Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Offending women, and Flash fans! I don't know what'll happen if you're a female Flash fan, and take no responsibility.

Over at Neither Doormat nor Prostitute, angryrantgirl brought up Lady Flash. So she's to blame for this one.

Seriously, I'm not taking the rap for this one. I'm not going to mention the title yet, because I don't want to ruin the surprise, even though it's mentioned twice in the first three pages of the comic.

'You know what?  I think a bookshelf would look nice there.'
The story does open with a, well, a "CRAAAAK" instead of a bang; as we see a blond figure in a lab coat, hit by a lightning bolt striking a shelf of chemicals, just like Barry's origin. Only this time, Barry is the witness, not the stricken. A lightning bolt hit the chemical shelf in his lab, for at least the third time, this time dousing Barry's part-time assistant Patty. (The second time, of course, hit Wally and made him Kid Flash.

Patty leaves to change out of her contaminated clothing, and Barry thinks she may already be affected. He's proven right when a female officer that was helping Patty change clothes...what?...tells him Patty disappeared right before her eyes. Yeah, she needed an adult.

Barry can see Patty right there, though; vibrating at invisible super-speed, and talking too fast for anyone but him to hear.
This may be more of an allergy issue, than a girl issue.
Barry tells Patty to sit down, perhaps accidentally exposing himself as the Flash, since no one else could hear her; but Patty doesn't get the chance to catch that: She sneezes, blowing herself back through the wall (vibrating at super-speed) and launched for several city blocks. Because normally when women sneeze, they're launched backwards, right?

Patty is vibrating at a different frequency than Barry, so he's unable to catch her. I don't know if that fits into Flash canon: do Jay and Wally and Barry all vibrate at different rates, or are they all on the correct, man frequency? Still flying backwards, Patty's now entered the blasting area next to the police station (?) and sets off a series of radio-controlled detonators, setting off explosives. Flash does the run-in-circles bit, funneling the explosion straight up, but loses Patty.

Several hours of searching at super-speed later, Barry is back at the police station, and dead tired; apparently from running in circles all that time. C'mon, Barry could've searched every square inch of North America faster than you read this sentence, and he didn't find her? "Hmm...she's not at Dress Barn...maybe she's at the mall? No...well, maybe she's at Dress Barn now..."

Barry then takes off at super-speed, but not under his own power: Patty picks him up, for a little private talk.
Didn't Flash run across down to save his girlfriend, not ten minutes after getting his powers?  It's OK, he read comics, so he knew what he was doing...
It's nice to see a female super-hero uniform that's not titilating, or exploitive...or attractive. The huge mask over the eyeglasses isn't working either...

Patty has already learned to run over water, which would be more impressive if it wasn't releasing poison gas. Somehow.
Shouldn't there be a 'Flash Fact' there?  Like, 'Beware!  Rubbing water the wrong way can release toxic fumes!'?
Switching into the Flash, Barry stops the poison gas, then tries to stop Patty, who thinks he's there for a team-up.
You could think of a worse codename than 'Ms. Flash' if you thought about it for a few minutes.  Like, I don't know, Quickie.  Yeah, I'll stop now.
Flash points out the reason her power is uncontrollable is that the chemicals were different, more powerful than the ones that made him or Kid Flash. Patty takes that as Flash doesn't want any skirts in the superspeed locker room, and that would be an understandable reaction if she wasn't starting to cause explosions now. Her "weird radiation" forms a "wedge of destruction!" that Barry's "ultra-vibrations" only make worse...this is starting to escalate pretty quickly, Central City blowing up around them.
'Cockblockery' isn't quite the correct term, but it's the first thing I thought of there.
Luckily, for Central City anyway, Barry had just imagined all of that, in the picasecond before the lightning bolt hit the chemicals. He pulls Patty out of harm's way, saving her from a deadly superspeed curse. Or awesome powers. Well, either way.

I almost wonder if this story wasn't intended as a try-out, like that imaginary Supergirl story that came before the 'real' one. Maybe if enough girls had written in demanding it, Ms. Flash would've been brought back; but to the best of my knowledge she was never seen again. Even as Patty.

Ah, that explains why I've had this comic next to the computer for months. From 5 Star Super-Hero Spectacular (1977), "How to Prevent a Flash" Story by Cary Bates, art by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin.

