Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Lots of good, earnest advice here, though a lot of it should be common sense. Maybe it's the cosplayer in me, but I don't see why it should have to be stated that if a woman is willing to dress up as your geeky fantasy then the favor should obviously be returned. She dresses as Slave Leia, you dress as The Doctor. She dresses as Cheetara, you dress as Malcolm Reynolds.
It's only fair, right?
Sunday, October 23, 2011
To the best of my recollection, at no point does Kevin Conroy call himself The Goddamned Batman.
SUPERGIRL #2 - Do you like comics where two heroic characters fight over a misunderstanding just after meeting one another? I hope so, because that's pretty much all that happens here. Superman finds Supergirl, who attacks him because she's still confused and frightened. By issue's end he's convinced her that he is her baby cousin, who she remembered baby-sitting three days earlier and started explaining the effect of Earth's yellow sun on Kryptonian. Another book that is slowly getting started but one that is well worth reading.
WONDER WOMAN #2 - Boy, did this title go south in a hurry! While I'm not as upset as some by the revelation that Diana is an illegitimate daughter of Zeus (Don't forget - in the DCAU, it was suggested that she was the daughter of Hades and Hippolyta) I do agree that the portrayal of the Amazons, who have reverted back to being man-hating stereotypes, leaves much to be desired. There seems little reason for these Amazons to have an ambassador to the outside world. Then again, we don't know if Diana is an ambassador or not. Indeed, apart from the revelation of her parentage, Diana continues to be a cipher and all we learn of her in this issue is that she prefers to fight with a staff in combat games! The art is serviceable but that's not enough to keep me buying this book.
BIRDS OF PREY #2 - The logic train hit me hard with this issue. As of last issue, Dinah Lance is reportedly an outlaw framed for a murder she didn't commit. This is, apparently, a problem for her personally. Explain then why she recruits Katana - a known killer - for her team? It doesn't do much for your reputation to be seen with a known killer. While I can swing with the idea of this team being much a darker shade of grey than most hero groups (Indeed, I think of the original Birds of Prey the only person who hadn't killed someone before was Oracle and even she came damn close to killing The Joker herself on a few occasions.), I don't understand why, if you're part of a team that is willing to kill in the name of justice, it's really that big of a deal to be wanted to a crime you didn't commit. This pales, however, to the continuity issues in the art and how Dinah Lance is magically able to appear on a getaway airport trolley next to Starling, despite having been behind the security guards that were chasing after Starling earlier. Much as it pains me, I'll be passing on this until such time as Gail Simone returns.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #2 - Trust Peter Tomasi to find a way to take the plot of Spaceballs and make it into a serious intergalactic drama! Picking up where last issue left-off, a group of Green Lanterns investigates a crime scene - an entire planet that died with two Green Lanterns present, their ring fingers cut off. The culprits turn out to be a group of aliens who have begun stealing resources from other planets in order to make up for their own lack of water and forests. Fernando Pasarin's art is a great as ever. A must read for any Green Lantern fans or lovers of cop dramas ...IN SPACE!
GRIFTER #2 - Cole Cash tries (and fails) to explain about his alien abduction and the aliens in disguise all around them. After getting attacked by the aliens again and digging himself in deeper, Cole escapes only to be attacked by his own brother, who has been sent by the federal government to kill him. This one is falling back to "Wait For The Trade" Status. It is very well written and the art is good but it's paced like a marathon and I like my monthly books to have a little more speed to them.
MISTER TERRIFIC #2 - This issue is hard for me to summarize because so much happens in it. Seriously, I don't think any book in the New 52 manages to throw out as many interesting concepts and ideas as this one. It's very much like a good Doctor Who episode. The art is a little bit sloppier this time around but it's not bad. And while Power Girl fans may be disappointed that Karen Starr doesn't have any super-powers (yet) she still proves herself to be intelligent and a cool-hand in a difficult situation. Also, the new baddy - Brainstorm - is a close second to The Mirror as the best new villain of the New 52 line. Definitely on the pull list.
RESURRECTION MAN #2 - As with the original Resurrection Man series, this issue focuses upon an amnesiac Mitch Shellley as he's trying to remember who he was. He's tracked down by two super-powered female assassins, who call themselves "Body Doubles", who apparently know who Mitch is and have some previous relationship with him. This is a change from the original series, where the Body Doubles were just two ordinary women turned assassin who took the job to track down and capture Mitch Shelley. These changes are academic, however, and this is another solid title that is definitely going on my pull list.
DEMON KNIGHTS #2 - Already the buzz is that this will likely be the first New 52 title to be canceled - not because it sold any worse than any of the others but because the concept is just too "weird" to hook your average comic fan for long. The cynic in me fears that they are right but the rest of me doesn't care - the rest of me is too busy laughing as I imagine Vandal Savage, sounding something like Brian Blessed in my head, shouting "Die, tasty rare creatures! DIE!" as he beats a dragon/dinosaur to death with his own limb. Seriously - if you liked the same kind of crazy humor that Secret Six reveled in or enjoy fantasy of any stripe, give this series a shot. Another one for the pull list, however long it lasts.
