Monday, July 28, 2014

Batman #33 - A Review

Having read Batman #33, I cannot envision a more perfect comic with which to mark Batman's 75th anniversary.  Not only does it prove an epic conclusion to the Zero Year and Savage City storylines but it also proves a celebration of everything that makes a good Batman story.  We even get a new origin for The Bat-Signal in the bargain and get to see The Riddler defeated in a way that does nothing to mitigate his brilliance or his new-found sense of menace.

Scott Snyder's script pays tribute to the rich history of Batman while simultaneously exploring new ground.  While the concept that Bruce Wayne may be as crazy as the villains he faces each night is nothing new, Snyder explores the mental depths to which Bruce Wayne has truly sunk as no writer ever has.  Fans of the theory that Bruce Wayne is another victim of the madness that envelopes Gotham City and those who see him as one who has taken up the idealized path of the knight errant in the modern day will both find evidence to support their viewpoints in this story.

In a word, the artwork by Greg Capullo and Danny Miki is excellent.  Unlike the vast majority of Batman art teams in recent years, Capullo's pencils are light and airy and Miki's inks match them perfectly.  This is one of the brightest-looking Batman comics in history and that uniqueness makes it stand out all the stronger in a series where the artwork is usually drowned in ink.

This book should be on every comic-lover's pull list.

Invaders #8 - A Review

There's no small irony that James Robinson should focus so much of Invaders #8 upon showing the common humanity of his characters, given that the focus of the issue is upon characters who are - to one degree or another - inhuman.  That is literally true in the case of Toro - the Inhuman sidekick of the original Human Torch, who is in fact an android!  This sort of thing is Robinson's bread and butter as are the softer scenes where everyone's favorite fanboy, Agent Coulson, reveals a personal reason for holding Jim Hammond in such high regard.

The plot is a somewhat standard affair, with a sidekick being kidnapped to lure the hero into a trap.  But Robinson's command of the characters and dry humor do much to liven the proceedings up.  Robinson further accomplishes the impossible by doing something I can't recall any writer ever doing - getting into the head of Namor  in a way that makes the Prince of Atlantis sympathetic, painting him as a conflicted man who is nevertheless loyal to his few friends.

Steve Pugh's artwork is, as always, excellent.  Pugh is one of the best choreographers in the business and the book's action sequences are involved without being cluttered.  His panel layouts are also interesting with the differing thickness of the panel outlines subtly accenting key moments.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Superman #33 - A Review

Superman #33 is something unusual in that it is a Superman book that barely contains any action. The focus here isn't on big climactic battles or costumed madmen but upon the staff of the Daily Planet, who are as confused as the rest of Metropolis about the appearance of a mysterious new hero fighting alongside Superman.  Clark Kent is short on answers as well, but he intends to learn the origins of the mysterious man called Ulysses...

Writer Geoff Johns' love for these characters is apparent and it is good to see the Daily Planet staff back in action.  The scenes with these characters are enjoyable, introducing us to these characters without feeling over-expository.  Johns is famous for his gift for dialogue - and there is some good comedy here - but the most effective sequences in this issue may be the ones that are free of text.

There are a number of scenes  in this issue where the story is told purely through the pictures.  We learn more about Ulysses as a person watching him examine Clark Kent's apartment than we do in any of the dialogue.  There is also an effective silent sequence in which we see Clark putting his investigative skills to the test.

Superman #33 is fairly light on action.  And yet, it is one of the best Superman comics I've read in recent memory.  This book remembers that what makes Superman super is his infinite capacity for wanting to help other people and that doesn't always mean punching a bad guy.  If you like Superman, you'll love this book.  And if you don't like Superman, well, maybe this book will take you a step closer to doing so.

Arrow Season 3 Trailer. Ra's Al Ghul Confirmed As Big-Bad.

The cat is out of the bag. And among other things, the new trailer confirms that Ra's Al Ghul will be a major part of Season 3 of Arrow.

October 8th can't come fast enough.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Firefly Cast Returns for Firefly On-Line MMO!

Rumors of an MMO based on the world of Joss Whedon's Firefly have existed in abundance for a while. Many Browncoats remained skeptical even after pictures and video of the gameplay manifested. Now, there is no room for doubt. For it was announced at SDCC yesterday that not only is the game real but that the entire Firefly cast would be returning to reprising their roles.

 A new trailer explains it all.

