Friday, September 30, 2011

Peter David was wrong, but he's probably OK with it...

From Star Wars Tales #1, "Skippy the Jedi Droid" Written by Peter David, pencils by Martin Egeland, inks by Howard S. Shum. The secret life of R5-D4, as an astromech droid who achieves both sentience and Force powers. How? "His lubricants were rife with midi-chloroxians, giving him mastery of the Force." No more far-fetched than midi-chlorians anyway; or, as David points out, a planet orbiting a pair of binary stars.

But, as reported on CNN recently, scientists have discovered a planet orbiting a binary star system! While the scientists admit it is highly doubtful the planet they already refer to as Tatooine could support life, just the fact that it's there at all is exciting.

Also, David wasn't the first to consider the untold history of R5-D4: the band Servotron beat him to it with "Red Robot Refund"! Check it here. Man, I saw them play years ago, and I can't help but think if they were out now, they would've been bigger.

If you can find a copy of Star Wars Tales #1, it's well worth reading "Skippy the Jedi Droid," though: there's cameos from Bender, Crow and Servo, the B-9 from Lost in Space, Boba Fett; and an utterly heartbreaking sacrifice. One that you'll remember, the next time you watch A New Hope...(David and Egeland had a solid run on Aquaman as well.)

That's it for this week, have a good weekend!

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: One Million!

I honestly don't think I noticed the sound effects until I scanned this.
For the next stretch, as long as I can find them, every Thursday we'll check out an 80-page comic! Not 64, not 100, 80-page giants only! Today, revisit the Quantum Age of Comics with DC One Million 80-Page Giant, with Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Chuck Dixon, and more writing; and Mike Wieringo, Flint Henry, Norm Breyfogle, Dusty Abell and more on art.

I like DC's 853rd Century, but I find it exhausting. With the core heroes stationed on different worlds of the solar system (and Batman presumably upgrading Pluto back to planet status by virtue of being Batman) and Justice Legions from A to Z (and possibly more) I don't think we've seen a baseline human normo yet in that setting. And why would we, when everyone and anyone could be a fifth-generation genesplice of Tamaranian and Braalian traits, trained in Vuldarian hapkido, carrying on the heroic legacy of the Infrared Bee, and locked in battle with Hellgrammite³? If none of that made any sense, DC's One Million is not going to be for you.

To be fair, the 853rd Century looks to be just as exhausting for the heroes as well: I suspect this is Morrison's doing, and could be read as a commentary on modern man or superman; but the crisis level is constantly at 10. 10+. 10+ followed by another 10, then some more that make that first 10 look like a 3. Picture three years worth of Justice League of America--the old series--happening in an afternoon; and that's a slow day in the future. (It's not in this one, but I know there's a Superman One Million story where he gives some prospective alien conquerors a quick tour of the solar system, and they're scared off by watching the JLA bash a bunch of threats in fifteen or so minutes.)

I don't think DC One Million has been seen recently, and with the reboot it might not be again for some time. But, it does kind of undermine dramatic tension: if you know there's a Superman and a Batman legacy centuries in the future, you're more sure than usual how things will turn out in the present. On the other hand, it is a fun place to visit every once in a while. Flip through this one, see if it grabs you. Read more!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Global Storm Secret Next Authority Wave Avengers-politan."

Today, instead of buying a new number one or some nonsense, why not pick up an issue #17? Yeah, that's going to be a tough sell; but as long as you're in the shop, how about the new issue of Secret Avengers from Warren Ellis and Kev Walker! I'm looking forward to it, although I'm a little disappointed after their banter in the prior issue, Moon Knight and Beast don't appear to be in this one.

I will confess, though, I hate that Beast figure there. He was, well, a Beast to stand, and he's more than a bit undersized to boot. And the Beast is giving Moon Knight the over-harsh hassle about what may or may not be MK's status quo in his new Bendis/Maleev series, where he may or may not be hallucinating conversations and advice with the Avengers, who he may or may not be a teammate of. I know I picked up a copy of the first issue out of the quarter bin, but I might have to read it again.

While Moon Knight may or may not have multiple personality disorder and other psychological problems, his insanity is more rarely played for laughs; especially compared to Deadpool or other lunatics. On the other hand, the severity of his condition varies by writer just as much as Pool; from mostly functional to eccentric to raving and drooling. I do prefer MK closer to the functional end, with maybe a few tics that are noticeable but possibly not insane. After all, the Avengers thought Thor was a little crazy for some time since they didn't really believe he was from Asgard...

If nothing else, Ellis has probably, completely unintentionally, sold me on that upcoming Marvel Legends Commander Rogers figure. Today's issue also has War Machine and Valkyrie, and I'm curious to see if their sarcasm levels are amped up as well.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'Doom Patrol Dead' isn't a great headline...

Every Day is Like Wednesday posted on DC Universe Legacies some time back, wondering if it's worth reading a limited series that's a definitive history of the DC Universe now that DC's rebooted their universe again. (Mozzocco points out even if the stories don't 'count' anymore, there's a ton of good art in this one.) And today's issue is pretty solid: DC Universe Legacies #5, "Crisis!" Written by Len Wein, with art by Scott Kolins, George Perez, and Scott Koblish.