The other stories in this one are a little hit-and-miss, too: a bland Green Lantern short, a really bland Atom story. Aquaman's short is set right after he lost his son, and a new super-villain from Iran (!) who decides to take him down, since he's a weak superhero and a good place to start.

But the Batman story, maybe we'll come back to that sometime. Maybe not: it's Batman vs. Kobra, and it's pretty good. At the verge of defeat, Kobra has his twin brother Jason killed. Killed by his own, dead, zombified girlfriend. Batman kicks Kobra around a little, but he escapes, leaving Bats swearing vengence on Jason Burr's grave. Sigh. I'm not sure that was ever mentioned again, either. Read more!
Huh. Not how I pictured World War Hulk ending, but OK...
Actually, I'd probably approve of this ending.  I'm sappy like that.
Ugh. Working a ton of overtime this week, the Wife hurt her back, I took the little dog ("Sugarpie," who isn't) for a walk and then the big dog peed on Sugarpie's chew toys in a jealous doggy rage. He's like a little sullen teen, I swear. So, it's not feeling like sunshine and lollipops over here, though admittedly it could be a lot worse.

This is from Spider-Man and Friends #1, which was attached to a shirt/shorts combo the wife picked up for the Youngest. At the time, he wasn't as into books as he has been lately, so I set it aside, until I bumped into it again yesterday cleaning up the aforementioned dog incident. The Youngest has been wandering around waving his brother's copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for about a month, so we'll see if he's ready to try something else. Hey, Udon art! I loved that studio's early work on Deadpool and Agent X.

Good grief, I'm not even getting to the comic shop until Friday this week, either. I did pull my run of the Question out of the basement, though, and read the first seven before getting ready for bed. Chances are, something from that will turn up soon... Read more!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(Mostly) Off-topic: Not with my dogs.

Every time I think about it, I'm almost positive there's no way Michael Vick is ever going to be allowed to play in the NFL again. No way.
No jokes today, sorry.
And yet...I can't help but think he might be suspended for some time rather than permanently, probably because the NFL won't want to seem overly harsh on Vick, and also because he didn't admit to gambling on the dog fights. (The NFL's official line is 'gambling is bad,' probably worse than dogfighting. If you think about it, though, ask why there's an injury report before games then...) And some coach or franchise, hungry enough for wins that they're willing to take the slings and arrows of bad press and protesters, will give Vick another chance. Does he deserve it? Probably not. If not for the dogfighting, then for being outright stupid in squandering potentially millions playing football and signing endorsements.

Vick's crime has brought dog fighting to the forefront, and now lots of other areas across the country are realizing it's a problem there as well. This may sound counter-intuitive, but here's a horrible idea: I wonder if making dogfights illegal, and driving them underground, was a wise choice. Out of sight to the general public, and thus out of mind; yet for those who want it badly enough the fights are there and available. If dogfights were legal, they would be for all to see, and for all to rightfully distain them and those who went to or profited from them. It would get all the cockroaches out into the light were you can keep an eye on them; perhaps in some cases shaming them into quitting or getting help. (I was thinking in the same vein as prohibition or the war on drugs: driving dogfights underground has just made them more profitable and more attractive to the wrong sort of people.)

Unfortunately, that would be a long-term, social change; costing many dogs their lives in the hopes of changing people's minds. And even then, there would still be those drawn to it. It's a crappy idea that's just as bad as what we have now. So dogfights remain hidden, costing many dogs their lives. Hell.

This doesn't have a whole helluva lot to do with comics, except this story, which Marvel could probably earn some brownie points with by printing it up as a public service announcement: from Marvel Super Heroes vol.2 #12 (Winter 1992 Special), "Winging It" Written by Dwayne McDuffie, based on a plot by George McNeill, pencils by Marie Severin, inks by Vince Colletta and Bob Petrecca. Sadly, it tackles a topic I had never thought of before then, and may not have thought of again until last week. Read more!

Monday, August 27, 2007

(Mostly) Off Topic: Attention: Sprint:

I'm going to be calm, and try to phrase this as gently as I possibly can: You can stop that goddamn commercial thirteen seconds in, because I did dream about space travel as a kid. I dreamed of rockets to Mars, seeing the outer edge of the solar system, and leaving this world far behind. I dreamed of exploration, of adventure, of wonder and possibility and hope.

I sure as goddamn hell didn't dream about a "magic box."

