 70's kitsch, 80's grit and 90's horror as the scene warrants.

All in all, it's not so great that you can't wait for the trade but there are much worse things to spend your money on if you're up for a good classic Batman story.

BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS #2 - This book is pretty much what we were afraid all of the Blackest Night tie-ins would be; a pitiful excuse for the heroes of the DC Universe to get smacked around by super-powered zombies, while being written horribly out of character.

And I'd like to officially nominate Donna Troy for the title of Dumbest Heroine Ever just for this moment alone.

What's that? My dead husband wants me to hold my dead son? No problem!

GREEN LANTERN #46 - This issue is titled Uneasy Alliance. And boy does that sum it up.

* Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Carol Ferris and Indigo One form the titular Uneasy Alliance as Zamaron is captured by the Black Lanterns.

* We find out that the mysterious dead couple, whose endless love created the violet star sapphires that the Zamarons used to power their love-based Corps were a previous reincarnation of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Way to tie it together, Johns!

* Sinestro finally confronts - and defeats - Mongul, as they fight for control over the fear-powered Sinestro Corps. Bonus Points - Sinestro does this in order to save the homeworld that has shunned him. Nice thematic resonance for the Green Lantern saga as the idea of a hero having to save the people who rejected his heroism has come up several times (Hal saving the Earth after the Parallax incident, Sodam Yat saving Daxam...)

Lots of cool moments, but for my money, the best is Carol giving voice to the thoughts that 90% of the reading audience had about the new Star Sapphire uniform.

JACK OF FABLES #38 - Not much to tell in this issue. Jack is continuing to get fatter and balder. His son, Jack Frost, has undertaken his first serious quest as a hero. Plot wise nothing much has changed. So now for something completely different - the adventures of Babe The Blue Ox!

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #154 - A nice jumping-on issue for those who have been curious about this book but haven't dared tried an issue yet because of the on-going storylines. The Knights and The Black Hands gear up to go to a gaming convention but Bob, Dave and Brian get locked in Brian's basement before they can get on the road.

Hilarity ensues as three gamers resort to children's board games in order to get their gaming fix, though playing Mystery Date using the cards from a nudie playing card deck in lieu of the actual dates is rather inspired as are Bob's attempts to run a Hackmaster campaign without his usual gear.

Who would have thought you could turn Clue into Ravenloft? Only a mad genius like Bob!

WARLORD #7 - Honestly, how much you will enjoy this issue will depend upon four factors.

1. How much you like Mike Grell's writing.
2. How much you like Mike Grell's artwork.
3. Your tolerance for mystery stories where you are left to puzzle things out along with the hero.
4. How much you like big pages with lots of artwork, few panels and a good deal of violence and near nudity - both male and female.

My one complaint? I wish Grell had done this as a Vertigo series, because the lengths taken to keep the toga-clad virgin from showing anything while she is running around and falling out of her ripped garment are just comically ridiculous. Give that man points for being inventive, though.

WONDER WOMAN #36 - Taking it as read that anything Gail Simone writes is brilliant and funny, what else can I say about this issue?

I like how the contrived romance with Nemesis started and promoted by the previous writing teams has finally been ended.

I like how Giganta calls a momentary truce to talk relationship conflicts with a clearly upset Diana - something she can full well relate to being a growing supervillain who is dating a shrinking superhero. (The Atom shout out for the win!)

I like the continued resistance that the female amazons (especially the former queen's honor guard) show to their new male counterparts.

But mostly? I love this moment as Diana confronts the newly-crowned Amazon King Achilles.

If you aren't reading this book, you should be.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heroes: Season 4 - Episode 4: Hysterical Blindness

My apologies for being so late with this. I had it mostly written but then Real Life kept me from getting back to finish the editing.

Again, nothing much happened until the last ten minutes except for this: Ernie Hudson became this year's Chuck Norris.

PETER - Peter talks about trying to reconnect with his family and people in general again. This seems to be a blatant hint toward my theories on Peter's powers being right but Angela is about as interested in Peter's life as most people are in my theories and asks why Peter doesn't spend more time with Nathan.

Peter saves Emma, the deaf woman who sees sound as colors, from being hit by a bus and accidentally takes her power. He figures this out the next day and the two of them have a Hollywood Meet Cute moment that could only be more cliched if they were playing Heart and Soul at the piano where they explore her power.