Threaded with an Astro City-style family saga, this issue rejiggers a bit of DC continuity leading up to Crisis on Infinite Earths--I don't think the deaths of the original Doom Patrol were intended to be a harbinger for the age of grim-and-gritty comics; nor was the Spectre's escalation of vengeance. Still, we see brief images of history like the introduction of Blue Devil, the Charlton heroes, or Green Arrow changing to his 70's look--on a newscast, which then runs a story on Queen Industries that shows Ollie, and no one puts them together...! Then, Perez gets to go back to not one, but two of his biggest hits, the Teen Titans, and the Crisis.

For good measure, the back-up story is a quick one with Walt Simonson art! Featuring Adam Strange, Space Ranger, Tommy Tommorrow, and Captain Comet; it's not real deep, but fun. I've been picking this book up for about a buck an issue, so I'm not sure if I'll end up with the whole run, but so far so good. Read more!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Today's Captain's Log should probably be in Morse code...

Ooh, dead.
Even though Jeffrey Hunter wouldn't get to return for more episodes, I've always enjoyed Star Trek stories featuring Captain Christopher Pike, Kirk's predecessor on the Enterprise. I've always enjoyed them, even though they're usually skull-crushingly depressing. Like today's book! Star Trek: Captain's Log: Pike. Written by Stuart Moore, art by J.K. Woodward.

After the events of "The Cage," the Enterprise is on route to earth, to report on Talos IV and replace crewmen lost on Rigel. And maybe Pike as well, since the doubts he had before have only grown. His sense of duty seems to be all that keeps him going, and it seems like Pike has seen too much. But, when the Enterprise is attacked by an unidentified ship near Jupiter, Pike's depression doesn't hold him back. With Yeoman Colt and two redshirts (they weren't redshirts then, but they were...) Pike leads a ballsy raid, beaming into the alien ship to disable their drives. Or blow them up entirely, either or. Spock ID's the aliens as Halogians, but has no other info; which brings back Pike's melancholy over the two men he lost.

Twelve years later, both Colt and Pike have been promoted, to captain and fleet captain, respectively. (Awesome, but that would make Colt captain really young...) Colt has to ask what a 'fleet captain' actually is, and Pike explains in the event of war, he would direct a squadron of ships. Colt then wonders if that's a good position for Pike, since he always took every crewman's death personally. Pike angrily declares sometimes they don't have a choice in these matters.

Colt is taking a crew of cadets on a training mission, but it turns real when they find another Halogian ship near Jupiter, apparently trying to ignite it into a sun and destroy earth. Engineering takes a hit, and Pike goes to rescue the trapped cadets; while Colt uses her knowledge of the Halogian ship to target its engines and destroy it. Pike saves all of the cadets...before a baffle plate explodes.

Severely injured, Pike is placed in the wheelchair/life support system seen in "The Menagerie." Colt explains the Halogians had been rejected for Federation membership multiple times, and a militant group of them had sought revenge. But, although her crew was safe, the price was high. She tells Pike, in answer to his question years ago, it was worth it. After she leaves, Pike beeps once in response.

The Star Trek of Pike, was what I wanted to see when Enterprise was announced, but it didn't quite get there. Gene Roddenberry moved Trek to a shinier, friendlier, everyone-gets-along-and-is-well-adjusted future; which lost a lot of its potential edge. For Pike, space was brutal, cold, and even a little seedy: you might not want to live there, but a worthwhile place to visit. Read more!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Six random line items!

Ah, I haven't done one of these since January! And I'm just as prepared now as I was last time!...yeah.

1. Story problem! The K-Mart by my house is closing next month, and is slooooowly having a clearance sale. Last I checked, there was one variant Negative Man DCUC...and four Cheetahs. The old Cheetah. So, how far can I let the clearance sale go, and still get one? I'm betting I can wait until she's under five bucks, easy. We'll see!

This year, I bought Kyle Rayner and Catman from K-Mart, so I will be sorry to see this location go. Yet another less place to buy figures locally...

2. So far this year, I have not been interested in a single new TV show. I'm looking forward to the new season of Fringe, and that's about it for TV. (OK, except for Fox's animation block, which varies wildly, sometimes episode to episode.) (And I hate Bob's Burgers, and Family Guy has not been solid lately.)

Futurama and Deadliest Warrior just wrapped their seasons, and I know there's only a few episodes of Dr. Who left...for some time. (Man, I got spoiled watching Dr. Who on PBS as a kid, since I swear they were running a ton of episodes daily...) I think Top Gear is in the same boat, where a "new season" is code for "four episodes." Lazy BBC sods...I am looking forward to the new season of The Walking Dead, and wish I had time to watch Breaking Bad from the start.

I'm making it sound like gee, I'm not going to watch any TV, which would be a goddamn lie. I will doubtless watch more and more football as the weather gets worse, and I remembered Idris Elba's Luther will be back next week. Although, that's another BBC one that is probably only like six episodes. There are pros to that, I suppose: less filler in a shorter season, and I'd be more apt to watch something like, say, Revenge if I knew she'd either get revenge or not in six episodes, not six seasons...