I don't care if it makes calls, plays music, holds pictures, performs laser eye surgery or microwaves food. Unless it's an old-school Star Trek communicator direct to the ship, or a Mother Box with access to a Boom Tube; in my eyes you have failed. (Strictly speaking, I don't think I knew about the Mother Box as a kid, but this is my tirade and doesn't have to make sense.)

I know huge advances have been made in my lifetime alone in the fields of communication, computing, and electronics; just like I know space exploration is hard, not very profitable, and far more dangerous. Sure, but I don't care. I want space, not a shinier, more expensive phone with a service I have to subscribe to forever.

Of course, the Doktor's argument for this being a science-fiction future, is from a character in a science-fiction future, so it might not hold a lot of water either.
The counter to my (extremely poorly reasoned) argument would be Warren Ellis, who capital-L loves his cellphone and information sharing doohickeys. Some critized his Iron Man run as being a paean to his phone, and for giving Tony Stark that 'futurist' tag: every jerkass thing Tony does from now on, is justified in that he's doing it in service of his vision of a science utopian future.

I tease a little, but I'm a fan of Ellis. Near the end of the first issue of Doktor Sleepless, the possibly-not-so-good Doktor makes a radio proclamation about how while this might not be the imagined future of moonbases and jetpacks; there are still huge innovations that everyone uses every day but were impossible to even conceive of before. I'm curious to see where he goes with this; and if you've liked Ellis before, give this one a try.

I'm still resentful of this ad, though. Imagine expecting an Xbox 360 for Christmas, waiting all year to get it, then opening up the package and getting a wooden duck on wheels. Then imagine being told how great it was, and all the incredible things you could do with a duck. Even if they were right, it would still be a disappointment. And I have possibly the oldest, cheapest, crappiest cell phone still active today. I use it about once a month, probably to ask my wife if she wanted a Life & Style or an InTouch magazine from the store. Don't try to sell me a new one, by implying it's better than being in space.

Panels from Doktor Sleepless #1, written by Warren Ellis, art by Ivan Rodriguez. Read more!

Friday, August 24, 2007 tired... deadline only I care about...
Usually I'm done with this thing and long since asleep by now, but that postponed cleaning finally came around, then I had to run out for groceries, blah blah blah. This Hulk reprint was next to my bed, though, and something grabbed my eye.

After wrecking a train, the Hulk lies down for a bit and wakes up as Banner. Seeing the wreckage, he worries that eventually the Hulk is going to kill someone. A newspaper blows across his path then, with the headline that Reed Richards may have found a cure for the Hulk. Man, that's lazy. Banner gets to New York, Hulks out, briefly fights the Fantastic Four (five with Crystal, an era I always liked), then gets knocked out by an invention Reed built with Banner's notes. The last panel is what struck me:
What's the Cure, the name of the rocket you stuck Hulk on?
Good grief, was Reed thinking about getting rid of the Hulk even then? I don't know if this will or already has turned up in World War Hulk, but I wonder if maybe on some level, Reed resents Banner for giving science a bad name. Or maybe for not accomplishing anything with his genius while wasting the Hulk's power on destruction.

For some reason, I was picturing Reed berating the Hulk, that he gets mad too sometimes but doesn't go out and level New Mexico. That would go over about as well as you'd think, but even without the rest of the FF backing him up, Reed's incredibly dangerous if he gets anywhere near any of his gadgets. If Reed got mad enough to play hardball--say, if Sue or Ben were hurt or killed--and he could get the right equipment, I think Reed could take the Hulk out. The collateral damage would doubtless be catastrophic, though.

Anyway, just a thought, late, tired, done!

From Incredible Hulk #122, "The Hulk's Last Fight!" Written by Roy Thomas, art by Herb Trimpe. Reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes #74. Read more!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

You never saw this in DC Comics Presents...
The colors, Duke! The colors!
Just a short one today, as a Superman/Question team-up doesn't quite gel: Supes gives Vic a veiled 'my way or the highway' speech that wouldn't be out of character coming from Batman; and the Question is tripping the hell out.

While I still enjoyed this limited, Rick Veitch made a couple of changes to the character: Vic Sage wasn't the nosy, opinionated, searcher that I remembered from his old series. Now he was a 'shaman of cities,' divining answers from ley lines, the flow of the city, and heavy psychotropic chemicals. When Vic looks at Superman in the panels above, he doesn't just see him, he sees his energy; which seems a long, long way away from the 'No-Face' guy that was the lone force for justice in Hub City. Still, the art in this one is great, even if you occasionally have to puzzle through what Vic's perceptions.