Registration has begun at

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Con Report: North Texas Comic Book Show - July 19, 2014 - Part Three

And now, pictures of the cosplay contest and some of the contestants involved...

Ash Deadpool and Pika-pool.  

Angel from X-Men.


This vicious little Riddler threatened to steal my money, cut off my head...
and shave off my beard!  What must her parents think?!

A questionable fellow, this one...

Arkham Origins Deathstroke

The proud father with his Bat-Brood.

Thor vs. Loki


The Great Sayin Man!

Arkham City Harley Quinn

Princess Azula from Avatar

The Seven Winners: Deathstroke, Princess Azula, Poison Ivy, 
Ash Deadpool, Thor and Loki, Quicksilver and Harley Quinn.

Con Report: North Texas Comic Book Show - July 19, 2014 - Part Two

Our pal Anna from Glitzy Geek Girl was one of the professional cosplay guests.

Steampunk Princess Leia

Anna also hosted a wonderful how-to panel on cosplaying.

The other big panel for the day was a discussion on how Comics Are For Everyone.  This roundtable was hosted by our friends Taffeta Darling, Eddie Medina and The Jedi Cole Houston.

Me and Mike Grell - the best damn Green Arrow writer/artist ever.

I did allow myself one gratuitous expenditure this weekend.  I bought the preliminary sketch for this Green Arrow cover - one of the two times during his Green Arrow run that Grell depicted Black Canary in her classic costume.

I also bought this print from an artist, whose name I didn't catch. 

Con Report: North Texas Comic Book Show - July 19, 2014 - Part One

North Texas Comic Book Show is a relatively new convention in Dallas.  The best way to describe it is intimate.  It's not the biggest convention and it doesn't have a lot of celebrity guests.  What it does have is what conventions are really all about - fans, love and a chance to meet the other glorious weirdos who share your interests.  I spent more of the day talking with friends than I did taking pictures.  But I still found time to snap a few choice cosplay pictures before the cosplay contest.

Wonder Woman

Archers Unite!  Yours truly with Katniss Everdeen.

Marvel Comics' Morgan LeFay 

Doctor Strange?  Where's the All-Seeing Eye Of Agamotto?

Kitana from Mortal Kombat and Codex from The Guild.
(Both these ladies run a cool site called Gone Catawampus you should check out.)

Conventions like this attract all manner of Rogues.

Ness from Earthbound.

Quicksilver and Polaris.  No sibling rivalry here.

Spider-Man and his two most famous lady-friends - Mary Jane Watson & Gwen Stacy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Reasons Oliver Queen Is Awesome

Despite the popularity of the show Arrow, fans of Oliver Queen still get a lot of guff about our favorite hero being a half-hearted Batman rip-off.  While it may be true that Green Arrow spent a goodly portion of The Silver Age following in Bruce Wayne's footsteps, later comics turned Oliver Queen into his own man.

So what is it that separates Oliver Queen from all of the other billionaire playboy superheroes and all of the other archery-based superheroes?  Besides epic facial hair, of course.  Well, the man said it best himself in JLA #123.

"...I can't leap tall buildings in a single bound and I don't wear any fancy power rings. Hell, I'm not even the world's second greatest detective, whatever THAT means. But I am a guy with a hell of a lot of chatzpah. And that's got to count for something in a crisis, right?"

More than anything, Oliver Queen is defined by that word - chatzpah.  Call it guts, nerve, boldness, balls or just plain audacity if you want to use a ten-dollar word.  Oliver Queen is a man who will say the unthinkable, attempt the impossible and just plain refuse to back down no matter how badly the deck is stacked against him.

To that end, I've put together a list of five deeds that I think exemplify Green Arrow's awesomeness.  And to make it fair, I've eliminated all of the stories where he dies a heroic death in the name of his principals.  Because that is its own Top Five list.

5. Oliver Queen - The One Man Justice League. 

As Seen In: The Dark Knight Returns & The Dark Knight Strikes Back

I'll admit this one is implied more than it is stated.  But the facts are there on the page.  For those who haven't read The Dark Knight Returns, it's a classic Batman story set in an alternate future where superheroes were made illegal in the United States and a middle-aged Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to become Batman one last time.  The sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Back, is not as well regarded but it continues the story of DKR and shows what happened to all of the other Justice League members.

Apart from Superman, Green Arrow is the only Justice League member who appears in The Dark Knight Returns.  We don't get the full details of his story but we do get enough to paint a vivid picture.  Oliver Queen was in prison for a while, escaping five years previously.  He spent that time on the run, striking against the corrupt American government as best he could from overseas.  And at some point before Ollie was imprisoned, Superman was responsible for him losing an arm.

