Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Out for Halloween, taking the kids out. Be back tomorrow! Read more!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An example of what was wrong with Morrison's JLA...from Mark Waid.
Yeah, except Green Lantern was the one that mentioned that before, not Flash.
From JLA #18, "Synchronicity" Written by Mark Waid, pencils by Howard Porter, inks by John Dell.

When I proclaim, "This is what was wrong with Grant Morrison's work on JLA," it's a bit of a misnomer on several ways. Case in point: Morrison's Batman. Like I mentioned yesterday, Morrison played up Batman's planning skills, making him the League's tactical genius. A perfectly fine direction to take the character, except then the next writer takes that a step further; and sometimes that expands the character, sometimes it makes a copy of a copy.

In Batman's case, it was Waid again, in "Tower of Babel," where R'as Al Ghul steals Batman's contingency plans for taking down the rest of the Justice League. That was a pretty good storyline too, but it was a quantum leap forward in regards to Batman's dickery. A couple more generations removed, and you have Batman's plans used against him again in "War Games." A few more, and you get Batman creating OMAC's and then losing control of them. So, it's not necessarily Morrison at fault, but he loaded the gun.
This is just like every story I've ever told my wife, except replace Batman disappearing with my wife getting bored and wandering off.
Likewise, it followed that the rest of the Justice League became more and more dependent on Batman's plans, if not his leadership. In this issue, it's not a big step to imagine Green Lantern and Flash freaking out a lot here. Read more!

Monday, October 29, 2007

"The Problem with Grant Morrison's JLA"

Now updated with hopefully easier to read pictures: the old ones are below, and if you click 'em you can go through to other old homemade posts on Flickr.

The Problem with Grant Morrison's JLA

I wrote this about two years ago or so, but didn't have the software for word balloons, so a big thanks again to PlanetWide Games.

Upon further thought, and this could be very open to discussion, a lot of the points I jokingly blame Grant Morrison for, were instead the product of later writers, but Grant opened the door. Among other things, in his JLA, he focused less on the detective aspects of Batman and made him more of a tactician or general.
On the other hand, the penultimate chapter of "Rock of Ages" is my favorite JLA comic, and might be my favorite New Gods thing as well. If I can, I might re-read some of Morrison's (and some later writers) this week, to see if I have any real examples.

The toys today are, with the exception of the DC Heroes Superman, from the Total Justice/JLA line of a few years back. (Well, actually, I guess the Batman is from some duh, Batman line or another. He came with a very baroque electric yellow helmet, among other insane accessories.) Wonder Woman in particular was kind of rare--I remember my old boss wanted her, and that was not gonna happen. But they were really muscular sculpts, with not a lot of articulation; and that Flash seems just ugly now. They were perfect for this, though, give them a hand.

Read more!

Friday, October 26, 2007

On the Demon, and DC Direct, and who knows what else.

I counted DC Direct's Batman and Superman offerings here, skipping statues, Pocket Super Heroes and Minimates, or scales like the 13-inchers. I did count reissues and boxsets though, and the Composite Superman would have counted as a half, except there was a similar Batman/Superman figure, so that's two halves.
Weird, huh? The fact that there's two different versions of the Composite Superman just goes to show DC Direct has no intention of these toys getting into the hands of actual children. I think. I could be completely wrong there, and the children of America could be ecstatic to have a lime green half-Superman half-Batman figure...

And, even though I miss the days before DC Direct did tons of Superman and Batman toys, I am looking forward to the Curt Swan Superman with Red Kryptonite heads (which I first saw mentioned at Progressive Ruin) and Jonah Hex. Read more!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bit of a disconnect on this one.
Well, that looks like it might be fun...
From The Demon: Driven Out #3, "Verse III: Unbound" Written by Joshua Dysart, pencils by Pop Mhan, inks by Art Thibert and Jake Crippen.

Running behind today, but I did re-read Driven Out, and I'm still not positive that I like it. Some of the series was entertaining and creative, and some of it was way over the top: some of the Yakuza/J-Pop/street racing touches feel a bit forced, the plot point to removing Etrigan from Jason Blood reads like unused Warren Ellis, and the other female character doesn't get a name beyond Yutaka's girlfriend, before:
Or not.
I think the Demon's still playing with the corpse the next issue.

Still, there's some of it that is interesting: the teddy bear full of hummingbird skulls is weird for weird's sake, but striking. Moreso than the actual reason for it, but even so. And Blood's motivation, to get the Demon out of him so he can live out his days with Glenda, works. So does his drive to get Etrigan back, not because the Demon is more of a menace without him: "I can't stand that you're happy."

The last issue features a bigger, badder, pretty lame monster for the Demon to take down, but he doesn't end up back in Jason Blood there. On the editorial page, the 'next issue' blurb promises big developments for the loose Etrigan, but I think his next appearance was in Blood of the Demon. Byrne seemed to ignore every Demon appearance after the Kirby issues, and Jason and Etrigan were bound again. Anyone remember different, let me know. Read more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Gift Horse, Biting me in the Ass.
He might be from Hell, but even the Demon doesn't want Cthulhu tearing up the place.
The Comic Book Shop had a box of discounted "Prestige Format" books, some of which I hadn't paid full price for the first time around, or pulled out of sale boxes years later. So, if you need a copy of Wolverine: Inner Fury, the Bill Sienkiewicz Moby Dick Wolvie mashup, I can probably get you one, although you really should have that already. The first one that grabbed me today was Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham, with a Mike Mignola cover.