The old series also had established Vic as a confident, swaggering jerk, at least at the start; but in this one Lois Lane is revealed as his secret crush from college. But he never spoke to her, only writing her terrible, portentous poetry that hinted at what he would become. Hell, I really need to sit down and read both series again; but it might just depress me.

The plotting in this series is extra-twisty, too: A crime cartel has moved into Metropolis by building secret networks into bathrooms, on the premise that Superman wouldn't listen or watch people there. And Lex Luthor's new building is actually designed to channel ley line energy into a Superman-killing blast. You don't see enough evil architecture in comics, and that seems to have the virtue of having never been tried before.

I miss Hub City, though: it was supposed to be worse than Gotham, and it lived up to it's rep. I never knew why Bl├╝dhaven was introduced, when they already had a perfectly servicable urban cesspool already, but then Hub would've eaten Nightwing alive. When I scanned this, I was just going to comment on Supes being more of a hardass than he lets on; but there was a lot more than that going on in this one.

From the Question (limited) #4, "Devil's in the Details part 4: Inside Out" Written by Rick Veitch, art and color by Tommy Lee Edwards. Read more!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I should be cleaning up right now, but...
Oh, Strange always acts like he's going to help, but he doesn't even make the brooms do the little Fantasia bit!
...hell, the mess isn't going anywhere. And I need to do a serious house-cleaning Friday anyway, so I may as well hold off. Besides, it would take like two Jarvis's, a Wong, and at least half an Alfred, to make a dent on the mess around here.

I was just looking for the above panel, but the rest of the issue grabbed my attention: Silver Surfer #60, "Finale and Prelude" Written by Ron Marz, pencils by Ron Lim, inks by Jim Sanders III. Coming directly off the end of Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock now has the Gauntlet and the power of God; and has just returned the Surfer, Dr. Strange, and Thor to Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. They aren't thrilled about leaving Warlock with the power, but can't really do anything about it, either; and the 50% of the universe killed by Thanos is restored, so there's that.

Thor, who was Eric Masterson at the time, is left to mumble his farewells and split; and Strange and the Surfer both wonder what's up with him. Although Strange offers to let him hang out, the Surfer is determined to destroy Thanos' monument to Death and himself, and takes off to space; leaving Strange and Wong to clean up.

I'd have to look, but it took the Surfer several issues to even get back to the monument. (The big fight in Infinity Gauntlet #4 took place there. Great issue if you missed it!) This issue, he gets sidetracked by the return of Midnight Son. Who?
For having no real powers and plates stuck to his hands, Midnight Son makes a pretty good showing against the Surfer.
Well, he doesn't know either, but he's no relation to the supernatural themed Midnight Sons like Ghost Rider or Blade. He was actually a kung-fu master, killed in battle with Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu. Then the alien Kree took his body and reanimated it for use as a weapon against the Silver Surfer. Kung-fu versus the power cosmic isn't a great matchup, but the Surfer has too much restraint to incinerate the Son on the spot.

The Midnight Son was a mute...kung-fu featureless costume, hmm. He was also disfigured, which now makes me think Shang-Chi killed Snake-Eyes. He didn't remember his identity or his past, but when he sees the Surfer again he remembers him, and communicates with him the only way he can. Unfortunately, you can only kick the Silver Surfer in the head so many times before he gets pissed, and in this case, hits you with the base of the Lunar Module.
The only saving grace, is that the Surfer doesn't get the reference to make a 'One small step' crack.
Before the fight gets even more out of hand, it's broken up by Black Bolt and the Inhumans, who were living on the Blue Area of the Moon at the time. Since Black Bolt can't speak in the traditional sense either (his voice being so powerful, his whisper could shatter a mountain) he identifies with Midnight Son, and through Karnak offers him a home with the Inhumans. Which I think is the last we see of him.

Come to think of it, there was a brief period around the early 90's when the Inhumans were used as a dumping ground for misguided superpowered non-mutant misfits. I know there was another in the original New Warriors, a Star-something. (Looked it up, it was the Star-Thief, who I thought was an Adam Warlock villain...) The trouble is, everyone that likes the Inhumans likes the old Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four appearances, and nobody's read the last appearance they made. Just for example, and I liked both series even though they don't fit together, the excellent Paul Jenkins/Jae Lee limited doesn't segueway at all into the one with Jose Ladronn art.