GREEN LANTERN #2 - Picking up where the last one left off, Sinestro offers Hal a bargain. Sinestro creates a limited Green Lantern ring that only gives Hal as much power as Sinestro is willing to give him at any time. In exchange, Sinestro demand's Hal's assistance in liberating Sinestro's homeworld from the fear-empowered Corps that bears his name. Johns does a good job painting Sinestro, not as a power-mad zealot, but as a soldier who crossed the line in defending his particular definition of duty and has continued sliding down the slippery slope every since. This does not make Sinestro any less of an arrogant bastard but there is a nice character moment where he is clearly uncomfortable with people treating him as a hero, seeing his position as a Green Lantern as an unremarkable duty. Sadly, a lot of this nuance is sure to be lost on new readers but this is good stuff for us Oldbies. This one is staying on my pull, but I can't really recommend it to new readers.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Is it just like the original Batman: Arkham Asylum? Yes. The controls are exactly the same, the game play is largely unchanged and the voice-acting is still top-notch, though I do miss Arlene Sorkin as Harley Quinn.
Is it more of the same? Hardly! One need only look at the backstory to see this is unlike any Batman story in recent memory.
Bruce Wayne, showing a sudden interest in politics, becomes the leading advocate for putting an end to Arkham City. And what is Arkham City you ask? A super-prison built in the heart of Gotham City, created by walling off the worst parts of town and then pumping it filled with the worst dregs from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison. This was all approved by Gotham City's new mayor - Former Arkham Asylum Warden Quincy Sharp - and is all the brilliant plan of one Dr. Hugo Strange - a mad doctor who is obsessed with Batman and more, knows his secret identity.
We are thrown into the action right away as Bruce Wayne is plucked from a rally against Arkham City by Strange's goons. You take control of Bruce through the opening credits, having to escape your bonds and then fight your way out of a holding area and into the city proper... while handcuffed. Eventually, you escape to the rooftops where you can radio Alfred for a care package containing your Bat-suit and all of those wonderful toys. It turns out this was all part of Batman's cunning plan to get into the prison and find out what Strange is up to. But before you get a chance to investigate it, you get word that Two Face has taken control of the abandoned courthouse and that he's got Catwoman hanging over a vat of acid. And so begins your long, dark night...
Another nice touch is that - with the first DLC pack - you can play extra levels of the game as Catwoman. I've completed two of them so far and my only complaint about them is that they are so brief, being limited to one fight against a large number of goons and one mission to gather equipment from your apartment before going off in search of another villain. The combat as Catwoman is smooth and fluid. Really, the only problem (apart from Selena's costume being zipped down the ENTIRE TIME) is how very little it seems we will actually get to play Catwoman.
Does the game have any other flaws? It is a bit overwhelming. There is SOOOO much content in this game! Even after four hours I still have only 5% of the game completed. That's including numerous side-quests I've started but proven unable to finish. Apart from the ever-present Riddler puzzles (which I have yet to figure out how to activate) , I'm currently looking for more information on the whereabouts of Deadshot, playing phone-tag across the city with psycho-killer Zsasz, helping Bane track down and destroy six containers of a dangerous drug called TITAN and trying to find the hideout of Mr. Freeze by locating the coldest point in the city. There's also AR-training games that unlock different power-ups for you - the weakest part of the game in my opinion, as I can't believe I'm being asked to put my search for a poison cure on hold so I can practice gliding through hoops.
Still, this is a small quibble and as far as I know you don't really need any of the bonuses promised by playing the Augmented Reality training games. All in all, if you're a Batman fan and a gamer, this is a must have. But you probably didn't need me to tell you that. ;)
Welcome to the first installment of 52 Pick-Up.
ACTION COMICS #2 - Captured by Lex Luthor and General Lane, Superman must endure some horrific tortures as he bides his time waiting for an opportunity to escape. Morrison and Morales continue give us the best Superman comic in recent memory as they reestablish the key elements of the Superman mythos. We see our first appearance of John Henry Irons and John Corben (a.k.a. The Man Who Will Be Metallo) and what I think is the first appearance of Brainiac in this new reality. But Morrison still finds ways to bring something new into the mix, not only giving us a plausable-sounding scientific explanation for how Superman's heat vision would work (i.e. focused microwaves) but finding new uses for Superman's powers, such as using his microwave vision to scramble electronics. Highly recommended.
GREEN ARROW #2 - Concerned about Green Arrow's success in taking out their party pals, a group of celebrity supervillains make plans to draw out the Emerald Archer. We get a lot character scenes this time around, watching Ollie go through a typical workday. Not surprisingly this involves as little "work" as possible, opening with him playing basketball with the local star athlete, meeting with his personal assistant briefly to bump back as many appointments as possible and then heading to the lab to test-drive the new trick arrows. Still an enjoyable book, with plenty of action in the beginning and end. And bonus - the last page promises we'll see Black Canary next issue!