Somehow, I missed that one completely when it came out, when it came out I was probably trying to avoid the more expensive formatting. Until mentioned it in a review of the Gotham by Gaslight Batman figure, I'm not sure I knew about this H.P. Lovecraft-inspired story. I was excited, since I liked the sequel Master of the Future too; and I figured this would be in the same vein.

After I finished my borscht (?) and started on the comic, I was happy to see the Demon appear; weird, since it just came up yesterday. Unfortunately, since this one had versions of of Ollie Queen, Kirk Langstrom, and Robins Dick, Jason, and Tim; and even creepier than usual visits from Mr. Freeze, Penquin, and Talia; about halfway through I started to wonder how they were going to wrap all this I finally looked at the barcode and saw the "Part One of Three."

Luckily, the Wife wanted a coffee, so I packed up the kids, and went back to the Shop; but no dice. Fie. Well, it'll probably turn up eventually. In the meantime, I was thinking about getting my GBG-Batman, and Lobster Johnson, and having them fight calamari or something. Tomorrow: more random Demon appearances--at least three, possibly more if they jump out like this one did.

Panel from Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham #1, plot by Mike Mignola and Richard Pace, script by Mike Mignola, pencils by Troy Nixey, inks by Dennis Janke, colors and separations by Dave Stewart. Read more!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Somehow, my Oldest has an almost complete run of John Byrne's Blood of the Demon, pulled from the quarter boxes. I really should've sprung the cover price for the last issue, to see if any of the plotlines were wrapped up. How to sum them up? It's not bad, but not something I would've paid full price for. More entertaining than Byrne's Doom Patrol, certainly. The art's not bad, but not his best, and a little sketchy in parts. The story seemed to be going somewhere in the issue I read yesterday (#3, guest-starring Batman) but...

This may seem harsh, and someone has to have made this analogy before: Byrne and Claremont were like Lennon and McCartney. Together, they had a body of work of almost insurmountable quality, the classics. Separately, they went on to some pretty impressive work, before eventually sliding out of relevance, at least as far as new work goes. In relative terms, a new album from McCartney or a new comic from Byrne might be nice, but it would never be thought to be as good as the old stuff; and would definitely not be greeted with the same enthusiasm. (Even the most hardcore of McCartney fans would have to admit Memory Almost Full, regardless of it's strengths, isn't going to be A Hard Day's Night.)
Bad hair day for Alfred, and Batman's nose is almost peeking from below his cowl.
It's somehow off to see Byrne draw Batman without the yellow oval, though. Both Bats and Alfred seem almost based on old model sheets, like here:

Even though he'd just done a ton of reading about him, Batman seems to have just plumb forgotten the Demon has super strength, which seems kind of obvious, especially when Etrigan's kicked Batman's ass sideways on multiple occasions. Seems like something you'd remember, yeah...
Who would've thought a monster in short pants would be so strong?
Zatanna also makes a guest appearance this issue, but she spends it in her bathrobe at her apartment, offering magical technical support to Batman. Then, worried that the Demon is too much for him, she tries to call in for help from the Justice League:
Doesn't the JLA have like 90 guys in reserve? Send Blue Jay or something.
Jeez, they don't all look that busy: Superman's apparently fighting Doc Ock, which shouldn't hold him up for more than five minutes. Green Lantern seems to be flying drunk; Aquaman's just swimming--little tip, Zatanna: he's not busy, he's always swimming. Plastic Man looks like he's going to do something to those crooks that everyone's better off not seeing. Y'know, Zat, you could just put on some pants or your fishnets or whatever and go help Batman yourself. Just a thought.

Fortunately for Batman, he's got it pretty much sewn up by the next page:
And he'll try to kill him with a forklift! Little MST3K flashback there, sorry.
Yeah, you can tell Batman didn't plan this, or that bulldozer would've had little Bat-symbols all over it.

I do like the Demon as a character, even though I tend to prefer the DC animated version, that of a 'good' monster; over the barely contained evil one. I'm running late, though, and want to watch House later, so we'll save two (or more, if I stumble across them) more Demon appearances until tomorrow. Read more!

Monday, October 22, 2007

And now, deleted scenes from Ed Brubaker's Uncanny X-Men: Fall and Rise of the Shi'ar Empire:

The sad thing is, if Ed Brubaker had written this scene, it probably would've been awesome.

OK, it's not really. But during the year long storyline, every time something happened back on earth, in other Marvel comics; I kept thinking Xavier and his crew were in for a big surprise when they returned. Then half of them didn't come back...

I actually reused panels. Wally Wood was right!
I started writing this, or at least the general idea, way back when; so I'm playing pretty loose with the continuity--just like real Marvel! All of the events alluded to on the messages are vaguely concurrent, or close enough for our purposes. I did want to have a long tangential message from Spider-Man, thanking the Professor for not revealing his secret; but I couldn't quite get it to work.

Another joke that missed the cut, for some reason: Rouge, nattering on about how her team of X-Men was going to be the bestest ever, and how no one would ever betray her...when she started with what, Mystique, Sabertooth, Lady Mastermind, and a Sentinel?