Still, I'll give them props for remembering who Peter is at his core: the kind-hearted guy who wants to help, whether it's saving lives or just making people feel better. Even if the scenes with him and Emma were DULLLLLLL...

EMMA - Yeah - it turns out she can apparently focus the sound into destructive blasts. At the very lest, she can crack walls while playing the cello. I still don't care.

SYLAR'S BODY - Last time, you'll remember that "Nathan" was killed by a hitman and buried out in a remote stretch of land, somewhere rural. Several minutes later, Sylar was dragging himself from the grave, his "death" apparently having reset his shape-shifting powers.

Naturally, being out in a remote place where a shallow grave will never be found, a police car happens by two minutes later that has questions about the strange dirty man in the bloody clothes.

The cop - played by Ernie "Winston" Hudson - hauls Sylar in and finds out that only only does Sylar not remember who he is or much of anything besides walking down the road - he doesn't have memories of the sensations of heat and cold. They get an inexplicably British doctor whom reminds me of Martha Jones from Doctor Who for some reason to come in and try to talk to him. She is asked to leave after they identify Sylar as wanted murdered Gabriel Grey.

Hold on - didn't Sylar get declared legally dead by Danko after they faked his death? And even if he didn't, wouldn't Noah have taken care of that after they changed Sylar into Nathan? I just can't believe that Gabriel Grey is still on the most wanted list after all this.

Ernie decides to beat a confession out of Sylar even though they know who he is and there was apparently enough evidence against him for their to be an actual warrant for his arrest over his mother's murder. Ernie gets thrown through a glass window for his trouble after Sylar's telekenesis kicks in by accident.

Make a long story short, Sylar flees with the doctor, convinces her that he's innocent (despite her having seen his file) and she in turn convinces him to turn himself in. His lightning powers kick in - again by accident - and he winds up falling down a hill after getting shot at, heals, keeps running from the K-9 units the police in this backward just HAPPENED to bring with them in case they needed dogs during a car chase...

... and runs into Samuel and his waiting carnival, which disappears before the cops can get to it. No - really. Apparently they have a teleporter who can take the whole carnival where they want it to go. Which is kinda cool and is the only way to explain what happened earlier with...

CLAIRE - Claire and her new BFF Gretchen are getting along just fine. Suddenly, this other girl - who is with Claire's mothers old sorority - shows up to rush Claire. Gretchen is reluctant but Claire decides that she could do with the normalcy of something as mundane as a sorority.

It's at a "speed-rushing" party later that Claire learns that everyone already knows a lot about her, thanks to Gretchen. Gretchen says she just wound up talking about Claire because "you're more interesting and I don't like talking about myself."

Claire takes this at face value... until a book suddenly falls off the shelf while she's alone in the dorm, deactivating the sleep mode on Gretchen's computer... and revealing that Gretchen has a LOT of photos of Claire on a website. And that she's been reading a lot of things about places Claire lived in or did that made the news... including stuff nobody should know about (i.e. Claire Butler is Claire Bennet) And then there's that messy bit about murder/suicide pacts.

This creeps Claire out, but she doesn't say anything until after the sorority dance the next night, when Gretchen is nearby after Claire and another girl are nearly impaled by a falling flagpole. Gretchen doesn't deny having been the photos of Claire and indeed admits to kinda stalking her... because she has a crush.

Cue the tamest lesbian kiss ever and before a stunned Claire can do anything, the head sorority girl comes in with the rest of the girls and asks if they want to join the Sisterhood.

Okay. Now sit down before we move on because in the long line of stupid, unbelievable plot-twists... even for THIS show ... this one is a doozy.

We find out that the murderer of Claire's roomate is... the sorority leader.

How do we know this? A flashback where we discover...

a) The sorority leader has the power to become invisible.

She pushed the roommate out of the window... unseen. She planed the fake suicide note after Claire left the room to report the dead roommate. And then she set up the computer with the incriminating information and dropped the book to get Claire's attention

However, all of this pales to the revelation that...

b) The sorority leader is part of the Carnie Family.

As we find out in the opening scene of this episode, The Carnies take in any powered person who doesn't fit in the mainstream. Apparently that's not neetting them enough people for their "family". Hence why they need to go recruiting.