STATIC SHOCK #2 - Recovered from his apparent injury at the end of last issue, Virgil is as shocked that his powers apparently let him reattach a severed limb as we are, figuring that the only thing that saved him was his attacker using an atom-thick blade that cut so neatly his electrical powers automatically fused the flesh back together. While this is a cool explanation that cements just how powerful Virgil is, it still seems like a total cheat. There's still no explanation for why Static has two sisters now, though we do find out that one of them is a clone of the other and that Virgil feels responsible for it... somehow. This book is stumbling a bit but the action scenes are still great, though McDaniel's pencils are getting a little sloppy on the long-shots. I may give this one another issue but this may be moving to "Wait For The Trade" status.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, you already know the story of this book. If you’ve ever read any parody from the pages of Mad Magazine, you’ll know what to expect in terms of comedy. If, by some chance you haven’t ever read a parody from the pages of Mad Magazine, the title of this book and the cover should give you a hint of what to expect – bad puns, silly names and toilet humor. The Death Eaters are now Odor Eaters (with shoe masks) and Dobby The House Elf is now Robby the Mouse Elf – clad only in his rude smock and a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. There’s also a good deal of random humor, with Elmo from Sesame Street – freshly converted to the forces of evil – fighting Robby The Mouse Elf, as he tries to free Harry Potty and his friends. Why? Because it’s funny to see a shoe-masked Elmo beating up Dobby, of course!
The script by Stefan Petrucha seems confused as to what audience he is trying to reach. There’s scores of bad puns, silly names and gross-out humor that only an elementary school audience would appreciate. Yet at the same time there’s a fair amount of political humor and pop culture references that are sure to sail over the heads of the adolescents this book is reportedly written for. Indeed, the blurb on the back of the book hangs a lampshade on this, making a reference to the TV show Kung-Fu and then describing it as “just a sample of the countless dated references that await you…” There’s also a surprising amount of adult content, with direct reference to cross-dressing being made and indirect jokes being made about masturbation and Dumb-As-A-Dor’s sexual orientation.
However you may feel about the comedy in this book, it cannot be denied that Rick Parker provides the perfect pictures for it. Clearly drawing inspiration from the Mad Magazine parodies of olden days, Parker’s style can be compared favorably to that of the legendary Harvey Kurtzman and underground cartoonists such as Robert Crumb and Peter Bagge. Rather than draw photo-realistic images of the popular characters as seen in the Harry Potter films, Parker caricatures them to good effect, creating a Dumb-As-A-Dor who is more Dr. Demento than Dumbledore. There are also a goodly number of sight-gags hidden in the background, so keep your eyes peeled.
This book is full of adolescent humor. That is not a criticism – merely a statement of fact. I believe that adolescent humor has a place on the library shelf and while I rolled my eyes at much of the content of this book, I suspect that a twelve-year-old me, freshly graduated from the School Of Hard Knock-Knock Jokes, would have enjoyed it thoroughly as would any other class clown that is coming into his own today.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
We know from the beginning that this is not going to be a Bowdlerized Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. A brief comic at the start summarizes the original, darker Pinocchio stories by Carlo Collodi, informing us that things did not end Happily Ever After. Now, Pinocchio is older and somewhat wiser, fighting to avenge the death of his father Geppetto at the hands of the vampires who have secretly taken over the village of Nasolungo.
A writer could just play off of the amusing title and trust the story to sell itself but thankfully author Van Jensen is better than that. Oh, we get vampire-slaying in spades, as Pinocchio tells lies and breaks his own nose in order to give himself stakes but there’s more to it than that. There is a mystery, as the vampires work toward an unknown goal under a shadowy leader. There is drama, as Pinocchio weighs his desire to be a real boy and seek love with a real girl against his responsibilities as a hero. And yes, there is even slapstick comedy as that poor cricket, who tried to steer Pinocchio down the straight and narrow path, returns as a ghost only to experience more abuse.
The art by Dusty Higgins is perfectly stylized for this story. This book has some of the best use of shadow I’ve seen in a story printed in gray scale, avoiding the trap so many horror books fall into obscuring the original pencils in inks. With the blocky characters and cartoonish expressions, Higgins’ work is reminiscent, though distinctive, from the work of another artist famous who once worked for Slave Labor Graphics – Jhonen Vasquez of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac fame.
This book, which was already named one of the Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA is a must-have for any public library graphic novel collection. There’s nothing here the 12 And Up crowd can’t handle though I would advise being careful to make sure this doesn’t accidentally get shelved in the children’s section because of the title. Promote this book to your Hot Topic teens and tweens as well as all fans of Fables and Tim Burton’s films. And I suppose it should go without saying that any Buffy fans among your patrons will be equally amused by this book.
My apologies for the late posting. With my Internet having been out the last week, it's made updating the blog rather difficult. But the timing was fitting as I can now post the link to this - my first review for No Flying No Tights - on the same day that I got to meet Mark Waid at Zeus Comics. Enjoy!