I'm having entirely too much fun with these. Hopefully next week: The One Problem with Grant Morrison's JLA...if I can find a Total Justice Superman figure.

Read more!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Missed this the other day:
Not a Freudian slip.
I forgot that I was going to scan this from Daredevil #375, but it's a great example of how one little slip can screw up a whole page. After a few days of testimony, the case against Karen Page looks airtight, and the prosecution has started digging on Karen's sordid past to shovel more dirt on her coffin. Matt is trying to pull himself together with a workout, when Mr. Fear shows up for a good taunting.

All the panels scanned here should be Fear talking, but a misplaced tail in the third panel, changes Mr. Fear's punchline to Matt calling his girlfriend a whore. Whoopsie. In context, it's pretty apparent that Fear's still talking, but it takes you out of the moment.

Hell, I don't wanna end on a down note, so here's a panel from the page before, because John Paul Leon nails it:
Your dad would be proud, Matt.
It also occurred to me, with Matt's discovery of the evidence, that his victory was more Perry Mason than Law and Order; but then, I haven't watched a lot of Perry Mason. Did he usually trick people into confessing? I'm not sure. But Daredevil would work really well with the Law & Order formula: DD finds the crime, brings in the suspect, takes it to trial...and now it falls apart, since how often does he bring in someone that's innocent, and the conflict of interest with catching someone and then defending them. No dice there, I guess... Read more!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Roughly translated, "Book eats your head."
I know I wanna be Ash, but I don't know if the Wife wants to be Cherry Darling.
Last week, I got the S-Mart Ash figure from Hot Topic--overpriced, I know, but I wasn't going to find it anywhere else. He's on top of the TV in the living room, valiantly trying to get some sugar from Planet Terror's Cherry. (Unfortunately, so far the light on the cart and the tip of Cherry's machine gun leg have both broken, since neither balanced really well.)

Finding Ash was a good excuse to watch Army of Darkness again: it was on regular TV a couple of months ago, and the Oldest and I watched it then. My archaic, sketchy VCR copy has the occasional swear; but probably nothing that kid doesn't hear on a daily, from his mom.

The Youngest was with us, having a cup of milk; until the scene where Ash finds three Necronomicons. When the fake book bit Ash, then started flapping around, Youngest's upper lip started to tremble, then he started to cry. "Book," he said tearfully. He doesn't talk a lot, so that might have been worth it, and he didn't mind a hug there either. Apparently, the Youngest is aware of his surroundings not enough to interact, but enough to be traumatized. Yay.

The Youngest got his autism diagnosis last week. This week, he's been drooling, bubbling spit out of his mouth, when he's been stressed; and he has been holding things with his fists instead of his fingers. The Wife and I are thankful he's not as bad off as he could be, but I'm worried he could be getting worse. Luckily, he doesn't appear to be scared of books now, though; and I went to his therapy today and he didn't do too badly.
I'm a giant...
In more cheerful news, I picked up the Real Gear Transformer, High Score 100, today. had a good write-up on him, and it's not the first time they've sold me on something. High Score could have been a hair bigger, though, since he makes my dainty little paws look like ham hocks.
Among giants.
Of course, he looked kinda small in the Oldest's mitts too. I should've tried for a photo with the Youngest, but that probably would've involved more chasing and a higher shutter speed than I was prepared for right now.
Just stopping by to tell you to knock off that 'Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A' crap.Then, while transforming High Score back and forth, my mind started wandering: Was he one of those Transformers that grew into a giant robot, then shrank in his alt-mode like Megatron; or was High Score only the size of a controller? What did he sound like? I imagined like a kung-fu master, only one that tried to teach lessons using Elevator Action and Rolling Thunder. And would he be really comfortable if you played games on him? I don't know that I'd be comfortable with that...that probably says more about me than I'd like. Read more!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Most would agree that Daredevil has a interesting, but not deep, rouges' gallery: DD has some classic, A-list villains like Kingpin, Bullseye, Elektra. I would add Typhoid Mary to that list, some might add Gladiator; a few might consider the Punisher a Daredevil villain, since they've had more than a few great fights.

But unlike Spider-Man, the Flash, or Batman; Daredevil doesn't have the deep roster, or B-list villains. Where Batman can sometimes get a good story out of second-stringers Black Mask or Killer Croc, Daredevil gets re-occurring punching bags the Owl, the Jester, or Stilt-Man. Well, you can't use the Kingpin every story, or least you shouldn't; and for a writer there has to be a little challenge to trying to get a good story out of say, Death-Stalker. (Well, I thought he looked cool.) Characters usually aren't fully realized from their first appearances. For example Bullseye's first appearances were terrible, yet he eventually became a classic.
How scary could Mr. Fear really be? I mean, Matt knows his name is 'Larry,' so...
This may explain why Mr. Fear keeps getting brought back: even though he's had several returns, I think he's still behind Leap-Frog in number of appearances and general name recognition. Moreover, a lot of blogs, and even Wikipedia's DD entry, dog out Mr. Fear as stealing Batman villain the Scarecrow's gimmick: fear gas. In Mr. Fear's defense, it seems fair since gas is inherently scary. (Imagine someone lobbed a grenade of mysterious gas into your room completely out of the blue. Seems like most of Scarecrow/Fear's job is already done, doesn't it?)