Their leader, Samuel, speaks of the importance of taking those they wish to recruit and driving them apart from the people in their lives so they are more susceptible to being brought into the fold. It's a good plan. Time-tested and cult approved. There are just a few problems with this plan in regards to Claire, who we find out is one of the ones he wants to recruit.

1. How Did They Get Their Agent Into A Position of Authority In The Sorority?

They would have needed several years notice to enroll their agent, get her into the sorority and then get her elevated to a position of power. This is especially jarring given that Claire didn't know what college she was going to six weeks ago. It isn't impossible if they have a PreCog among the family - but everything we've seen seems to suggest that they're just now figuring out who they need to recruit.

2. If They Had That Kind Of Power To See The Future, Why Go This Route?

Wouldn't it have been easier to use their pull and powers to make their agent Claire's roommate, rather than kill her roommate THEN wait a few days before approaching her about joining the sorority and befriending her that way?

3. Why Involve The Sorority In The First Place?

If you're ultimate goal is to drive someone apart from all other social outlets, why run a scam that requires utilizing one of the biggest social organizations that exists?

And do I even need to bring up the fact that one of the three people they are trying to recruit is Sylar?

Yes, all this intelligence they are able to gather on the people they are recruiting - everything they've learned about Peter and Claire and their mental state... and they still say "You know who we need to get first for our family? That crazed lunatic who KILLS PEOPLE TO TAKE THEIR SUPER POWERS!"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Starman #81!

SOURCE:Starman’s Back, But Not Jack Knight

At the Baltimore Retailer Summit Monday night, DC Comics announced as expected that “Blackest Night” and all its tie-in titles would take a month-long hiatus in January. But keeping with its "Back from the Dead" theme, eight one-shots will ship in the first month of 2010, delivering new "final" issues of eight previously-canceled fan favorite series.

Each series will pick up on its original numbering and feature characters from their original runs as they deal with the events currently unfolding in the DC Universe.

DC has tagged an all-star cast of writers to pen the books, but arguably the most significant rise is “Starman” #81, written by series creator James Robinson.

The Eisner Award-winning series, believed by many observers as the quintessential superhero comic book of the 1990s, ended near-perfectly with #80 in August 2001.

Robinson revealed exclusively to CBR News late Monday that while the series is back for one issue, its star "Starman," Jack Knight, is not.

“It’s very exciting to return to Opal City. And I’m trying to do a story that’s satisfying for long-time fans of ‘Starman’ and also fans of the 'Blackest Night’ series,” said Robinson. “The only thing I will say now, probably to the disappointment of some fans, is that this is not the return of Jack Knight. This will feature cast members of ‘Starman’ and it will feature a Black Lantern Starman but it will not feature Jack Knight.

“Jack Knight is happily, much as I am, ensconced in San Francisco, happy to be alive and away from all the craziness.”

For all you Green Lantern fans and Blackest Night readers out there...

My good friend Don at Deranged Comics has just posted a little comic that may amuse you all.

Enjoy. And share the link if you enjoy it. Don's a funny guy who could always use more readers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Heroes: Season 4 - Episode 3: Acceptance

Nothing happened in this episode. Well, nothing involving the major plot, anyway. At least, not until the last five minutes. This might have been acceptable had there been much in the way of character development but we didn't even get that.

Here's what happened. The short short version.

* Tracy gets her old job back working under Governor Sheridan. She wants to make amends for what she did and asks for more responsibility that will allow her to help people. He says she doesn't need to impress him and suggests she "work under him". She goes to the bathroom, nearly falls apart (water woman, remember?) and then goes back out, turns him down and leaves.

* Hiro - breaking his rule about going in the past and trying to change things at a time when it least matters - tries and fails to stop a man from committing suicide 47 times. This might be darkly funny in a Groundhog Day sort of way, if Hiro weren't capable of just freezing time and pulling him off the ledge. Instead, Hiro learns a lesson about being honest with one's family and the value of life and he's just about to tell his sister about his powers when he suddenly has a spasm and teleports somewhere else before her.

* Noah is having a mid-life crisis. Claire talks him through it.

* Peter's weird tattoo is gone, having disappeared before he can show it to Noah.

* "Nathan" (really Nathan's memories in Sylar's body) keeps having flashes of memories that aren't his. He eventually works out that this is some kind of ability that lets him see the history of things by touching them - a power Sylar had before.