“What If The World’s Greatest Hero Decided To Become The World’s Greatest Villain?”
That is the question that establishes the world of Irredeemable. The Plutonian, a hero who is basically this world’s Superman, has apparently crossed-over to The Dark Side for no apparent reason. Having killed several of his former comrades, a rag-tag team of survivors scramble to learn as much as they can about The Plutonian – his past, his secret identity and his weaknesses – hoping to find something that can tell them what drove The Plutonian to this point and, if necessary, how to kill him.
Former Superman writer Mark Waid is probably the last writer anyone would have suspected capable of writing this tale of a hero in rebellion against society. And yet, he is probably the only writer who could have written this story so well. The afterword by Grant Morrison (who also knows a thing or two about Superman) speaks of how he and Waid discussed the idea of labeling and how no matter what else they wrote, they were apparently doomed to be forever known as the “mad-cap purveyor of free-form gibberish” and “The Sterling Sentinel Of Silver Age Nostalgia” respectively. With that in mind, one can see how this series is Waid’s rebellion against the idea of labels being permanent.
Throughout the course of this first volume, we see The Plutonian indulge in some truly horrific behavior, from orphaning a child by burning her family alive before her eyes to destroying an entire country and then forcing one of his former allies to choose only ten people out of millions to be “saved”. And yet, as this story deconstructs the superhuman, it builds up the classic Superman, revealing that his greatest power was his ability to see the best in everyone – an ability that The Plutonian sorely lacks.
The art by Peter Krause deserves special mention. As an artist, Krause is as firmly connected to wholesome classic comics as Mark Waid. He spent several years working on Superman as well as the Captain Marvel title The Power of Shazam! Perhaps he relished the chance to move against convention with this book as Waid did? He certainly put his all into this book, creating something that looks like a traditional superhero book until you get to That One Moment that every single chapter of this series seems to have.
New comic fans looking for something to whet their appetite after reading Watchmen will enjoy this series as will fans of Mark Waid’s other work, though they may be shocked by some of the content. This is a wonderful graphic novel but it should be kept firmly in the adult section as it contains several moments of intense violence as well as some downright creepy bits, including one scene where The Plutonian forces a young couple to have sex while cosplaying as The Plutonian and one of his former teammates.
Irredeemable, vol. 1
Written by Mark Waid; Art by Peter Krause
BOOM! Studios, 2009
Thursday, October 13, 2011
The issue opens with our heroine arriving in Italy. Her quarry? A packing container bound for Gotham, filled to the brim with illegal weapons and - to The Huntress' surprise - a number of captive women, apparently sold into prostitution. After seeing to the safety of the women and making contact with a local reporter, Huntress sets about tracking down the local gun-runners as they too begin to hunt the vigilante interfering in their business.
All in all, this is a solid first issue with good artwork and a great set-up. The only worrying point is that very little is done to develop our heroine outside of her role as a hero. And yet, even this is not so worrying provided one has read the last page. It is here that an editor's note discusses the upcoming JSA title and goes on to say that JSA fans would be advised to keep an eye on The Huntress as well as Mister Terrific, which they mention features Karen Starr a.k.a. Power Girl. Could a restoration of the classic Huntress/Power Girl team-ups of the late Bronze Age be in the works? I hope so, because that's a hell of a tease otherwise.
Regardless, this book is a wonderful action book with a great heroine. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Most of the plot of this issue centers on a mercenary group known as The Dog Team. We see them tracking down and torturing various students and scientists, in search of a sealed thermos that is connected to something called The Firestorm Protocol. Details are few and far between, but apparently a scientist named Martin Stein stumbled across the secrets of transmutation and sent the details to several prodigies around the world. One of those prodigies, honors student Jason Rusch, is in the middle of an altercation with rich jock Ronnie Raymond when The Dog Team comes calling for him. The issue ends when Rusch activates the thermos, transforming both himself and Raymond into living weapons... shortly before they merge into a being called Fury.
Much as I hate to say this, I was lost for a good portion of this comic. The technobabble flies right and left and it's still unclear at the end just what The Firestorm Protocol is supposed to do. The only reason I had any clue what was going on and what powers the boys were manifesting at the end was due to past familiarity with the character. What saves the script, however, is Simone's gift for creating memorable characters the readers can empathize with. She cleverly shows the common ground between jock Raymond and nerd Rusch in one page, which depicts the two having dinner with their single parent and asking a hard question about their own feelings of guilt.
The art by Yildiray Cinar is capable but not particularly noteworthy. There's nothing about Cinar's style that is particularly notable or unique but that actually serves the story well. The mundane suburbia in which Ronnie and Jason live is depicted well and the horror of the scenes in which the Dog Pack go after their targets is made all the stronger by the simple commonness of the backgrounds in which they do their dirty work.