Fear's latest shot is courtesy of Ed Brubaker, and if anyone can make him a name, he could. In Daredevil #100, "Without Fear, part one," Fear has the classic Spider-Man goons the Enforcers as backup, for his latest attempt at revenge. He's a little fed up that Matt gets to hit the proverbial reset button and get his life back (over and over) while Mr. Fear is a snook who can't even use his real name anymore. It's an OK start to the storyline, although after Fear hits DD with his "new improved gas" most of the rest of the issue is hallucinations, but you get art from Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano, Marko Djurojevic, John Romita Sr. and Al Milgrom, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, and Lee Bermejo.

Funny, I had thought Mr. Fear had shown up again sometime before this--my Daredevil issues are all over the damn place, so I wasn't sure, and I was thinking he was the bad guy for a spinoff like those Spider-Man/Daredevil limiteds or some such. So, we're all the way back to Daredevil #375, "With a Little Help from my Friends" Written by Joe Kelly, with an assist from Chris Claremont; art by Cary Nord, Mark Lipka, Ariel Olivetti, Pier Birto, John Paul Leon, Tom Lyle, Robert Jones, Brian Denham, Chris Carlson, Rick Leonardi, and Scott Hanna. (I like issues with lots of artists like this, even if this one is a little disjointed.)

This was the conclusion of a plotline Joe Kelly had been simmering for a while, and also his last issue. (Daredevil was less than a year away from a new number one and Kevin Smith.) Matt's girlfriend Karen Page was framed for the murder of a cop, who was secretly a serial killer and the pawn of Mr. Fear. During the trial, Fear continues pulling the strings and quickly has Murdock on the ropes, since he can cheat. Fear has stacked the deck by intimidating several witnesses (though that isn't immediately clear), and leads off by throwing another body into the courtroom during Matt's opening remarks. That's a bit of a cheat, since the 'body' isn't dead, but remains in a coma as to not contradict the evidence against Karen: it casts doubt on the cop being the serial killer Karen claimed he was.

As his case goes south, Matt has visits from Elektra, the Black Widow, and his mom (maybe); none of whom can help him directly. He refuses Elektra's help since she was a known killer, but Daredevil's morality seems overzealous later, when Karen asks if she gets convicted, would he spring her:
You. Unbelievable. Bastard.
Sniff. Smell that dickery. Let's forget about the multitude of crimes DD's committed in the past when he's needed to. Pretty sure he had broken himself out of jail before then, as well...

Eventually, Daredevil figures out Fear's secret hideout is an unused law library at Columbia University. Interesting, but would a school like that have an abandoned space that bored students wouldn't use for um, hijinks? If I was an aspiring super-villain, the last thing I'd want is a lair that co-eds use for hookups...DD also wisely brings a gas mask, rendering Fear virtually helpless, unless DD loses it somehow in the space of three panels.
Well, I guess you can't see him emote with that mask on...
Daredevil ditches the gas mask because:
A. He's not Batman, it's not like DD has a bigass belt to carry all that crap.

B. The mask, um, ruined the lines of his costume. Appearance is everything.
It's D. Wes did get a little jowly there.

C. You can't see it from this angle, but Mr. Fear was flapping his arms and making 'bawk-bawk!' noises until DD took it off.

D. It smelled like the Golden Age Sandman in there.

Mr. Fear, who looks really, really buff for a law professor; sets off the explosives he planted in his hideout...does anyone else think like that? Is there a Self-Destruct aisle at Home Depot?...and throws the evidence Matt needs into the fire, giving himself time to escape as Matt grabs it. Beaten, Fear is forced back to his day job: legal pundit, making increasingly snide commentary on Karen's case. That's great, but, um, Daredevil knows Mr. Fear's secret identity. Wouldn't be too hard to track him down. Well, Fear quits in a little hissy fit when Karen's acquitted.
Well, there's not three of me, so yeah, 'no hug.'
There's a few little subplots, like the cops at the women's prison conspiring for Karen to have a little 'accident,' the cops getting foiled by a disguised Elektra, and the Kingpin returning to New York to block Fear's jury-tampering: "Someone was playing in my sandbox...and no one gets to break you but me." And then there's a non sequitur 'Or is it?' style ending with the Triple Threat serial killer (that Karen had allegedly killed), being dug out of his grave. Did Joe Kelly think Triple Threat was going to be a reoccurring villain, the next Bullseye? He wasn't even the next Surgeon General... Read more!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Circle of Life!
Insert Mufasa joke here.
Even though I don't read them as religiously as I did the old Marvel series, I do enjoy the occasional Dark Horse Star Wars story, particularly anything that manages to be 'one-and-done.' And Star Wars: Empire #14 is a good example. "The Savage Heart" Written by Paul Alden, art and coloring by Raul Trevino.

Set immediately after the Battle of Yavin (for the non-geeks, right after the Death Star blows up in Episode IV...fine, the first Star Wars movie) Darth Vader is not a happy camper. His TIE fighter is damaged, communications are out, and only by focusing his anger through the Force can he pull out of the spin. Vader sets a course to the only outpost he can get to, a desertous planet named Vaal.

If Tatooine was, as Luke whined, the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe, then also a crappy, boring planet. Of the three Imperials stationed there, only one still attempts to do any reports or work; the other two have already resigned themselves to slacking off, reasoning no one would ever bother to come there and check up on them. Oh, man, I have been there. It sounds so reasonable, and then your district manager shows up the day you come to work in your bathrobe. Bastard!