3. Finished Ralph Steadman's The Joke's Over this afternoon, so I needed something to read without starting a new novel yet. And, in a recent search, I found I had almost a full 18 issue run of Chris Claremont and Sean Chen's X-Men: the End. Spoiler: how much you are going to enjoy this series is really going to depend on how much you enjoyed Claremont's entire tenure on the X-Men. And not just his first run, and not just Uncanny either. There's stuff from X-Treme X-Men, among other books. (To Claremont's credit, one of the big bads is Cassandra Nova, a Morrison/Quitely creation.) Another spoiler: it's not great.

For example, and we all know I'm a Nightcrawler fan rather than an X-Men fan; in this future Kurt Wagner is a retired X-Man turned action-movie star. Apparently, successfully: we don't see this scene, but it's mentioned Kurt was transported off-world from the set of Letterman. It's an interesting notion, and one I prefer to priest Kurt; but elsewhere in the book, the grown-up Katherine Pryde is running for mayor of Chicago against a rabidly anti-mutant opposition. Maybe that's not too far off, since I suppose any minority group is going to have an easier time breaking into entertainment (but not necessarily an easy time) than into politics; but the anti-mutant sentiment seems just as kneejerk and violent as it always did. That's probably not the oddest thing in that series, but there you go.

4. I've mentioned before that my Youngest son is a big Spongebob Squarepants fan. So, when I saw Spongebob prizes in boxes of Chocolate Cheerios, I started eating those; since he's on a casein/gluten free diet and can't get them himself. Then I got some on sale...and now there's like two unopened boxes on my desk at work, and maybe four more in my kitchen. I'm stocked up for a while. Maybe. I thought about taking a day of just eating those, since I don't think that would be a lot of calories, but would probably be a quick way to get sick of eating them.

Which reminded me of a time, years ago, when I was going to leave town for a week and had about half a gallon of milk left in my fridge. I didn't want to waste it, so I tried drinking it all that evening. Have you heard of the dairy challenge? Well, I hadn't at the time...

5. Transformers 3 and Super 8 are playing at the local cheap theatre this week, and I'm debating checking them out. I'm kind of interested, but aren't they both like two and a half hours? (I'm aware I could look that up, I was really tired when I saw that listing, and had a hard time getting excited for either. We'll see.

6. And I haven't been the comic shop this week, either: the new B.P.R.D. was all I planned on getting. Although, I hear Batman #1 is pretty good and Catwoman #1 is a crime against god and man. Well, maybe. (I was going to put in a link to Bleeding Cool there, but apparently was asleep at the wheel. Find it yourself!) The dynamic of the Batman/Catwoman relationship, if that's the word, has always been an odd one, but lately...hmm.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

80-page Thursdays: Justice League of America 80-Page Giant 2011!

During the Comic Book Shop's 23rd anniversary sale, I picked up a nice pile of 80-pagers on the cheap, so we'll take this next month or so to look one every Thursday. Today: Justice League of America 80-Page Giant 2011, wherein the JLA go to hell. It's a bit of an odd-duck lineup, but it's not just them, either: guest-stars Plastic Man, Lobo, Ragman, Bulleteer, Oracle, Fire, the Demon, and more make the trip as well.

Split into groups of two, our heroes are stuck in various rings corresponding to the nine circles of hell in Dante's Inferno. For example, Wonder Woman and Supergirl get stuck in the second circle, Lust. Not for each other, although that doubtless would've improved sales...for Batman. A demon offers them the chance to burn for eternity with Bruce for Diana and Dick for Kara; rather unsurprisingly, they don't fall for it. (Diana knew Bruce would never smile, while Kara knew Dick was acting "icky.")

Batman and Plastic Man are accused of being frauds. Hawkman and the Demon punch it up for a while in the circle of violence. Green Arrow and Ragman do likewise for anger. A somewhat more interesting pairing is Booster Gold and Oracle for gluttony: Oracle's for knowledge, Booster's for being needed. Donna Troy and Bulleteer are up for heresy; and while I'm glad to see Bulleteer, her admission that hell might be all right if her dead husband ended up there was a little much.
The Phantom Stranger?  Geez, aim high, Booster.
Each pair of heroes finds a piece of the magical macguffin, the Hell Mask. Put the whole thing together, and you can control anyone or anything...even capital-G God. Lord Satanus put the whole thing together to get the Mask and try to retake Hell; although the how on that isn't really explained, or why this particular batch of heroes was picked, since I don't suppose they were all in one place at one time. I did like the trick that foils Satanus, but there is a heroic sacrifice here that's reversed the very same page by the sudden arrival of another hero that hadn't been seen all issue. Similarly, Power Girl can be seen a couple times in crowd shots, even though she's not in this one!
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Grift Patrol. Or DoomC.A.T.s."

Click to enlarge!

I know it's 'could've'...
Oh, duhr. I swear I had this done in July, before reading Grifter #1. Of course, I also could'a sworn I posted this one already...the Doom Patrol's ongoing membership drive will continue, but we may have more fun with Grifter next time.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apparently, this game doesn't want me to finish it...

Some time ago, I was playing X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, until the game refused to let me fight the final battle. I don't know if the disc was bad, or the file on the memory card corrupted, but it quit and that was that. Then, over the weekend, I hit up a local pawn shop for DVD's. I swear I was actually looking for something specific, something I thought said pawn shop would idea what, though.