As much as I'd like to recommend this title to new readers, I can't do so in good conscience. The artwork is decent but not outstanding. Simone did the impossible by making Ronnie Raymond a character I don't want to see struck dead (though I still find his poor little rich jock act annoying) but the phony baloney tech talk used to justify the Firestorm powers this time just confused me and I can't imagine it would do the new readers any favors. I'll give it a second issue - Simone has earned that much good faith from me for her past works - but I think new readers curious about Simone's writing would be better served picking up Batgirl #1 instead.
Picking up where Superboy #1 left off, this issue introduces us to the agenda of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. - a clandestine organization that is abducting teenagers with superpowers for nefarious purposes. They make a move to capture Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin, as he is monitoring news reports of different teenagers with superpowers. He escapes easily and then hits the road, having it in mind to build his own group of like-minded teenage heroes. His first recruit, whom N.O.W.H.E.R.E. just barely beats him to, is a young woman named Cassandra Sandsmark. The issue ends with what is basically the same scene as the end of Superboy #1, where the Kryptonian/Human hybrid clone created by N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is released.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
We start in the thick of the action, as part of the Blackhawk team is dispatched to an airport to deal with a group of terrorists who have taken hostages. The covert mission is quickly exposed, but the team manages to roll with the punches and get away without any casualties. Back in their mountain base - The Eyrie - a UN Delegate is given a tour of the facility and we are introduced to several of the team members - most of whom have colorful, if misleading, military nicknames. But things are not looking good for one team-member, who seems to have been infected with something that is turning her into something more than human.
Mike Costa's script reads like a slightly more mature version of G.I. Joe - not surprising given that he's also the current writer on IDW's G.I. Joe comics. The characters are as one-dimensional as in the original 1940s comics but this time they have the benefit of avoiding being stereotypically offensive. Still, the concept is established quickly and we do get some solid plot hooks for the next issue set-up between the mystery of just what is happening to Kundichi and the question of just how pictures of The Blackhawks got leaked onto the Internet.
The artwork by Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley is more of a mixed bag. Both artists have done great work in the past but it seems that Nolan's panel design doesn't mesh well with Lashley's finishes, pencils or inks. Lashley did the cover for the book solo and one wonders how an entire book in that style might have looked. As it is, many of the panels look odd, being both underinked and overinked on the same panels. Note the thin lines of Wildman's tank top in the page above and compare them to the heavy inks used on both characters' hair and eyes.
I'm afraid I'm going to have to ground Blackhawks #1. It's a typical war comic, despite its' modern setting and I'm just not a fan of this kind of book. It's not a bad story for what it is but the artwork is half-hearted at best. I really think it would benefit from having on Nolan or Lashley doing the artwork solo.
The book opens promisingly, with Carter Hall - apparently sick of being a superhero - having journeyed to the woods of upstate New York in an attempt to burn his Hawkman armor. Made of the mysterious Nth Metal, the costume proves to be made of sterner stuff and indeed seems to come to life so it can attack Carter. Sometime later, he awakens in his apartment, having somehow made his way back to NYC naked, undetected and in surprisingly good shape for someone who passed out while being burned alive. Carter has little time to ponder this mystery, however, as he is called out to a dig site where his expertise as an archeologist and cryptologist is needed to examine an alleged alien spaceship. Hijinks ensue as some manner of shadowy creatures laying dormant inside the ship awaken and Carter is astonished to find N-th Metal flowing out of his body and enveloping him, his armor having apparently fused with his body in such a way that it can be summoned forth whenever he needs arms and armor.
The plot here is nothing deep or surprising. If you've seen one horror movie/sci-fi movie with a billionaire funding research into something unusual, you'll know what is going to happen long before Carter is called to the scene. Despite this, Tony Daniel does a good job of establishing Hawkman's powers and Carter's personality as a rugged all-American manly man. Daniel also neatly avoids the questions regarding Carter's past and just what would make him seek to destroy the armor in the first place. It is, to the story of this comic, unimportant.
The artwork by Phillp Tan is as slick and streamlined as the story. Tan's work is sketchy with thin inks that create an effect not unlike that of the paintings of Alex Ross. Full credit for this touch, however, must go to colorist Sunny Gho whose vibrant colors liven up what might otherwise be some very drab scenes.
All in all, this isn't a bad book though it really isn't my cup of tea. I prefer my heroes with a little more humor than Carter and the lack of a unique and interesting plot isn't doing this book any favors. Still, if you like your comics to be simple and full of action, I can't think of a better title for you than Savage Hawkman.
Thankfully, Superman #1 by George Perez avoids the vicious circle by making The Man more important than The Super. Perez's focus here is firmly upon the man behind the cape and the myriad of problems that can't be solved by punching something. Indeed, Perez's script draws off of the headlines of today - particularly the slow death of the American newspaper as well as the Newscorp Phone-Hacking Scandal - and showcases the many problems that both Clark Kent and Superman are powerless to solve, such as monopolization, systematic corruption of the media and, of course, Clark's love life or lack thereof.
Right. So there's going to be a new CGI Batman cartoon. The style looks... well, like they tried to convert Bruce Timm's Batman designs into 3-D. It's not fair to judge until we see the cartoon in motion but... this just looks odd.