Upon arriving in the Vaal system, Vader's already damaged ship can't detect the asteriods until he hits one, which sets up a two page sequence for the crash landing. Pretty.

Vader is left to walk across the African-like grasslands, which inevitably attracts predators. Predators who must be pretty darn hungry, if they're willing to attack someone with a lightsaber, Force-throwing powers, and frankly not even that much meat on him. Seriously, it's a charred torso wrapped in metal; hardly seems worth the hassle.

Killing the pack leader, the rest of the predators back off; but Vader has a sudden strange feeling: joy. Although he could push on to the outpost, Vader camps out overnight, savoring the moment. That night, the pack offers him the remains of their former leader, a gesture of submission.
It's not beef, but it's what's for dinner.
In the morning, Vader soon finds his pack in battle with a hippo-Ankylosaurus looking thing. They may be smelly, flea-ridden varmints; but they're Vader's varmints, damnit! Vader gets so pissed, he doesn't even use his lightsaber, instead dispatching the creature with a knife-hand strike. Victorious, the pack shares a happy howl with their new leader.
Chug it!  Finish it!  All the way!  Whoo!
Back at the base, where the officers are now so bored they're drinking out of a lava lamp, the third officer has come around and embraced his inner slackass...just in time.

Well, let's face it, Vader probably would've snuffed those guys, even if they had been model employees. Back on Coruscant, Vader tells an officer to have his TIE picked up, and have a replacement squad sent for the station, as it's "currently unmanned."

I particularly like this issue, not just because the art is really nice or because it's Star Wars vs. the Lion King, but since I always imagined Darth Vader as a hands-on kind of guy. Sure, he can strangle you from across the room, but sometimes you just want that tactile sensation. In the scene in A New Hope when he chokes a Rebel soldier while questioning him, I always figured Vader would immediately throw the body over his shoulder like an empty beer can, and turn to the next prisoner: "YOU! Where is the hidden Rebel base!" And that prisoner would panic, freeze, and Vader would snap his neck like a chicken's and keep going until he ran out of prisoners... Read more!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Timmy, if you're out there, leave a comment

I'm not so much opposed to tattoos, although I often refer to myself as the last of my generation without one. I've just never bothered. Back when I might've considered it, whenever I'd save up the money for one, I'd blow it on a comics spree or something instead.

Also, back when I was in college, a friend talked me into moving into a house off-campus, then promptly moved in with his girlfriend instead. I was left scrambling for another rent-paying body, and I ended up living the next two years at that house with an ongoing rotation of roommates. I had fifteen total, ranging from reliable old friends to utter rats.

Early on, about three roommates into that mess, I was awakened late one night to a strange buzzing sound. I wandered into the living room to find two of my roommates giggling like little girls as they gave each other prison tats with a motorized needle. Hmm, that's not really fair: I have seen some very nice prison tattoos. While I watched those two slackwits doodle on each other, the needle skipped, like a record player, except it threw ink across the room and all over the drapes. Yeah, maybe that's why I'm not a big tattoo enthusiast.

But again, they don't bother me: my wife has three, five if you count her eyebrows.

I found PlanetWide's Comic Book Creator this weekend, and knocked out some photos so I could play with it. It's not foolproof, and I could've done with an intruction book or tutorial or something; but it's not bad. Anyway, I figure it'll get better with practice.

For the toys: It's Marvel Toys Timmy again, who turns in a fair acting job for being an unposeable lump. I love the name 'Timmy,' it's so hapless. Like bad things are going to happen to him, but it's slapstick, not pathos.

Iron Fist is from what, Marvel Legends series 12? I skipped a lot of that wave, but picked up Fist even though I wasn't a huge fan at the time. I bought the Annual the other day, and that was pretty good.

And our tattoo artist is Transmetropolitan's Spider Jerusalem, possibly the most tattooed figure you could buy.
Read more!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not from Battle Chasers #9.
Catching up on my autism reading...well, I guess that should be 'reading about autism,' shouldn't it? And my family will be in town, so I may be out for a couple days. Have a good weekend!

From Excalibur: XX Crossing, written by Scott Lobdell, art by Joe Madureira and Shawn McManus, among others this issue. Joe Mad drew a great Nightcrawler on more than a couple occasions, but I'm still not excited for him on Ultimates 3. Read more!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Second Cousin of Skullduggery Week: Things what are funny circa 2002 that would get you stabbed now.

I'm not sure when I'm going to post this, but the cold medicine is making me a little sleepy-headed. So, time for a little writing to keep myself awake at work, although my cubicle seems to be swaying slightly, like the camera in an episode of Farscape. Well, that happens a lot, so oh well.

Fortunately, we have a thriller of an issue here today, as the splash page proudly proclaims...if I hadn't cut it off on the scan. Well, it's so exciting, it speaks for itself:
Snoring and slacking, but in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
Ah, but who would guess from such a humble beginning, more Skrull hijinks would ensue?