Anyway, Midnight Son might make a good C-list character for Annihilation. Picked up Starlord #2 today, that series continues to bring it, and there might be some job openings on Starlord's team now, hint-hint... Read more!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Geez, don't blow that out of proportion or anything: Justice League of America #162
Considering I'm a big Marvel fan, this is like a soft-sell.

I'm 90% sure Justice League of America #162 was my first JLA comic, and on that count I could've done a lot worse. The cover copy is suitably bombastic, but I probably tore into the comic barely noticing the words.

The story opens with this issue's Leaguers--Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Elongated Man, and Green Arrow, a pretty heavy lineup--at a secluded S.T.A.R. lab off the coast of Canada. The lab's been almost demolished, and the JLA's been called to investigate, although Superman acts a little put off that the lab was "so secret even we didn't know about it," which seems somewhat overbearing. The head scientist had no idea what happened there, but fears the target was the genetic manipulator, Compound-One. Apparently the marketing guys hadn't got that one yet, but on the other hand, I just read Paul Pope's Batman: Year 100 yesterday, and if you're in a secret conspiracy, you might want to think of a more secrety name before carrying around something called, "Fleshkiller."
Just because it says 'team lift' doesn't mean you guys can't...oh, never mind.
Moving along: GL suggests clearing a little rubble, to look for clues to the attacker's identity. He, Wonder Woman, and Supes pick up a lump of concrete wall...that any one of them could've picked up themselves. Without hesitating, Elongated Man leaps in to stretch his way through the debris, and Ralph notes he's been anxious to test himself lately. BTW, in this story, EM is really stretchy, more so than I think he was usually portrayed later. On the splash page, the perspective isn't quite right, because it looks like he's stretching around the destroyed lab and fire, over a couple of blocks.

The chunk of wall starts to give way, and again, although any one of them should be able to take care of it, Zatanna has to save Ralph with one of her spells holding the wall together while WW and Supes hold it...and Hal's apparently wandered off, probably having spied something either shiny or leggy. Ralph pulls out a Compound-One canister, empty.

Green Arrow makes a comment about how that tells them nothing, and he's the current JLA chairman, yet incredibly negative. Well, it's certainly a different leadership style, so you have to give it that. Zatanna says she will try to read the "psychic vibrations" of whoever last touched the canister...which would be Ralph, not helpful. She touches the canister, screams, and passes out. What have you been doing, Ralph?

Zatanna wakes up back at the JLA Satellite, which I love without reservation, and Ralph stayed there with her and Red Tornado. 'Great...great Exxon Valdez impression, Hal...'Zat's kicking herself, since she just joined the League in the previous issue, and doesn't think fainting is a good start. Ralph recaps that Hal checked her out with his ring, then used it on the canister, to unsettling results: Has GL's ring ever been used to make "psychic manifestations" before or since? I don't think so, and that's an odd use of it. Anyway, the rest of the team heads for Florida to check it out, leaving Zatanna and company to get into the subplot.
'Well...maybe your mind was wiped for the greater good, Zat.  We ought to try that sometime...'
Over a nice cup of coffee and wearing the Mandarin's rings, Zatanna explains that whatever zapped her broke a subconscious barrier, and she realized she had been missing the last two weeks of her memory. Ooh, retroactive irony. She didn't know what had happened to her father, Zatara; or where her new costume came from. The last she remembered, was being backstage at the Fox Theatre in Providence, RI; which I'm sure is a very nice theatre, but an unusual location for a superhero story, especially in the DC Universe of Gotham, Star, and Central Cities.

Ralph assures Zat that while he "may not be the Batman, but I'm a pretty fair detective in my own right. If anyone can solve this mystery, I can!" If anyone can solve it, do we need you? All kidding aside, the Elongated Man would probably be better remembered as a great detective, if he wasn't comparing himself to Batman every other breath. That said, you probably see Ralph doing more detective work. Red Tornado chimes in to help, pointing out Batman just saw Zatara the other day.

By now, the rest of the team's flown to Florida, in a fairly stylish manner:
It's comfy, but it doesn't go with any of my other furniture.
While mildly terrifying, it beats the hell out of the big green bubbles, although it is a reminder that back in the day, Wonder Woman couldn't fly. Too bad Black Canary wasn't there instead: Ollie does a great rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon."

Upon landing, WW sees a giant wave heading towards them. Green Lantern stops it with a giant wall, but notes the wave isn't a natural shape. He doesn't notice, however, the giant squid that grabs him. The giant squid with the yellow aura. Remember that next time you snicker at Aquaman behind his back, Hal.