Odder still is the news of the cast, with Batman being assisted in his war on crime by a woman named Katana (no word on if she'll be the same one of Outsiders fame of if she'll have a soul-sucking sword, but I doubt it on both counts) and a gun-totting Alfred Pennyworth.
You heard me. A gun-totting Alfred Pennyworth.
A GUN-TOTTING ALFRED PENNYWORTH?!
I can deal with Alfred carrying a hunting rifle around Wayne Manor on the lookout for prowlers. I can even cope with him loading the bloody thing and not just using it to scare off intruders. But actually going out on the streets - WITH Batman - shooting at the bad guys?
On the bright side, the news is not all dark. The same block of new cartoons will apparently see a cartoon based on the Doom Patrol, which I expect will be aimed at young boys who love freaks, monsters and robots. Why do I make that guess? Because the third cartoon they announced is definitely aimed at young ladies and it definitely sounds the most promising on every front. The creator behind the new My Little Pony cartoon is working on a series of animated shorts teaming Wonder Girl, Batgirl & Supergirl called Super Best Friends Forever.
Why couldn't we have gotten THAT as a comic book instead of Catwoman?
A lot of people have been freaking out over this point. Because it seems contradictory that all of these big events couldn't have happened. Because if Final Crisis didn't happen, then Bruce Wayne never died and there was no reason for Dick Grayson to become Batman! And if Crisis Of Infinite Earths never happened, then Barry Allen never died which means Wally West never became The Flash, which means that Grant Morrison's excellent JLA run never happened and... well, you can see the endless logic loops that this line of thinking can cause.
This is all rather silly and indicative of the general attitude most geeks have - i.e. we can't stand to be wrong about an intellectual pursuit. We hate feeling stupid and not knowing what is going on. And being thrust into a new DC Universe where everything we know is wrong is irritating. I get that, believe me. I'd be lying if I didn't say I had concerns about just how the whole of the Green Lantern saga since Hal Jordan first got the ring had been crammed into six years but I'm willing to ride it out and see where the story goes from here.
Nevertheless, I have thought of a simple, easy solution for explaining all this away. And like most confusing things, it involves Doctor Who.
Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction show in the world, being on the cusp of its' 50th anniversary. Over the years, there have been a lot of Doctor Who comics, novels, radio plays, movies and original audiobooks in addition to the actual shows. As one can imagine, there are quite a lot of stories that contradict one-another, even when limited to a single medium. Ask a Doctor Who novels fan sometime about how Time Lords are born and get ready for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I digress.
There was a gap in the production of the show, with the original series ending in 1989 and a new series starting in 2005. The New Series has drawn off of The Original Series, as needed, taking what bits of the mythos it needed and moving forward from there. Some of the new series has conflicted with previous stories but the show has a grand escape-clause in The Time War - a battle which we are told warped Time and Space, causing catastrophic damage that eventually healed but left some things changed.
Well gee, that sounds an awful lot like what just happened in Flashpoint, doesn't it?
So - The New 52 books? New Series. The old DCU? Original Series. The one borrows from the other as needed and until we hear otherwise, we can't assume that anything that happened in the past happened here.
Simple. Easy. Done.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
The New 52 has seen several oddities among its’ new titles. Far from being a solid line of superhero books, we have seen new series from a wide variety of genres – from war stories to westerns. Even so, it was surprising to see such an obscure story as I, Vampire – a series which barely lasted two years as part of the House of Mystery anthology book - be given a (pardon the pun) revamp. Then again, with Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries still being a popular part of the cultural zeitgeist, I suppose it only makes sense for DC Comics to tap into a market hungry for more dramatic tales of blood-sucking beasts.
Most of us have had issues with an ex. I would guess, however, that few of us have had our issues reach the point of causing a potential global catastrophe. Such is the case for Andrew Bennett – the titular hero of I, Vampire. A vampire who has still – somehow – maintained his conscience and code of honor in the wake of his vampirism, Andrew has awoken to discover a city in chaos. Andrew’s lover and vampiric child – a woman named Mary – has apparently grown tired of life in the shadows and has become convinced that with her powers she can take over the world, even with all the superbeings standing in her way. Dubbing herself The Queen of Blood, Mary has raised an army of vampires and set upon the human world. As the book opens, Andrew has set about trying to stop her…
I’ve never read anything by Joshua Hale Fialkov before, although I heard good things about his Elk’s Run series and what I’ve read here would encourage me to seek out more of his work. While the idea of the vampire hero trying to reign in his more blood-thirsty kin may not seem original to today’s audiences, the original I Vampire came at a time when such a concept was quite novel. Fiakov makes the concept his own, presenting both Andrew and Mary as sympathetic characters. Indeed, Mary – who took her vampirism as a gesture of empowerment at a time when few women were allowed any control over their lives – comes off as somewhat more likeable as Andrew, who merely wishes to be left alone… right up until we see just how depraved her vampiric nature has made her. Fiakov also does a good job of establishing the ground rules for vampires in this reality - i.e. as in Dracula, they can shape-shift into various forms and sunlight doesn’t kill vampires but it does make them unable to use their powers and they don’t like it much.