Sue had just returned from the store, with bags full of odd items like fireplace logs, oysters, and Hostess-style fruit pies; when her cell wakes up Ben. Not the weirdest thing Ben's blurted out while waking up. Really.As she talks to Janet van Dyne, aka the Wasp; Ben and Johnny argue about who gets the TV remote, escalating into the outright destruction of the entire TV room. Wisely for a little kid, Franklin meekly says, "I'm...I'm going to my room now," and leaves to avoid his mom's wrath. Or maybe he's in shock over nearly being crushed and/or burned to death in his own home. His Vision figure appears to be under a couple hundred pounds of wreckage, good luck finding another one, kid.

Ben and Johnny are more in trouble for waking up new baby Valeria, but also decide to bail out. Reed absentmindedly strolls in, mentioning a modified Fantasticar and an errand to a warehouse; and Ben and Johnny offer to do it so they can get the hell out of Dodge. You know, for most people, this wouldn't really work, since the room would still be demolished when they come back, but for the Fantastic Four, well, maybe.

On the flight over, Ben and Johnny argue about whose fault this mess was, why Ben spends so much time as the Thing when he can change back, and why doesn't Johnny spend more time with his current girlfriend Namorita. Their argument isn't as "I'm going to physically murder you," as they used to be, but it's a step or two above playful banter too; so it's a lot like an actual family.

Finding the warehouse closed, the two have only a moment to wonder what else could go wrong, before a Skrull steals their car. Not a dream, not a hoax, not a Marvel Adventures story!
Does his hat have...handlebars, or is that an unwise design choice?
Thank you, Karl Kesel.

The Grand Acquisitioner calls for "Short-range teleportation" and easily ditches Ben and Johnny, who are left scratching their heads as to how he was able to bypass Reed's security system. Since the Acquisitioner mentioned "Sector 1-C" and ferric oxide, Ben jumps to the conclusion that he's at a junkyard on Yancy Street.

Days without accident:  0.Johnny perfectly reasonably calls B.S. but Ben's right. While the Acquistioner keeps teleporting away, the two step on each other's toes a bit, such as when Johnny blows up a Ben's face.

The Torch feels like a bit of a disaster, and while he agrees, Ben points out that while "Reed's smart and Suzie's sharp, but only you and me know--really know--how easy it'd be for us to take out a city block without half tryin'." They acknowledge that's part of the reason they wrassle around so much: Ben and Johnny have to be completely careful with everyone else, but they can test each other and know they can take it. (Maybe. I can see how Johnny hasn't burned the Thing's face off yet, but how Ben hasn't broken Johnny's spine I'm not sure.) Well, that and they completely annoy each other.

Then, a booming off-panel voice tells Johnny and Ben that they've done more good than harm for everyone, and a giant-sized Acquistioner gives them back the Fantasticar. Still suspecting a trick and wondering how he was able to get so big, they prepare to kick Skrull ass on general principle, when the "Grand Acquistioner" reveals his true identity to be Yellowjacket!
This still seems like an asskicking is immenient.
Hank Pym takes Ben and Johnny back to Avengers Mansion, where Franklin has been hanging out and watching the fight on Ant-Cam...even though said camera is on a hornet, but that would seem to be the way to get better angles. Reed and Sue were in on the set-up: Yellowjacket had the Fantasticar treated with Pym Particles, so he could make it seem to be teleported away by shrinking it. He also mentions, "if you guys had decided I was hiding at the local pizza joint, that's where I would have been!" The Wasp had been babysitting the kids (although she feels like she missed out on the fun, and wants in next time) and explains Reed and Sue had a special anniversary.

Back at Reed's lab, he and Sue are having a romantic, Reed-cooked dinner, to celebrate 256 months since he first saw Sue: four to the fourth power. Super-geeky, but still sweet. Possibly less sweet is his admission that fruit pies and Sue are his two great weaknesses; boy, I could see that being taken wrong. Since their first meeting was a little over 21 years ago, you have to remember Reed's a bit older than Sue, and she was pretty young when they met. I was going to say ick, but I'm a bit older than my wife, and every once in a while she'll point out that she was playing with My Pretty Pony while I was drinking my body weight in college. Yeah, ick.

This was another charming, fun, and sharp Karl Kesel FF fill-in, this time I think he was the interim writer between Loeb/Pachelo and the Waid/Wieringo runs. (Adam Warren did a couple in there as well.) If Millar and Hitch are going to be taking over the book, Marvel could do worse than to get a couple of Kesel issues ready and keep the book on a monthly schedule. Why do I say these things that I know damn well won't happen? Rrr. Anyhow, Fantastic Four #55/484, "An Evening Out!" Written and inked by Karl Kesel, pencils by Stuart Immonen. Read more!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Seven or so reasons why I'm nervous about Garth Ennis ever leaving Punisher: Double Edge: Alpha

Sigh. I can't find my Heckler comics, my old issues of Adam Warren's Dirty Pair are buried somewhere, and who knows what happened to that Marvel Knights run I was looking for. But Double Edge: Alpha #1? Right on top of a pile. OK, fine...

Larry Hama has written some pretty good Punisher stories. This was not one of them. At least, I had thought he had, going back over this, I'm not so sure. For good measure, Double Edge was right after years of over-exposure for the Punisher; and this was Marvel's idea of 'fixing' the character. By killing Nick Fury, then having Frank Castle become head of a crime family. I think John Ostrander wrote that series, but I have to believe that premise wasn't his idea.