But, the Oldest wanted a couple PS2 games, and had saved some. Then the guys there offered some overstock PS2 10 for 10 bucks. Fine, sold. Among other nonsense, there was a copy of Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death, which like many of the games I buy, probably isn't amazing but will be good enough for me. And, I bought a new X-Men Legends II, which I've been playing when I should be blogging or something. I used some cheats, since I played my way through most of the game already...and now it's locked up twice on me today. I'm starting to suspect my frankly ancient PS2 now.

Fortunately, I did a good bit of reading before getting these games and devoting all my time to them: I read Greg Cox's novelization of Infinite Crisis. Which I got for a couple bucks in Borders' closeout sale, which is the only reason I gave it a try, because I didn't really like it any more than I had expected I would. (Which, I should underline, is not Cox's fault, but the state of DC's comics at the time.) In case you've forgotten, and I wouldn't blame you, this was the one with Superman from Earth-2, Superboy-Prime, Brother Eye and the OMAC's--which should be a band, right now--and our Superman as uninspiring and indecisive, Batman as a control freak who has lost control of his giant evil satellite, and Wonder Woman as a murderer on a mission of peace.

Frankly, I thought it was a bit of a trainwreck, and reading it reminded me I really haven't liked a lot of DC's superheroes since the end of Identity Crisis--I maintain, I was expecting a murder mystery that made a damn bit of sense; and that wasn't what that book was going for at all. But, the upside of reading Infinite Crisis is that it really sold me on the idea of the DC reboot. Seriously. The novel convinces you that tossing a ton of continuity out the window is absolutely not the worst thing in the universe.

In better reading news, I'm in the middle of Ralph Steadman's The Joke's Over, a memoir of his life and work with Hunter S. Thompson. Enjoying the hell out of it. And I read Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's Parker: the Outfit. Even without reading the first book, you'll pick it up, and it's a solid read. I don't know if I enjoyed it as much as the New Frontier, but still good.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

With a name like "Devourer of Souls," you know what you're getting.

Dark Horse Comics, the current holder of the Conan the Barbarian license for comics, has been reprinting trade collections of the classic Marvel stories. Per Amazon's listing for the Chronicles of Conan, volume 22 is due December 2011, and that would bring the reprint total to 175 out of 275 issues. I don't know if the Chronicles have reprinted any annuals, but I don't think they would be up to this one yet. Which is just as well, since it's a very Marvel story: Conan the Barbarian Annual #12, "Legion of the Dead" Written by Janes Owsley (a.k.a Priest) with a plot assist by Val Semeiks, pencils by Vince Giarrano, inks by Ernie Chan.

How Marvel is it? Well, this storyline had been running for over a year, since around #187. Conan also had a bigger supporting cast in these issues than his entire run to date; and guest-stars Red Sonja and Kull! (Kull in a flashback, since he was from an earlier age.) And the stakes are definitely raised: instead of his usual foes, Conan was up against the Devourer of Souls, an extradimensional demon who was gearing up for the end of the world.

By this point, the Devourer has captured a little girl and her cat; which is a bigger deal than it sounds: the girl is an immensely powerful "child of the Elder Gods," and the cat is her battery, and may be over 10,000 years old. Needing some backstory, the Devourer makes a visit to Arallu, or Hell, to see Kull's long time villain, Thulsa Doom: the Devourer correctly surmises if the cat had been around back then, Thulsa would've known about it. Having little else to do, since he'd been chained to a wall since his death, Thulsa tells him about it.

Back in Kull's day, a young shepherd named Sedrick saved a knight from savages. Grateful, the knight made Sedrick his squire; and while they were close, the other squires were resentful of the peasant in their midst. Thulsa Doom used Sedrick's resentment, in a plot against Kull. The plot failed, at the cost of the knight's life; and in revenge Thulsa turned Sedrick into a cat. An immortal cat. Thulsa does that rather off-the-cuff: maybe he should've tried that on Kull. He also didn't know the Elder Gods would use the cat to store their power.

In gratitude, the Devourer blasts Thulsa's chains, giving him "freedom to roam the underworld." Then, it's time to get back to work destroying the universe...

Meanwhile, Conan and his band are discussing the recent appearance of a sword, received from the Elder Gods. They come under attack by scavengers, but Conan's group is on top of their one.

Red Sonja's skill with a sword was a gift from a goddess, and she believed it was conditional on her remaining "untouched." Attacked and violated in a previous issue, she was now acting like the scared peasant girl she used to be. A surly Conan is not very sympathetic here (although I'm positive Conan killed the hell out of Sonja's attacker) and is similiarly dismissive of the Elder Gods' sword as having the wrong weight and no balance. Taking his old sword instead, Conan heads out to get answers from the Footslave of the Elder Gods...where the Devourer already is.

Instead of the Footslave, Conan finds a gateway to Arallu, which he has little choice but to take. There, Thulsa Doom is waiting for him, since he knows the Devourer would even destroy Arallu. Meanwhile, Conan's band set out to follow him, leaving Mad Simeon to watch the helpless Sonja. Attacked by the dead, Conan's regretting not bringing the Elder God's sword, while Simeon's playing with it when the scavengers attack again. Simeon is killed with arrows, enraging Sonja, who regains her fighting spirit...but she knows it was too late.