The Dark Knight Strikes Back reveals the fates of the other JLA members.  Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel joined Superman in working for the American government, which we find out is secretly being run by Lex Luthor and Brainiac.  The rest of the team either went into hiding in remote locations or were captured and imprisoned by Luthor and Brainiac.

Logically, that means that for a time, both before being imprisoned and afterward, Oliver Queen was The Justice League.  He was the one hero who didn't back down or give up or agree to fade into the shadows in a world that was going to Hell.  And he did that while single-handedly facing two of the world's most dangerous villains and three of the most powerful superheroes on the planet.

And when I say single-handedly, I mean that in the literal sense as well.  Yet despite that disadvantage, he could still use a bow with Olympic-level accuracy.  Even though he had to pull the bow-string back with his teeth!

4. Oliver Queen Holds His Own Against The Forces Of Apokolips.

As Seen In: Final Crisis #4

At the time of this story, Black Canary was the leader of The Justice League.  And as Apokolips once-again tried to invade the Earth in the name of Darkseid, The JLA Watchtower was attacked.  Knowing the importance his wife held in planning a retaliation against the invaders, Oliver Queen stayed behind to hold off the pursuit as the rest of the team teleported to safety.  

One man with a quiver full of arrows against a horde of soldiers with the strength and endurance of Superman, riding giant hunting hounds and a few brainwashed superheroes as well?  Doesn't sound like much of a fight.  And it isn't.  Ollie tears them apart.

He brings down the hounds and the soldiers with them.  And if Ollie hadn't stopped to try and talk some sense into a brainwashed Black Lightning, he might well have won.  But he didn't and one good shock to the system was all it took to bring Oliver Queen down long enough for a mind-control helmet to be slapped down on his head.

This battle would rank higher, but this fight was a loss for Oliver Queen.  And yet it was a victory, because Ollie did accomplish his goal of buying enough time to let the love of his life and the rest of his teammates get to safety.  And while the villains may have technically won the fight,  it was a hard-won victory that shouldn't have been nearly as difficult as Oliver Queen made it.

3. Oliver Queen Overcomes The Black Mercy

As Seen In: Green Lantern (Vol. 4) #8

Created by Alan Moore for his Superman story For The Man Who Has Everything, The Black Mercy is a sentient alien plant with telepathic abilities.  Parasitic in nature, the plant latches on to a host, to whom it broadcasts a hallucination of an ideal life.  The host slowly wastes away, blissfully unaware that its body is being sucked dry by The Black Mercy in the real world as their every fantasy is seemingly brought to life.

So how strong is a Black Mercy plant?  Strong enough that even Superman couldn't break free of its control without Batman pulling it off of him by force.  And then when it latched on to Batman, Robin had to pull the plant off of Batman for him to be freed of its influence.  Even Hal Jordan was unable to resist the lure of the perfect world that The Black Mercy created for him.

And yet... Oliver Queen did.  He resisted.  He saw through the illusion and dragged himself and Hal back to reality after a single Black Mercy plant latched on to them both.

After the fact, Hal Jordan guessed that the plant had chosen to focus on him since his will was stronger and that instead of giving Ollie a vision of what really would be his ideal world, it had given him what Hal thought would be Ollie's perfect world within the context of Hal's perfect life.  Fine and dandy.  Except that does nothing to explain why Hal Jordan thought to set-up Oliver with Connor Hawke's mom (a woman Ollie hadn't seen in decades and whom Hal had never met) and why there was no place for Dinah Lance or Roy Harper in Ollie's "perfect life".

I think Hal is kidding himself.  I think the truth is that The Black Mercy may be strong enough to cloud the mind of Superman, subvert the fortitude of Batman and even overcome the willpower of a Green Lantern.  But that's nothing compared to Oliver Queen's ability to question everything around him.

2. Oliver Queen Resists Poison Ivy

As Seen In: Batman/Green Arrow: The Poison Tomorrow

Dennis O'Neil earned his place in comics as a living legend with his work in the 1970s on both Batman and Green Arrow.  It was he who developed Green Arrow into the modern-day Robin Hood we know and love and turned Batman into a Dark Knight Detective once more.  He teamed the heroes together in The Brave and The Bold and a few more times besides!  And yet, I think O'Neil's 1992 graphic novel The Poison Tomorrow may be the best thing he ever did with both of these heroes together.