Quick recap: finally captured by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., the Punisher is still being hunted by psycho-mob princess Rosalie Carbone, subjected to psychoanalysis by the old Hulk supporting character Doc Samson, and finally brainwashed by a never-seen-before government spook...named Spook. Take a deep breath, let all that settle, and let's go:

1. Even if the Punisher had been wacking mob bosses at the rate of about 3.2 a month since the 70's; Classy.I still kinda have to doubt Rosalie Carbone could become the head of the organization. Not because she's insane, or because she's a woman, or even if she seems to be more interested in killing Frank for sleeping with her and not calling than revenge over her dead family. No, it's just that if your boss dresses like that and yells all day in a voice that has to sound like a super-pissed Fran Drescher; well, working for the Kingpin has to sound like a better deal. Heck, working for the Owl probably starts to look pretty good.

2. Doc Samson is a supporting character I've liked in other books, but here he's a bit of a tool. Now that I think about that, Peter David wrote him pretty well in Incredible Hulk and that one issue of X-Factor, and while he was more likable there, has Samson ever been an effective psychiatrist? All of X-Factor's still messed up, and all his work on the Hulk was more-or-less a band-aid. Samson is usually trotted out when the plot calls for a recognizable face to drop some psychobabble; so he's often used merely to shovel some exposition. (Most of Nick Fury's appearances probably fall under that description as well...)
Pink hearts, blue moons, yellow stars, green clovers...
His default characterization seems to be that he sincerely wants to help, but is a bit pompous and/or useless. Err, now I don't think I could write Doc Samson if they paid me, because all I can picture now is Frazier Crane with super-strength. (I checked out Polite Dissent for Doc Samson info, since I wasn't sure he was an actual doctor.)

3. The Spook manages to convince Frank that Nick Fury was one of the shooters when his family was killed in Central Park. How? Drugs and um, Photoshop. And my vision just went all red, since my suspension of disbelief just hemmorrhaged.
Frank is chock full of drugs at this point, something I won't discourage if you're reading this issue.
Spook interrupts Doc Samson's regression therapy session, showing Frank a doctored photo behind his back, and dropping none-too-subtle keywords to put the idea in his head. (Like Krusty the Clown's "If my banker is watching, let nothing STOP you from PAYMENT of this check!") Which makes him a more effective therapist than Samson.

Why the Spook wants Fury dead isn't made clear this issue, and I'm not sure it ever was. Also, he's a pisspoor retroactive villain: Fury and Castle both recognize Spook as a scumbag they've crossed paths with before, but this is his first appearance.

4. Nick Fury had previously been portrayed as an ally of the Punisher: not officially sanctioning his activities, but not going out of his way to bring him in either. This time, he's a lot more down on Frank. Which is what Marvel had to do with the Punisher after this one:  bury him  for a few years, until all this blew over.
Ah, remember when Nick Fury could smoke...indoors, in a comic? Strangely, I think Chaykin had been trying to get Fury off the smokes in his recent limited series: By the time Double Edge came out, Nick's last series had been gone for a couple of years, and even the Howard Chaykin scripted Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. had disappeared without a trace. (It came out in April 1995 for four issues, Double Edge lists as August 1995, the month after Fury would've ended.) I have to wonder if maybe Marvel wasn't washing their hands of Nick and writing him off for good: the one-eyed superspy was already a cliche, and had anyone done a honestly good Nick Fury story since Jim Steranko?

Either due to fan outcry, or possibly the Hasselhoff movie; Fury would return in Fury/Agent 13 in 1998, which was, despite having Mike Zeck covers (I think. GCD wasn't sure), terrible. There's some virtual reality WWII nonsense, but Fury's 'resurrection' boils down to, "Oh, it was a Life Model Decoy that was killed. Even though we promised it really, really wasn't."

Years later, Garth Ennis would have Nick use Frank as an asset again, in the Mother Russia storyarc; in which no one mentions that time Frank killed Nick. Neither should you.

5. Recently, this interview at Comic Book Resources with Punisher War Journal writer Matt Fraction reminded me of Double Edge. It mentioned a recent story where the Punisher was forced by the Hate Monger to kill an innocent woman. That would be at least the third time, in continuity, that the Punisher's been mind-controlled into killing an innocent. Granted, other more super-heroic characters get mind-controlled all the time, but their method of operation usually doesn't involve shooting people in the face.
Do they sell Jack Daniels with a skull-and-crossbones label?  That's kind of cool.
6. After the Carbone assassins drop a bunker-penetrating bomb (!) on the S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse, Frank escapes but thanks to the brainwashing and drugs he thinks it's only moments after his family's death. In a shoeless rage, Frank guns down the assassins, then gets a ride with a drunk guy. A drunk guy who happens to be wearing a Punisher-skull t-shirt, and gets shot in the face for his trouble. It's dramatic shorthand that intends to say, "The Punisher's crazy and out of control!" but more loudly says "We're running out of pages, and the Punisher has to escape and get his shirt, and this guy's kind of skeezy, so..."

7. That Double Edge cover is everything that's wrong with 90's comics, as a drooling Punisher unidentifiable metal thing. But, the comic is durable and seems to have held up to me throwing it around, setting my coffee on it, etc.

Never leave, Garth. Please. Read more!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Matt is stupid. Stupid stupid stupid.
Tough talk from like Matt's one girlfriend that hasn't been killed.