Joined by his team, Conan fights through the legion of the dead, but the Devourer gains the Elder Gods' power. This would be concluded in Conan #200, which we may dig up some other time, as there was a twist or two there. This was Conan's last annual at Marvel; and while I liked it, I can see how this might not be to the taste of all of Conan's fans.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

OK, this week's comics:

Funny, then creepy.
While I love Mike Mignola's books like Hellboy and B.P.R.D. (I don't think they use 'Mignolaverse' yet...) sometimes they read better collected, or all at once; than they do issue by issue. Even if an issue ends with something dramatic, when you know it's part three of five...that said, I really enjoyed Baltimore: the Curse Bells #2 by itself. While the hero is sticking to his quest for vengeance, he knows there's going to be "side quests," because there's so much horribleness going on that he can't let slide. Baltimore is also being followed by a writer, who's in over his head; and an inquisitor, who seems more concerned about Baltimore being "tainted" by evil than by evil itself. (The inquisitor is chasing the vampire hunter, not the vampires, which seems willfully stupid...but believably so, like he needs someone to blame more than he needs to deal with the problem.)
There's a pretty brutal kill early on, but no swears.  That seems fair...

From the DC relaunch, we have the first issues of Demon Knights and Grifter. Grifter? Wasn't I mocking him earlier? Well, the Comic Book Shop has Jason Gorder in for a signing, so I gave it a try! And...there may be potential, there. This first issue is mostly set up, as we see Grifter do a little grifting (which I don't know if we ever saw him do in the Wildstorm books, anyone?) before being abducted and experimented on by the invisible Daemonites. The experiment is apparently interrupted, and he escapes, but now Grifter can mentally hear the hidden monsters in our midst, which leads to a brutal fight on a plane, and a daring escape that I'm virtually positive wouldn't work, at all.

CBR's Hannibal Tabu sometimes uses the faintly damning expression "TV good" to describe a book that "would have been fine to flip through late at night on some of the high channels of your dial, but to spend specific money on it? That doesn't seem right." That's kind of where Grifter is now, but that's OK, this was the set-up issue, and there's room for improvement. Moreover, it's pretty easy to see this as a TV show with a relatively moderate effects budget. (The escape I mentioned might need reworking, but that might help it.) Of course, Tabu hated this ish; so, mileage will vary.

In the Banner/Hulk tradition, I think Jason and the Demon are both hugely resentful no matter where they appear...

Demon Knights #1 is likewise set up; starting with Merlin and the Demon at the fall of Camelot, then skipping to 400 years later. For some reason, not knowing the year really bugged me; but it's the middle of the Dark Ages, and historical records would be spotty at best, which would explain why a colossal moving fortress is new to me...

So far, there are three immortals here: the Demon, who I like, but is frankly different with every writer. Some like him full-on, eat-a-baby Evil, others as Cranky Good; it's not sure where Cornell will put him yet. Then there's Madame Xanadu; whom I know nothing about. But, there is an interesting moment that if not her origin, is certainly a turning point for her; and her...relationship with Jason and/or the Demon will raise eyebrows. And then there's Vandal Savage, who is not yet the immortal villain we've seen in Flash and Justice League comics; here he's an immortal, immoral lout. We get a laugh or two from him, but we also know he goes on (and on, if he survives in the reboot to the present) to be a total dick. I wonder if it undermines anything to know those three are going to make it; but I'm onboard for at least the first storyline here.
I wish Peter would deal with his angst the way Herc is about to...
After three Fear Itself issues, and this being the first of a two-part Spider Island tie-in, most of Herc has been more devoted to crossovers than his own storylines. Which is or isn't a bad thing, depending on if you've been enjoying the depowered Hercules stint in Brooklyn. This month, which opens with a brief skirmish with the X-Men that will conclude next month, Herc gets bit by a bedbug and gets spider-powers. Including spider-angst. While entertaining, it doesn't look like Herc is ever going to be hitting on all cylinders, since #10 will be the last issue, pending another go-around. Here's hoping.

Scans from Baltimore: the Curse Bells #2, written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, art by Ben Stenbeck; Grifter #1, written by Nathan Edmondson, pencils by Cafu, and inks by Jason Gorder; Demon Knights #1, written by Paul Cornell, pencils by Diogenes Neves, inks by Oclain Albert; and Herc #7, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, pencils by June Brigman, and inks by Roy Richardson.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: Gotham Freezes Over!

During the Comic Book Shop's 23rd anniversary sale, I picked up a nice pile of 80-pagers on the cheap, so we'll take this next month or so to look one every Thursday.

It was over eighty degrees today (when I wrote this) but now we look at Gotham City in the midst of it's worst blizzard in memory...or, at least it is in some of the stories. The opening story sets that up, with the city losing basic services and in worse shape than it was in No Man's Land, according to Dick. In tales with Catwoman and Poison Ivy, it does look like a cold day in Gotham. But, it seems to be doing alright in some of the other stories.

In one, Alfred helps out a prostitute; while there are newer vigilantes in town, the Saint and the Veil. (The Veil looks quite a bit like Dark Horse's Ghost, to me.) Catwoman helps an old scientist and faces an old rival, and while I liked the art in that one, I think my favorite story was Commissioner Gordon versus Mr. Freeze.