Green Arrow gamely tries to blow up the squid, but Wonder Woman notes his arrows are all too small...ow. Superman, for his part, has taken off towards the lab, having seen something really interesting; so Wonder Woman has to lasso up the squid. Somehow. Strangely, many of nature's wonders are evolving defenses against Green Lantern's ring, like the Zamaron Squirrel, or the Qwardian Gazelle.Anyway, she throws it into the next timezone. GA breaks Hal's fall with an inflating arrow, and says being shook up would do him some good anyway. Why did Hal drive cross country with him again? Ollie's the friend that watches you get into trouble, then mutters something about building character, or "chicks dig scars" before leaving you to your own devices. The kind of guy that tells you to "Man up" when you nick an artery.

Back on topic, GA and WW are then plowed over by a speeding form. They wonder if maybe Superman freaked out on them, before Supes comes stumbling in, muttering about "Brain-blast...mental energy...attacked my mind..." Just so no one can accuse him of making up a mental attack to cover leaving them in the lurch, he rattles off the location of another lab, probably next to be attacked.

Huh. The caption box on the next page starts "...or perhaps that's just the product of tense and wary imagination..." and made me think I was missing a page, but it doesn't look like it. Probably never noticed before. Zat, EM, and Reddy are looking over the theatre, but find little. Ralph points out some old posters for Zatara and Zatanna's magic act, which at least proves she used to have another (better) costume. '!Tauqs retnec t'nac, oidutS tiartroP sraeS diputS'Zat shows them an old photo of herself as a baby and her mom and dad, but when Red and Ralph look at it, her mom isn't there. Zat commences freaking out, then sucks it up and casts a spell to transport them to her family home, which she mentions twice as near Arkham Asylum. Wow, the property values can't be great in that neighborhood.
Baby's got the bends.
Meanwhile, Superman has built a little bathysphere to take WW and GA to the undersea lab of the Navy's Deep Sea "Proteus." It's the old-school clear dome kind of setup you used to see in Aquaman or Sub-Mariner even though it would be darker than the inside of my armpit down there. Ollie tells Supes the bathysphere was "spooky," probably because most people aren't conditioned for a trip to the ocean's floor in a glass bubble. An unpressurized glass bubble. With a little door on the side, to dock with the airlock...I can buy GL's power ring making something like that, but Superman just seemed to slap that thing together. In a nice detail, Supes is sopping wet when he gets in, though.

Hey, where is Green Lantern, anyway? Back at the satellite, taking a little rest after the squid attack. Hey, that's OK if you're a civilian or a fisherman not named Ahab, but Green Lantern? Suck it up! Ah, I hate it when Ollie's right.

Finding no one at the base, Ollie suggests Superman use his x-ray vision to look around, and Supes doesn't tell Ollie he can do his job, thanks. Spotting something, Supes tears open the floor, revealing the Naval personnel in cages. The seamen try to warn off the JLA, suggesting instead they bomb the place. (If the Navy uses depth charges, is 'bomb' the right terminology? Why do I wonder about this sort of thing?) Before they can really do anything, though, they are 'brain-blasted' by the villain of the piece, the Shark, finally appearing on page 13 of this thing.
This would be a dramatic reveal, if I had any idea who the Shark was...
Zatanna's house near Arkham is also described as in upstate New York, and has gone to seed. Even though it's old and decrepit, Red Tornado notices an intense magnetic field disturbance in the area. Ralph tries to go in the house, which then tries to eat him, which is more disturbing.
How to make kids afraid of houses, exhibit A.
The house attacks by collapsing towards Zatanna, who freezes; but I have to admit if the house I grew up in took a shot at me, I'd doubtless do the same. Programmed for action, Red Tornado saves Zat but is buried by debris himself; and Ralph's still trying not to get eaten.

With an impromptu exorcism, Zatanna banishes the spirit attacking them, then checks out the unmoving, broken Red Tornado. New to the JLA, Zat? Reddy's cool and will totally take a bullet for you, but broken is his default setting like half the time. Ralph, somewhat coldly, tells Zat they need to stay the course and make Reddy's sacrifice worth it. Turning back to the house, a weird spiral glows overhead, and Zat calls it "an interdimensional portal and it's incomplete!" Whoever was behind all this is trapped in there, and she seems to know who.