No real post today, since the Wife was hogging the computer and watching Chris Crocker videos on YouTube. Little safety tip? If my wife is laughing and says, "Honey, look at this!" you really shouldn't. You really, really shouldn't.

This was from one of the later Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev Daredevil
issues, guest-starring the Black Widow. Still waiting on that third Black Widow limited series, Marvel... Read more!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Once again, it's Friday Night Fights!

Fighting is all well and good if you've been training since the age of six, or have insane super-powers, or can heal from grotesque and crippling injuries rapidly. For everyone else, though, it's a bit more of a boondoggle. We don't want to get hit, we don't know how to hit properly, and we sure as hell don't recover quickly. (I personally haven't hit anyone since college, and am strictly amateur hour. I left the violence to the pros.)

This week, Nexus finds himself in the same boat. You might assume someone who's job is killing mass murderers might have some fighting skills, but Horatio just isn't a hands-on kind of guy. If you can zap killers with fusion blasts, why get your hands dirty...unless your powers aren't working, as was the case when he and Judah and Badger were trapped in the Bowl-Shaped World. (This was a fill-in issue, set right after Nexus #6 rather than the current storyline.)

Possibly even more galling for Horatio, Badger and Judah are both masters of several martial arts, wrestling, armed and unarmed combat, defenestration, etc. Without his powers, Nexus is a philosopher with a neat costume and hip boots.
I could see being eaten by the intercontinental champ maybe, but a mere all-star? Hell no!
Stuck in a seemingly endless desert, the three are already starving, particularly since the Thune Judah "needs to eat about half his body weight every day." Eventually, they come accross a caravan of those weird mouth-stalk aliens I'm positive Giffen drew in every old issue of Legion of Super-Heroes. Badger jumps out, and the aliens shoot arrows at him. Nexus and Judah sit this one out. 'M-E-H. Meh.'

Once they run out of arrows, the aliens kneel before our heroes, then feed them. Horatio notices "my porridge is starting to flow," but the aliens just fed them their translating MacGuffin, the Leaf of Larger Thought. Great name, though.
'That's the plot of every kung-fu movie, ever.'
Now I imagine the aliens as having that squeeky-froggy voice from the Slurm slugs on Futurama, and they mention their prophecy, which Badger intones solemnly. (Actually, people would probably pay to see a movie called, 'Generic Legend.') And out of his ass. Not entirely convinced these are the heroes of legend, they still let Badger, Judah, and Nexus eat all their food on the way to the walled city.

That night, Horatio wrestles with the ethical problem of deluding the aliens. Judah argues it would crush them, and Badger figures they probably are the chosen ones. Who else would've shown up?

The next morning, the aliens greet them at spearpoint. Accusing them of being false prophets and demons, the aliens present the new heroes of legend, three other travellers. Judah tries to play it off as if they were in the wrong universe, but Horatio confesses they are only lost. And one of the new heroes punches Badger in the face, so it's on.
I don't think Judah ate the ear, but I can't rule it out either...
While Badger and Judah pummel their foes, including a pre-Tyson ear bite from Judah against a guy that looks like Furball from Five Years Later era Legion; Nexus discusses this heroes-of-prophecy business with the third man. The new 'heroes' are lost travellers as well, and not above exploiting or enslaving the aliens; and Nexus is forced to choke a b--wait, his name was really Miracle Whip? Choking's too good for him. Nexus apparently twists his top off.
Tangy zest or no, you've got to go!
Nexus apologizes again to the aliens for misleading them, and offers their help. The aliens explain they used to have water, that flowed through a mysterious keyhole in the mountains, and that none who had ventured there had ever returned. The heroes set out to see if they can bring back the water somehow, leading an alien to proclaim "some (prophets) are more false than others!"

In the mountains, they find a dimensional gate, like a wall of static, apparently broken. A skeleton lies at the base, and they deduce the gate is only one way now: the other way. Judah argues they could go through, but Nexus advises checking with the aliens.

Back at the walled city, Nexus smells a disturbingly familar scent: cooked flesh. The aliens have eaten the false heroes, since they now have new gods that said it was OK: three new heroes of legend, including a Quatro. Nexus tries to explain, there's just a lot of strangers coming through right now, and not every one of them is going to be the prophecied chosen.
Is the yellow guy on fire, or does he just look like it?
Things turn violent shortly thereafter:
The big guy that looks like Groot, from Omega Men, doesn't seem to put a lot of effort into the fight; while the Quatro's still game after getting an arm punched off.
'Look what you make me do' isn't exactly a stirring battlecry.
With the aliens and heroes against them, Nexus, Badger and Judah have no choice but to make a break for the gate. Reappearing underwater, the three make their way to shore; discovering a new land, with game, water, and the continuation of their journey...

And back at the walled city? It's time for a Giffen big-eye panel...because Quatros have big eyes, really.
Injury to the eye motif.
There's a lesson here somewhere, but it's not in a little box like the end of a Groo comic, so you're on your own...

From Nexus #23, "False Prophets" Written by Mike Baron, guest pencils by Keith Giffen, guest inks by Rick Bryant. Giffen's art is to my taste, but I wonder what Rude's fans thought of this one. And Bahlactus is the safety word. Don't pretend you don't hear it. Read more!