The Poison Tomorrow sees Batman and Green Arrow joining forces after they discover they are working the same case from different angles, with Oliver Queen racing time to save Black Canary's life.  The trail leads from a diseased scientist to Poison Ivy and a plot to use toxic baby food to make a fortune selling an antidote.  In the exciting climax of the story, Batman moves to stop the first shipment of the tainted food as Green Arrow retrieves the antidote from Poison Ivy, who is currently hiding out in a housing development that was built on a toxic landfill!

To his credit, Ollie does try to go in protected.  But he didn't count on how hard it was to draw a bow while wearing a Hazmat suit.  Or on Ivy having a muscle-bound henchman who shared her immunity to toxic waste.  Deciding he can risk the poisoned environment for long enough to hand out a beating, Ollie slips out of the suit and beats down the henchman only to be confronted by Ivy herself.

Ivy, being Ivy, pours on the charm along with the pheromones.  The full "oh my brave hero, let me take care of you" act.  And for a moment, Ollie is tempted.  He's taken a few good lumps from the henchman and he's starting to feel the effects of the toxins around him.  And a little voice tells him he's as good as dead anyway - what harm could one kiss do?  But Oliver Queen's love for Dinah Lance is too strong to be overcome by such cheap tricks.  And with one open-handed strike to the face, Green Arrow shuts Poison Ivy down.

A few years ago, I achieved a modicum of fame for taking Judd Winick to task for his depiction of Oliver Queen as an unrepentant womanizer who cheated on Dinah Lance continually.  This story was largely responsible for my attitude.  Because while a lot of stories show how passionate Oliver Queen is in his love of Dinah Lance, I don't think any story has ever quite so well depicted just how strong that love truly is and how love is a more powerful force than lust any day of the week.  That's why I have nothing but contempt for anyone who tries to sum up Oliver Queen as "a horndog who chases skirts and can't stay faithful".

1. Oliver Queen Walks Out Of Heaven.

As Seen In: Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #10

Oliver Queen was dead.  Astonishingly, to him at least, he went to Heaven.  Or some kind of paradise where he had found the peace that was denied him in life.  As such, when his best friend Hal Jordan (who, at the time, possessed the power of all but one of the Guardians of the Universe) breached the boundaries between worlds to offer him a second chance at life, Oliver Queen turned it down.  But he did agree to let Hal bring him back after a fashion, creating a soulless clone that would possess all of Oliver Queen's memories up to a certain point.

This "hollow Ollie" would go on to reestablish the name of Green Arrow in Star City in Kevin Smith's Quiver and become a target for all manner of supernatural evil.  When that evil threatened Connor Hawke - Oliver Queen's illegitimate son - the hollow Ollie was somehow able to breach the boundaries of Space and Time to deliver his older, wiser self a much-needed dressing down.  That and the knowledge that his son needed him was enough to stir Oliver Queen into action and demand to be returned to Earth.

Oliver Queen defied his enemies.  He defied his friends.  He defied his government and alien invaders.  He overcame a mind-controlling parasite and the most powerful seductress on Earth.  And all of that is awesome.  But for sheer awesomeness, I don't think anything can top Oliver Queen finding the strength of will to walk out of paradise.

Agree?  Disagree?  I await your comments.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Two #15 - A Review

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Two #15 opens with one of the finest examples of symbolic duality I've ever seen in a graphic novel.  The scene depicts Dinah Lance giving birth.  The panel placement and dialogue sync-up perfectly with Oliver Queen's death scene in an earlier issue.  Life and death as perfect mirrors of each other.  It's quite deep and moving.

Thankfully, this book isn't all art and artifice.  Oh, there's a fair bit of drama involving Sinestro and The Green Lantern Corps' plans to save the Earth.  But the script is also filled with some of the humor that is quickly becoming Tom Taylor's hallmark as Auntie Harley stops by the hospital to deliver a care package for the new baby.  Taylor understands Harley Quinn as few writers do and his take on Harley manages to be both hilarious and practical even in the midst of her insanity.

Artist Bruno Redondo seems to be channeling Kevin Maguire in this issue.  The expressions of the characters seem a bit more animated than usual in this outing.  Given the wide variety of emotion this script requires, this proves a welcome change of pace.  And as is usual for Redondo the action scenes of the issue are well-choreographed.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Doctor Who: Nothing O'Clock - A Review

While the Time Lords of old were big on non-interference, there were some threats to space and time they did take seriously.  One of these threats was The Kin - a species who moved through time like sharks move through oceans.  The Time Lords constructed a special prison - one that would contain The Kin for so long as there were Time Lords to guard against them.  Unfortunately, there is now but a single Time Lord who knows nothing of The Kin's existence or their desire for revenge...