There have been a lot of dark, washed-out books to come out of the New 52 line but in this case I think the style is appropriate. Don’t expect any of Stephenie Meyer’s pretty-boys or even a fair but vicious Ann Rice vampire here. These vampires are feral beasties and Andrea Sorrentino’s pencils reflect that clearly, with even the human-looking Andrew appearing to be slightly “off” compared to the normal humans. Sorrention’s inks leave most of the individual figures obscured in heavy shadows, with thick outlines that threaten to overtake them. This creates an effect that is reminiscent of the art of Mike Mignola. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo complements this with a palette of greys and browns that further place this book in an world of half-shadows and weak lights, with the only white being the pale, unnatural skin of the vampires.
All in all, I enjoyed this title. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but I think fans of The Walking Dead or Hellboy will enjoy the artwork. Likewise, fans of stories where the vampires are real monsters will appreciate the story, so I’d recommend this to fans of Buffy & Angel, American Vampire and the old Forever Knight TV series. Twi-hards need not apply.
Thus far, each of the New 52 titles centering upon Batman has found some hook to make it stand apart. Detective Comics offered us evocative imagery. Batman and Robin focused upon the awkward relationships – working and personal – between Batman and his newest Robin, his own son Damien. And Batman offered us a smooth introduction to the status quo of Gotham City before giving us one hell of a mystery. This begs the question – what does Batman: The Dark Knight offer us that is unique?
Not a lot, I’m sad to say.
The issue splits its’ focus between two acts. In the first, Bruce Wayne delivers a speech about his plans for revitalizing Gotham City after which he is confronted by an GCPD Internal Affairs officer, who is convinced that something shady is going on between Bruce’s “pet bat” and someone high-up in the police department. The conversation is broken up by a young woman named Jaina Hudson, who has “love interest” written all over her. In the second act, Batman is summoned to Arkham Asylum where there’s been some manner of attempted break-out (second time this month!) and the issue ends with Batman staring down Two-Face in a scene that may seem oddly familiar to those who’ve played the Arkham Asylum video game.
If pressed to pick one word to describe this title, I’d be forced to choose “standard”. It’s not a bad book but there’s not a lot here we haven’t seen done before. I was shocked to see that Paul Jenkins was the scripter and co-plotter on this book because I fondly remember his runs on Peter Parker: Spider-Man as being full of twists and turns. This story, such as it is, is as modular as IKEA furniture. Insert Arkham break-out here. Attach love interest here. The one original element – an IA officer investigating the connection between Batman and the GCPD – seems a little nonsensical as EVERYONE knows that Commissioner Gordon turns on the Bat-Signal whenever they need to get Batman’s help. Or does the Bat-Signal no longer exist in the new universe?
Even the artwork by co-plotter David Finch – while technically proficient – is nothing spectacular compared to his previous work. Finch is at his best when he has a lot of open space to work in, where he can put down lots of fine details. We seen signs of this at times but most of the pages have little boxes where Finch’s fine details are lost in the smaller spaces, looking not only cramped but sketchy and dirty. I realize its odd for me to be decrying a lack of splash-pages but Finch really should have played to his strengths.
While not the worst Batman book of the new line (I hold that “honor” goes to Detective Comics), I can’t recommend Batman: The Dark Knight in good conscience to any save the most devout of Bat-Fans. It’s not a bad book but given the talent involved it should be so much better than it ultimately is. Jenkins and Finch have the potential to do something so much bigger and more memorable than what they’ve shown us in this first issue. Hopefully they will improve in the future.
Faced with imminent death, The Doctor seeks answers as to exactly why he is fated to die at a certain fixed point in time. After a journey across time and space, in which he learns more of the menace known only as The Silence. Satisfied by the answers he finds, he goes to face his death unflinching... only for River Song to attempt to change that which cannot be changed. Suddenly, The Doctor finds himself in a reality where all of time is happening at once. Where Roman Centurions wait for red lights, children live in fear of pterodactyl attacks in the park and Winston Churchill is the Holy Roman Emperor of Britain...
THE GOOD PARTS* Steven Moffat's script offers us a lot of spectacle - from flying balloon cars and a cross-continent steam-engine to a deadly game of electrified chess and
* Lots of solid performances from the whole cast. Matt Smith is never going to be my favorite Doctor but he has been nailing the role lately and gets some great moments here.
THE PROBLEMS* Even after a second viewing, the Timey-Wimey aspects of this script are a bit confusing. I originally thought that The Doctor had some way of making himself fire-proof rather than that he was inside the robot disguised as him when River "killed" him, though we knew he was there when he married River in the alternate timeline.
* Rory plays the fool. Again.
* For that matter, how do The Doctor and River "touch" to restart time when it's really a robot body?