* Nathan starts investigating what he thinks is the murder of his old high-school girlfriend (he had flashes of her dead body touching his old ball-cap) and finds out that she died in an diving accident but that Angela covered up the whole thing and erased his memory. He tells the truth to the girlfriend's mom (played by Swoozie Kurtz), who pays a guy to have Nathan stabbed, shot and buried out in the woods somewhere. The episode ends with a very confused looking Sylar digging himself out of the grave zombie-style. Apparently the shape-shifting reset when the regeneration kicked in.

* The carnies show up at the end, briefly, to talk about the compass and their fears that Bennet might be interested in them again.

So yeah... apart from Nathan now being trapped in Sylar's body, nothing much has changed or happened involving any of the major storylines in the last hour.

Why Power Girl Is Awesome

Apparently, I've Been Elected To Fix Marvel Comics.

Well, not quite. But the way some people are talking, you'd THINK that's what happened.

SOURCE:Greatest Nerd Theories: And the Winners Are...

... But frankly, there was one theory shared that was so brilliant, so fantastically argued, and so sensible that we should all adopt it as reality.

"Starman" Matt Morrison said:

My theory is about Spider-Man: One More Day and how we can retcon it away for good while also explaining away another horrible Marvel Comics storyline.

FACT: In One More Day, Peter Parker makes a bargain with the demon Mephisto to save his Aunt May's life at the cost of his marriage. Reality is rewritten so that Peter and Mary Jane never married and are currently broken up.

FACT: For some unexplained reason, in the rewritten reality, most of Peter's friends have vanished. Flash Thompson has returned to being the bully who makes Peter's life miserable. And for some strange reason, Harry Osborn is alive and well.

FACT: Events in general seem to be geared toward making Peter's life as comically, unbelievably horrible as possible. He can't get a job. His roommates hate him and/or Spider-Man. Aunt May marries J. Jonah Jameson's father. Jolly Jonah becomes Mayor of NYC and immediately sets about making capturing Spider-Man priority one for everyone. And Norman Osborn - despite being publicly known as The Green Goblin - has become head of the national agency in charge of monitoring/commanding all the legally-operating superheroes in the United States.

A lot of fans don't think ANY of this makes any sense. And it doesn't. Peter Parker - written properly - would never make a bargain with The Devil because it was easier than dealing with tragedy. It doesn't make any sense for Harry to be back from the dead because of Peter's bargain. And known-murderer and lunatic Norman Osborn being appointed to a national agency, much less being beloved by the public REALLY doesn't make any sense...

... unless this is all part of Norman's wish.

Would Norman make a literal deal with the devil to get power and a chance to cause as much chaos as possible by jacking around with the superheroes? Yes.

Would Norman make a literal deal with the devil to bring his own dead son back to life? Probably. Crazy as he was, he was always depicted as being a loving, if distant, father.

Would Norman make a literal deal with the devil to make Peter Parker as miserable as possible? Hell yes!

That's the idea: Mephisto went to Norman and offered him a chance to have all the wealth, power and prestige he always wanted. He even sweetened the deal by offering to bring Harry back from the dead AND by fixing it so that Peter Parker would be made as miserable as possible by the new world that was created.

Making Peter believe he'd be responsible for his own problems was just the icing on the evil cake.

Marvel, if you're reading this, cut Starman Matt Morrison a check and insert this into regular universe Spider-Man as soon as humanly possible. It corrects your biggest fuck-up of the last decade in a way that make perfect sense and works with all your existing storylines and would get all the fans (back) on your side. Do it. Don't be stuck up because some comics fan figured out how make it work and you couldn't. Do it. Seriously. Do it.

My friends, I don't care much about getting a check for some huge amount. I don't care about the relative fame that being known as The Man Who Saved Spider-Man might bring me. I wouldn't even insist on being the one to write this story. But I've been getting messages from a lot of people out there in the last few hours and not a one of them has said that they don't think that my idea is a good one.

So let's try this: if you like my idea, share it. Post it on your own blog or website or on a message board or discussion group if you frequent one. Let's just get the idea out there and let it roam free.

If Marvel Comics pilfers it, fine. I'll have gotten what I wanted.

Because even though I'm an alleged adult, I still look up to Spider-Man. Because he taught me that doing the right thing is more important than money and fame. And right now... trying to get this idea out where it can't be ignored... it feels like the right thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why I'm Glad I Didn't Cancel My Subscription To Hellblazer Until Now.