It should surprise no-one that Nothing O'Clock is as excellent as it is.  Writer Neil Gaiman - who wrote two very well received episodes of Doctor Who - is well familiar with The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond and perfectly captures their respective voices.  Also, this is Neil Gaiman writing a Doctor Who story without a budget to hold him back.  Of course this is story is brilliant!.

The best aspect of the story are The Kin themselves.  The Kin are monsters that couldn't possibly be as effective on-screen as they are in-print.  Not even a Hollywood film budget could do them justice!  The description of what they look like seems to have been tailor-made to evoke the nightmarish images born of a frightened child's mind that are Gaiman's stock-in-trade.  That sensation alone makes this story worth the reading, whether one is a fan of the show or Gaiman's work in general.

Invaders #7 - A Review

There are two things James Robinson does better than any writer I can think of.  The first is provide seamless exposition, which is fast becoming a lost art.  This is particularly true at Marvel Comics, where more writers seem to be emulating the Brian Michael Bendis style of decompressed storytelling while ignoring the Stan Lee dictum that every story should be written as if it were somebody's first issue.  Miraculously, despite being the second part of a story and a tie-in to the Original Sin crossover event, you can pick up Invaders #7 and read the story without the need of any other supporting material!

The other thing James Robinson does better than anyone is utilize the obscure superheroes of yesteryear.  The centerpiece of this issue is a flashback in which we see The Kid Commandos (created by Roy Thomas for his own 1970s' Invaders book) take on their mentors in a battle over the morality of The Invaders plan to stop the fighting in The Pacific by creating a tidal wave that will hurt innocent civilians as well as the Japanese navy!

I may dote on Robinson's writing, but the artwork of Mark Laming proves the equal of Robinson's script.  Lanning's style emulates the Marvel Comics of old, with figures aiming their attacks at the reader in the grand Jack Kirby tradition.  The final product is an impressive fusion of great writing and amazing artwork.

Doctor Who: The Mystery Of The Haunted Cottage - A Review

The TARDIS brings The Doctor and Martha Jones to a place that seems like Earth but isn't quite right.  At least that is what The Doctor says before they start seeing characters from Martha's favorite books go walking past!  Who has the power to create a whole world out of stories?  And more importantly, why would they bother to do so?

There seems to be something slightly off about Derek Landy's The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage.  His take on The Tenth Doctor, while possessing some of David Tennant's tics, is much more erratic in his behavior and seems far closer to Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in tone.  By the same token, Martha Jones doesn't seem to he herself, her dialogue being filed with sarcasm that seems more appropriate to Amy Pond or Donna Noble.

This incongruity may have been the result of last-minute editing.  Reportedly, Landy finished his script before receiving any editorial input or even approval for his story concept.  He was apparently unfamiliar with the Second Doctor story The Mind Robber and how his story was built on the same basic concept.  Text was added to explain away the similarities but the final effect leaves this story reading more like a Doctor Who fan-fic than a professional quality novelette.

Batgirl #33 - A Review

Batgirl #33 came out at the same time it was announced that Gail Simone, Jonathan Glapion and Fernando Pasarin would be moving on to other projects.  Thankfully, it appears they will be allowed to go out with a bang, as this issue starts what promises to be an epic conclusion to their run on the book.  And it all starts with a reunion of sorts for the Birds of Prey...

Though this version of Huntress is a refugee from another Earth, it does my heart good to see these three heroines together again.  Yet even ignoring the nostalgia-bait, Simone's script is a strong one.  Though the plotting is largely concerned with Barbara building an army of her own to counter the group organized by the violent vigilante Knightfall, this issue does not want for action.

Fernando Pasarin does his usual stellar job on the pencils.  Jonathan Glapion is joined by Matt Ryan in providing the inks for this issue.  I'm not familiar with Ryan's work but I could not detect any difference in the inking from one page to the next - my main consideration in any comic featuring multiple inkers.  Poor inking can make or break a comic and Batgirl #33 is apparently fortunate enough to have two good inkers.  I say apparently because if it weren't for the credits page, I wouldn't have thought this book to be the work of two inkers!