While Gordon is freezing his ass off, Freeze is making the most of the weather, since he can roam around in it without his suit. Or his gun, although he still kills a few guys without it: Freeze wacks a couple of Black Mask's men, to make the case to Gordon that he should be allowed out of prison for a few "snow days." Gordon almost seems to be considering it...

Tons of credits in this one, but we've got scans from "Fire & Ice" Written by Kevin Grevioux, pencils by Grey, inks by Nelson X. Asencio; "No Two Alike" written by Ivory Madison, art by Kat Rocka and Josh Finney; and "What Falls Below" written by Kevin Shinick, art and colors by Rafa Garres.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It kills me that I don't have a decent Catwoman figure.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feeling burned by Schism, but not that way...

Over at Blog@Newsarama, there was some commentary from Graeme McMillan on the Wolverine/Cyclops fight in X-Men: Schism #5. How do you show Logan and Scott have finally had it with each other, this time for really reals? Um, by optic-blasting Wolverine's face off, I guess.

Now, I would figure that's a little too far for Cyclops to take things, no matter how mad he is at Wolvie...but then again, Cyke may well know even that's not going to kill him. It doubtless hurts like all hell, but Wolvie's probably trying just as hard to stab Cyke in the face, and is all sorts of a dick anyway. Plus, as some of the commenters point out, this is an X-Men comic, did you really want them to sit down and talk things out calmly and rationally?

But my first thought is super, super geeky: where did the flames come from? Cyclops' optic blast isn't hot, it's concussive. It's the first line of his powers in Marvel's own wiki for Cyclops: "Cyclops possesses the mutant ability to project a beam of heatless ruby-colored concussive force from his eyes..." And don't take their word for it, take mine! And, um, John Byrne's:

From Fantastic Four #250, "X-Factor" Storyteller, John Byrne! The Thing recognizes "Cyclops" there as a fake because the blast burns him! (That's a super great issue, and the first FF comic I remember buying myself.)

Mind you, I had the idea that years and yeeeeearrrs later, Byrne would have to have Cyclops zap the Thing one in X-Men: the Hidden Years to justify that one, but no! After some research, I found Fantastic Four #28, a Lee/Kirby classic: "We Have to Fight the X-Men!" (Not their most imaginative title...) Cyclops zaps the Thing more than a couple in that one, without setting him on fire. (No scans of that, since I looked in up in Essential Fantastic Four Volume 2.)

Now, if I was trying for a No-Prize, I'd tell you the force of Cyke's beam on the adamantium was enough to spark Wolvie's head and mask and hair aflame. Or, you could well argue the rule of cool applies to Wolverine's flaming skull. Maybe. I don't know if it's that cool. I feel like a lot of writers at Marvel are trying to invoke said rule of cool, without having earned it. Breaking Cap's shield or sending Spider-Man home crying in Fear Itself would be likewise unearned. Now, if say, Warren Ellis wrote a scene where Emma Frost telepathically turns Scott into a twelve-year-old, who then goes on a crying jag with his optic blasts, setting the drapes on fire...I'd buy that.

(P.S. All this bitching, but I'll almost positively buy the new Uncanny X-Force with the Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler! And Deadpool and Psylocke! And Fantomex, who I absolutely can't stand already.)
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Reading some unread John Carter, Warlord of Mars today:

I've mentioned John Carter, Warlord of Mars here before, but up until recently, I had only ever read comic versions from Marvel. I know Dynamite has been doing a pile of new books, and Marvel's doing a new version; but oddly, the new Marvel version looks somewhat similiar to this one, from DC and 1973.

From Weird Worlds #6, "Beneath the Omean Sea!" Written by Marv Wolfman, art by Sal Amendola, adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs The Gods of Mars. From the cover, I thought the book's full title was "Tarzan Presents Edgar Rice Burroughs Weird Worlds," and was picturing Tarzan in a den with a leopard smoking jacket while he's MC'ing the stories. Ah, but it says "Weird Worlds," right? Plural?

So, a second feature: Pellucidar. (Written by Denny O'Neil, art by Dan Green.) A hollow earth concept, which Mike Grell would use years later for Skartaris in the Warlord, and I think Tarzan was among the visitors there. This story, however, features David Innes, who is about to take a drilling vehicle back to earth's surface for some supplies, accompanied by his girlfriend, Dian. Hooja, David's former rival for Dian, helps Dian onboard the drill, and David and Dian head for daylight...

I don't know if Dian usually wore a huge robe everywhere; but if your rival for a girl is able to replace her with a pterodactyl and you don't notice pretty quickly, your rival probably deserves her. Just a thought.
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Friday, September 09, 2011

"Obliquely Mocking Ares' Costume."

I picked up the first issue of OMAC the other day, and enjoyed it; but I'm not sure where it's going. It's very Kirby-esque, but I think OMAC's deal was spelled out in the classic version's first issue; here it's not clear. I may give that one a little more rope, see where it goes...for some reason, I had the line "OMAC that man might live!" stuck in my head, but I know that's not right.

The title of the first issue is "Office Management Amidst Chaos," and I kind of hope subsequent issues continue that trick. "Origami Mutants Argue Constantly." "Outside Messages Aren't Complimentary." "Ongoing Mistakes Against Continuity." I should stop, they may need some of those...(Story and art by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen, inks by Scott Koblish.)