I meant to do it... but it slipped my mind the last time I was in the shop. And then Issue #259 - the first with new artist Simon Bisley - came out, and I have a whole host of reasons to be annoyed with what has been done with this book.

Now for those of you who don't recognize the name, Simon Bisley is an artist who is best known for his work on Heavy Metal Magazine. He has a distinctive style, some might call it epic, which is wonderful for certain genres but is not really appropriate for others.

Sword and Sorcery? He's great.

Dystopian Futures? One of the best.

Modern Day London? Not too bad.

My point in showing all this is that while Bisley is a skilled artist, he is not a particularly realistic one. And yet, his style is still more realistic and better suited to depicting normal humans than that of the previous artist - Giuseppe Camuncoli.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

At any rate, I was glad to see the new issue because it drove home to me just how bad the last issue and the current plotline - centering upon John's efforts to bring his most recent lover back from the dead - are. Not only is John being written horribly out of character but the storyline violates past continuity and the rules of the world of Hellblazer.

What's wrong with this scene? Three things...

1. Last I checked, Chas wasn't on speaking terms with John - A lot of writers have fumbled on this since the end of the Mike Carey run - and Denise Mina at least acknowledged the differences during her run - but I don't recall there ever having been any reconciliation between the two fast friends where Chas forgave John for being indirectly responsible for his wife leaving him. For that matter, I don't recall Chas ever reconciling with her.

This was further aggravated in the most recent issue, which had a scene with Chas' wife nagging him about hanging around with that John Constantine. I suppose I could forgive it if were made clear this was a flashback story... but references to John's being "an old vampire" were made.

2. Phoebe is better than Kit? I don't think so...

For those of you who haven't read any of Garth Ennis' Hellblazer (and you haven't, why the heck not?), a bit of explanation. Kit is one of John's old girlfriends and pretty much the love of his life. She dumped him about halfway through Ennis's run and came back for one "last night goodbye" in Rake At The Gates Of Hell. Until now, no Hellblazer writer since then has seen fit to even mention Kit save in passing and even then only to refer to her being the strongest love John had ever felt in his life.

It's a cliche in bad fan-fiction that oftentimes the original characters the author creates will be presented as being much better than previously established characters in everything. It is also said to be the hallmark of a poor writer that they will tell you things about the characters rather than making them apparent through the story.

For Milligan to have Chas talk about how much better than Phoebe is than Kit... it tastes badly of both of these cliches.

3. You Cannot Raise The Dead Using Magic in The World Of Hellblazer

This isn't an obscure point by any means. Indeed, it is the very centerpiece at the plot of Garth Ennis' last John Constantine story - Son of Man - which you'd think Milligan would be at least passingly familiar with since he's making reference to Kit.

Let me think... what was it John said there? Oh yes...

Not to mention, if there was some way of bringing people back from the dead... why didn't John try it before on any of the other friends and lovers he was responsible for killing? Apart from - you know - Phoebe being "special".

So yeah... I'm done with Hellblazer until further notice.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Champions On-Line - First Impressions

Champions On-Line started up earlier this month - the second attempt to create a superhero-themed MMO (The first being City of Heroes) and the first to be based on a pre-existing property.

I played CoH from day one onward and was a fairly active player on and off for the last few years so I was rather anxious to see what might be done with an improved graphics engine and years to improve upon CoH, for the team that made Champions is the same studio that developed CoH As such, I feel fairly qualified to appraise Champions in comparison to the old guard.


Some critics accused City of Heroes' costume-creation utility of being more fun to play with than the actual game. While I don't think that's true, CoH did offer players a wide variety of options in clothing their characters. Champions is similarly well-equipped... for the most part.

Champions does give you options. A LOT of options. There's all sorts of hair-styles, mask design, emblems, patterns - even optional textures such as leather and metal to make different parts of your costume look, well... different. You can even change your costume up so different gloves and boots have different colors if you're going for a Harelquin effect.

The one drawback is that despite all these options, things seem somewhat limited in certain regards. For instance, there's not a lot of options if you want to create a superheroine who looks sexy without looking trashy.

Created in about two minutes, trying to emulate the Star Sapphire uniform.

Let's say that - by way of an example - you're trying to make a Black Canary style heroine. It's trickier than you'd think and a lot harder than it should be.

If you want the classic costume, there's no strapless bustiers that don't either expose the belly...