* The first question is "Doctor Who?" That's a little bit meta even for Steven Moffat.
THE FINAL VERDICT
A solid conclusion for the series that leaves us with more questions than answers. The cast is top notch and Moffat's script offers us a lot of bang for our buck. Shame you get the feeling that the cool bits were created first and that the plot was added in later.
Having finished reading Voodoo #1, I find myself asking one question - why am I not more offended by this? It’s a fair question. By all rights, I should hate this. How is it that a book which opens with a splash-page of the title character on her hands and knees, where all but one of the female characters are strippers, is less offensive to my feminist ideals than Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and The Outlaws #1?
At first glance, the art by Sami Basri would seem to inspire outrage. Save for one brief scene in a hotel room and one fight in an alleyway, nearly the entire story takes place in the confines of a strip-club and is drawn appropriately, with attractive women in various states of undress. Yet Basri does not draw these women in an exploitative fashion. They are all of plausible proportion, with none of the characters looking cartoonish. It also helps that Basri is a good visual storyteller who draws each woman as a body in motion, with hardly any panels past the first page above looking the least bit posed or pin-upish.
Perhaps the answer lies in the script by Ron Marz? Marz has some experience writing strong women in skimpy costumes, having authored the Witchblade comic for a number of years. Maybe that is what makes the difference because while there is a lot of skin in this book and it earns its’ T+ rating, Marz doesn’t revel in the setting. While every woman in this comic save one is a stripper, there is an honest attempt to portray every single woman in this book with a speaking role as a living, breathing person with relatable concerns rather than a sex object to be exploited.
Most of the issue centers upon Special Agents Tyler Evans and Jessica Fallon, who have been assigned to monitor dancer Priscilla “Voodoo” Kitaen who is suspected of being an extraterrestrial spy. Evans is a bit of a pig, who is enjoying his assignment to stakeout a strip club FAR too much, much to the annoyance of his partner. Meanwhile, we find that Pris is a talented dancer but not the most popular woman among her fellow performers due to her detached nature and refusal to get involved in others’ problems. Beyond that, I can say little without revealing a surprising spoiler on the final pages which suggests that the strip-club setting of this book is strictly temporary.
Last week, during the hubbub over sexism on the comic page, I heard several people say they were unwilling to give this book a shot purely on the artwork and the scenario. This is unfortunate because while this book isn’t quite my cup of tea, nothing in this book is as offensive as what was done to Starfire or Catwoman. The art is sexual without being sexist and the script treats its’ heroine and her stripper colleagues as real people. I’d give it another issue or two to confirm my suspicions but I suspect this book may surprise us all in the end.
WARNING: This podcast does contain a lot of adult language and content.
Due to my extensive experience as a RHPS riffer and scholar of bad movie history, I was invited to be a guest panelist for the first episode of a new podcast devoted to cult cinema. So if you ever wanted to hear me discuss the work of Ed Wood through a really tinny speaker, here is your chance!
Saturday, October 1, 2011
This issue is relatively light on action, save for one scene where Aquaman thwarts a bank robbery by showing that while he isn't faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, he's certainly tough enough to shrug off several shots to the face and strong enough to lever a moving armored car off the road. Most of the issue focuses on Aquaman enduring questions from dozens of curious civilians. Willing to deal with their misconceptions until their questions become insults, Aquaman returns to the lighthouse where he was raised as a child, where he meets with his no-longer estranged wife - the super-strong aquamancer Mera - and the two discuss how to go about starting a new life together in the surface world.
Johns script is heavy on humor and this issue had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down at one point While some may question Johns' breaking the fourth wall somewhat in order to have Aquaman directly answering critics questions about his powers and weaknesses, I think this is a brilliant subversion on Johns' part. It may seem like a waste of time to us old-timers to confirm that Aquaman can stay out of the water for more than an hour, that he commands sea-life rather than talking to it and yes, that he does eat fish (Well what do you think the Atlanteans eat down there? Kelp?!) but addressing these questions in a humorous fashion allows Johns to let the new readers who only know about Aquaman from The Superfriends and countless stand-up comedy routines to be quickly told what the score is while defusing the tension. Now that the jokes are out of the way, we can turn to the serious business... like just what are those things that are coming out of the depths of the ocean looking for food?
A frequent partner with Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis' artwork is as strong as ever. In these days of ever-changing creator line-ups, there are few teams like Kirby & Lee or Wolfman & Perez that works together extensively on one title, let alone several. Johns and Reis team-ups make a case for the wisdom of making such pairings standard practice as Reis' heroic art perfectly meshes with Johns' dialogue. The inks by Joe Prado and colors by Rod Reis join with this pairing to create a comic that looks as amazing as it reads.
As Ookla the Mok once said, "Even Peter David can't make (Aquaman) cool." Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis don't make Aquaman cool either. They don't need to. They've shown us that Aquaman that doesn't care if we think he's cool or not... and to my mind there's nothing cooler than that! But in all seriousness this is a great title, one of the best of The New 52 and you should be reading it. No joke.