There had better be a proper, armored Hardware somewhere; I'll feel cheated if he's just a screensaver.
Also got Static Shock #1, "Recharged" Story by John Rozum, story and pencils by Scott McDaniel, inks by Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau Underwood. Guest-starring Hardware, which is a good sign for a bit of Milestone making its way to the DCU or DCNu or whatever. (Icon probably should've gone to Stormwatch instead of J'onn...) I'm hoping to see Hardware in action at some point, since right now he appears to be in tech-support mode ala Microchip or Oracle.

Mighty God King has a pretty good breakdown of DC's new #1's so far, and a fair criticism of Static Shock reading not as a new #1, but as a continuation of the previous series. Yeah, but OK. I think a lot of that book's sales are going to be either fans of his previous series, or fans of the animated series, neither of whom are going to need a ton of recap. Besides, compared to some of the other 52, this will read like a book where things happen, I do believe.

In other books, I picked up Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human #2, making sure to get the Simonson cover. (GCD hasn't had scans of them all yet, since I think there's been 6+covers for 2 issues.) It's unfair to compare it to the Miller/Simonson version, which I loved to death; so while it's not as good as that, it's not bad...interesting, at least. We'll see where it goes.

And I missed Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #1, so I finally broke and added it to my pull list. Previously, I picked it up here and there, but I think it's time to go all in. Hopefully, they can back order it for me.
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: The Century War!

Who but Batman could make a rolling marble so ominous?
During the Comic Book Shop's 23rd anniversary sale, I picked up a nice pile of 80-pagers on the cheap, so we'll take this next month or so to look one every Thursday. Today, we've got one I'd been looking forward to for a while: JLA 80-Page Giant #3, "The Century War II" Written by D. Curtis Johnson, art by Dale Eaglesham and Andrew Hennessy, Christopher Jones and Ande Parks, and Steve Scott and Mark Propst.

I had seen this around a few times, and was excited for an 80-page JLA adventure with the big guns incarnation of the team, plus Steel and the Atom. The cover also features Pariah and Harbinger, from Crisis on Infinite Earths, which seems to make this adventure a big deal. Maybe.

The moon is spiralling into the earth, the tidal effects are being felt worldwide, asylums are crammed full to bursting, and there's time-space distortions. All in all, a relatively typical day for the JLA, but J'onn and Arthur are both having half-remembered dreams of a mysterious girl that seems to be a forgotten teammate. Investigating an anomaly, the team heads to Barstow, CA; and meets astronaut Hugh Klein, of Apollo XXV. Hugh's been waiting for them, since he knows the older JLA members: his daughter was a member.
Notice the's not mine. On the final manned moon landing, Hugh discovers a mysterious cave. Investigating, he finds a holographic message from the Hundred, Roman alchemists and philosophers who used their advanced science to flee the corruption of Rome. Eventually, they died out, but they left the "Praemonstra Supra, 'she who will point the way.'" A baby.

Hugh brings her back to America, where the Apollo program is out of money. (You might think they'd find something in the budget for this, but it was probably the seventies...) With the government's approval, Hugh and his wife Jenny raise Laura as their own. She proves to be both a genius and a gifted athlete, then develops super-powers at 16, and Hugh has to tell Laura her secret origin.

Laura decides she needs to know what the Hundred expected of her. Borrowing the lunar excursion module and some spacesuits from the Smithsonian, she flies herself and Hugh to the moon; where the Hundred have left her a costume, some equipment, and a warning of a foe they created themselves. Laura takes the name Laurel, the Moon Maiden, and becomes a super-heroine and apparently part of the Justice League.

The Leaguers are understandably skeptical, since they don't remember any of this. Investigating the moon, however, the Hundred's cave is right where it should be. Hugh then tells of Laurel's foe, the Centurian: the Hundred had planned to give a young poet immortality and other powers to spread their message of peace. Unfortunately, he was stabbed in the back by a rival named Valkus, the very moment the power-beam was sent. Valkus became the Centurian, measuring his life in centuries, and developing a number of powers like "hypnotic influence, uncanny perception, and worst of all, his ghost army." Before the JLA can ask about that one, they meet them: the reanimated souls of all the soldiers that died under the Centurian's command.

Flash remembers fighting the ghost army before, and that Laurel told him the ghosts have to keep fighting to stay coherent. Retreating, the ghosts fade; but back at the Watchtower, some old friends are waiting for them:

Pariah makes it sound like the end of everything every time he shows up, but Harbinger admits it might not be Crisis-level bad. They had been working on "a self-generating map of the universe," but there were paradoxes, holes in space-time that were returning to continuity. Using their map, they restore the heroes memory of the first Century War.

The Centurian, whose symbol looks like a C and a fist in an upside-down Superman logo; was on the verge of bringing world peace. By taking over. The remaining heroes still opposed him, but the Centurian's secret weapon has given him the edge: he can wipe his targets from history, wiping them from existence and memory. Already, Superman, John Stewart, and the Centurian's ally Lex Luthor have been removed from the board.