...or have girly ribbon trim on them.

And the one corset is of the "round the waist, not pushing up the goods" variety.

However, putting together a decent Red Sonja was pretty easy.

This was the closest I could get to a Classic Canary, minus the leather jacket, after an hour.

There's five different types of bras (some of which require double-stick tape to hold anything) and several options for garters on thigh-high stockings. Despite this, there is no way to have fishnets on a bikini bottom unless they are thigh-highs... or coming out of bike shorts!

Admittedly, this does kind of work in a Golden Age way...

The options for men aren't much better but for entirely different reasons. You are offered a choice of various builds and body types, but because of Champions' cartoonish style you need to do some tweaking if you want anything other than a big, square-jawed, Bruce-Campebellish bruiser.

To give you some idea, this fellow is the default "slim" hero.

Granting that this is a superhero game and that overblown musculature comes with the territory... well, some of these basic builds are just ludicrous. I discovered this the hard way as I attempted to make a Green Arrow expy.

Ollie may have overdone the weight-training just a bit.

The end result of 15 minutes of playing around with the sliders.


Gone are the preset classes like Tanker and Scrapper. In Champions, there is only your power set to determine what abilities you have and whether you are a ranged or melee fighter. This is a bit of a difference from CoH, where all the character concepts and power concepts are fragmented and limited to certain classes.

Another nice touch is that while you can choose one of the major power sets at the start, you also have the option of choosing one power from two differing power sets at the start. So if you'd like to have fire powers AND martial arts training, you can do that.

For the purposes of this article, I decided to try my hand at making a Black Canary equivalent. Unlike City of Heroes, there is no "sonics" powers set in Champions. Gadgeteers, however, can start with a sonic blaster weapon. And martial artists get a high damage kicking attack early on.

Sounds like a winner, especially since one of the other big selling points of the game (one which is quickly being adapted for City of Heroes is the ability to determine what part of your body different attacks come from as well as the color of the energy released. So if you want to shoot green flames from your mouth instead of the usual red flames from your hands... you can do that.

Well, almost. It turns out this feature is limited to certain powers and the game won't let you redirect your Sonic Blaster so it looks like it is coming from your head.

It's just not the same...


On the plus side, the graphics are a HUGE step-up from City of Heroes. The game honestly does look like a comic book come to life, with your characters standing out from the backgrounds in a manner similar to other recent animated games (The Simpsons, Harvey Birdman, Family Guy). The fonts for when you do damage to an enemy are suitably cartoonish and this still shot of my Sheena-expy character (The Jungle Princess) shows a detail my eye didn't quite catch until I saw it - speed lines when your character attacks!

On the downside, this stylization doesn't lend itself well to creating particularly realistic depictions of the human form. In fact, if you don't do quite a bit of work, most female characters will end up look like a blow-up doll. The male characters don't fair much better, with facial hair looking very cartoonish. Of course that IS the style of the game but it's a bit jarring for those of us who don't want our goatees jutting out half-a-foot from our chins.


Gameplay is a snap to get into. You're given your choice of several default keyboard/mouse configurations at the start (including one based on City of Heroes and the layout is customizable beyond that.

One idea that is taken from CoH that is developed futher here is the idea of powered attacks and combos. Limited in CoH to some of the newer power sets, abilities such as Darkness and Archery allow you to, by holding down the attack button, either build up more powerful energy blasts before releasing the button or unleash an increasingly more powerful volley of shots. Combat is a real thrill and grinding for a particular enemy is rarely dull.

On the flip-side, the game doesn't require nearly as much strategy as City of Heroes. Partly because you gain new powers so slowly and partly because the interface - console friendly as it is- reduces most actual combat to a button-mashing fest as you desperately try to refuel your energy so you can do the powered-up attacks.


This is the one area where, bar none, Champions Online does improve on City of Heroes. This is not to say that the opening area of City of Heroes is bad but it's just not quite as high action as the opening of Champions.

In CoH, your character is trapped behind enemy lines as a mutagen contamination has infected various homeless people and turned them into crazed maniacs.

In Champions Online, you fight alongside The Champions themselves while fighting an alien invasion!

It just doesn't compare really.

Overall, despite some reservations about the costume system, I'm enjoying Champions On-Line so far. I'll report back again in a week or two and let you know if the game holds my interest past the early stages.