As the remaining heroes fight through the Centurian's forces, the ripple effects of his weapon are made known: Raven had been erased from history, which meant the Teen Titans never formed. Nightwing turns back into Robin, but since he never quit, Jason Todd never became Robin and disappears from the fight. Alan Scott got erased a couple days ago, "but the universe is just now getting around to the matter of his two children." Jade and Obsidian disappear, without Alan ever existing, he never had kids. Which points out a serious flaw in the weapon, as Laurel explains once they take it away from the Centurian: if you take Superman out of history, what about the numerous times he saved earth? (I had the same problem with Dr. Who, a few times: if the Doctor never existed, the universe would have been destroyed by the Daleks alone, fifty times over.)

Centurian realizes he's made a mistake, but the weapon won't target him. Laurel sacrifices herself, cracking its casing and wiping them both from continuity. As Hugh explains, afterwards he found himself in his old Apollo module: a museum piece in the Smithsonian, never used. In the new history, he never made the astronaut corps, never met his wife, never went to the moon to find Laurel. But with the overwritten continuity snapping back, the Centurian strikes first, gathering alien armies into his new Ghost Army, with his 'daughter' Laurel by his side.

Even though the retroactively-inserted teammate has been done before in JLA (Triumph, anyone? I thought not.) this isn't a bad one-shot. Guest-spots from Power Girl, Deathstroke, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Blue Beetle, and Adam Strange as well. Major Hugh is a neat character as well, predating a recent resurgence of sci-fi involving Apollo missions. Still, the last chapter seems a bit rushed, with Centurian and his forces defeated in relatively short order. And while Moon Maiden's origin is told in the pages of her comic, the art style of the comic-within-a-comic doesn't really differentiate it from the rest of the book: if it had been done in a proper sixties (or even nineties) style, that could've brought this one up a notch.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hal's not in this one, because DCUC hasn't made a civilian/homeless version...

The Collect-and-Connect Stel is a great figure, but there were two figures in that series with interchangeable heads: the Green Lanterns Naut Kei Loi and Medphyll, and the Red Lanterns Skallox and Nite-Lik. Many collectors bought multiples, so they could display both heads; or even more to substitute in others. Which means, there are multiple Stel legs floating around out there. I myself ended up with an extra left arm and left leg...not quite enough to justify trying to build another Stel. Yet.

I have only the vaguest idea what is in DC continuity now, and what's going to be after the reboot; but hasn't Sinestro committed a lot of murders? When Kilowog restored the people of his planet to life, Sinestro killed them all. Sixteen billion dead. It's not even mentioned on Sinestro's page in the DC Wiki; but I don't see how Kilowog doesn't snap Sinestro's spine every time he sees him.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

(Mostly) a review! Bandai's ThunderCats Classic Lion-O!

Often, I don't consider myself qualified for proper action figure reviews, because I usually buy figures based on the characters involved. But today, we have a character I have surprisingly no nostalgic attachment to: Lion-O, of the ThunderCats! Never watched the cartoon as a kid (I would've been a bit too old for it) and I can't recall if I've ever seen in person an old LJN figure. I have caught the first few episodes of the new cartoon, though, and been pretty impressed. (I was prepared to hate "Song of the Petalars," the first episode I saw, and it won me over. Written by longtime comic writer J.M. DeMatteis, too.)

Rather than the new cartoon, the Classic line is based on the old series and the old figures. The old figures especially, I think. Lion-O's sculpt and paint aren't soft, but they're both very cartoony, with not a lot of extra, hard-to-animate detail. Which is fine: was anyone clamoring for a photo-realistic ThunderCats? Maybe? I don't know...

While I don't usually give the packaging a lot of thought, this one could maybe, theoretically be reusable; if that's your thing. Except, instead of twisties or rubber bands, Lion-O is held in with little plastic bits like I find holding new socks together. And of course, I hacked the whole enterprise to bits because I didn't want the Sword of Omens to get bent up. (It's slightly warped, which should be correctable.)

Even with only a passing familiarity to the old cartoon, I can tell Lion-O looks dead-on-model. The ThunderCats logo on the Sword of Omens and the belt, and Lion-O's eyes are all very well applied--I want to see all three are tampos, but I'm not positive. Mine had a couple gloppy parts on the face, that show up on the macro pictures, but he looks fine in hand. Even if I've never been sure about Lion-O's Fred Flintstone five o'clock shadow.

The packaging proclaims "18 points of articulation!" so let's do a quick count: two neck points, two shoulders, two elbows, two wrists, chest, waist, two hips, two mid-thigh, double points on the knees, and both ankles. Sounds about right, and it's all pretty stout. Lion-O's colossal hair may hamper the top neck joint a smidge, but still not bad. The wrist articulation is pretty good, but does show the orange skin-tone paint there; it probably should've been painted the same color as his gloves. Ditto the orange showing through at the ankles.

Although there are four- and six-inch scale figures in the new cartoon line, Classics Lion-O is about eight inches tall. That makes him taller than DCUC, Marvel Legends, or Masters of the Universe Classics figures; but I don't know how tall Lion-0 the character is supposed to be--he could well be taller than a normal person.

So, overall? This Lion-O feels like an updated, upgraded version of his older toy; and I think I've already seen other reviews say he feels very much like a toy, not a statue or a little representation of a character, he's a toy. But a pretty darn good toy. Good articulation, nice paint, and a good heft to him. Grab him if you can: you might consider picking up a poor Tygra as well, since I saw three of those left when I got the last Lion-O!

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