Back under the sea, GA, WW, and Supes wake up manacled to a wall...did the Navy have that set up in advance? Or did the Shark bring his own shackles? Either way, the Shark gloats about never sleeping, and explains that while in his last battle with Wonder Woman she used her magic lasso to turn him back into a normal shark and never turn human again, he's now a super-evolved shark. And that's part of his problem: even though he's powerful and "billions of years ahead of my own time," the Shark knows he's alone...except for those snooty super-gorilla bastards. Poor Sharky's lonely, and just wants some companionship, and if he has to super-evolve up some buddies, well, so be it!
You know, traditionally in comics, your creatures don't have to look like guys in suits.
Man, their human-looking hands are creeping me out, although I wonder I why they would evolve claws and hands...

Green Arrow decides he's heard enough, and the three Justice Leaguers shatter their restraints and attack! Startled, the Shark had thought his blasts would leave them paralyzed. In poor form, Supes thinks back but doesn't tell the Shark how GL cast a "protective mental aura" over them. Still, that's the only break for the heroes: the Shark's blasts still stun Superman, and he and the Rat-Creature are giving Supes the business; Wonder Woman's lasso isn't working on the Super-Scorpion (for some reason...) and Green Arrow is getting asskicked by a Hawk-guy, for a change.

But Ollie sees the evolution chamber still glowing, and has an idea to evolve the creatures past this point, and they quickly cram all four in there. Again, even though Superman should damn well be able to hold the door shut, Wonder Woman helps him. Did Supes have an injury we should know about or something? Green Arrow is flip a switch, which he accomplishes with some difficulty. If that machine was made with the naval equipment, how and why would it be set for super-strength? If you had super-strength, would you really need everything to give you more resistance, like an iPod wheel that takes two tons per square inch of pressure to spin?
Then, with the ease with which some men may flip a switch, Green Arrow...flips a switch!
The Shark and his pals are evolved all the way back around to amoebas, "since evolution, like time, is a circular process." The hell? Is that like intelligent design or something? Superman's impressed with Ollie's leadership--he was actually chairman at the time, which is strange since I always associate GA with serving for a while, then quitting and never coming back--but Ollie's busy taking a little nap right now. I may mock, and feel free to argue, but unless Ollie was able to get Dinah to wear Wonder Woman's costume, this may well be his greatest victory in the JLA.

Setting up the next issue: Zat pulls a figure out of the mystic whirlpool, the only person it could be: her dad, Zatara, who without his top hat looks like an unconscious Rhett Butler. Zatanna accuses him of having lied about her mother since she was a kid, setting up the next issue: I haven't read that one, but I'm not sure it was any good. A shame, since this was a suspenseful buildup to it.

Now the ever-popular nitpicky questions: Why would the Shark want to hang out with a rat, a scorpion, or a hawk; even super-evolved ones? Wouldn't he want, say, a female Shark? Oh. Oh. Um, barring that, I suppose the other guys could just be diversifying his team's base--Shark's probably not great on an air attack or in the desert, for example.

Like most of Green Lantern's villains, the Shark's had a substantial redesign since this issue. Reckon you have to keep up with the aesthetic of the times or be left behind, but his new look is somewhat charmless. (Like one or two GL redesigns...) I shouldn't complain, since in the past Green Lantern has sometimes been aggressively retro, but in the past few years it seems like it's trying too hard to be cool. Regardless, I don't recall the last time the Shark reared his pointy head, but I suppose after everything that's going on lately, a Shark attack would barely make the news.

Shortly after this, Justice League of America #166-#168 was a classic three issue battle with the Secret Society of Super-Villains. I only had #167 as a kid, so it was years before I found out what happened. Years later, those issues would be used as a retroactive springboard in Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis, but this evening while I was making dinner (almond tofu and rice, and if the Wife says she made it she's lying!) I wondered how different it might have been if #162 had been Meltzer's inspiration instead. After all, a treatment that can super-evolve animals could surely have some other uses, and a Zatanna that remembered losing her own memories may have been less likely to do that to someone else.

Yes, it would probably still suck. But it would suck differently.

All panels from Justice League of America #162, "The Creation Conspiracy!" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Frank McLaughlin. Read more!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Every time I'm short on spending cash, I think of this page:
Man, I can not wait until croupiers are replaced by droids.
This is probably also why I'm not much of a gambler: Even if I have money set aside to lose, if I win ten or twenty bucks, that's ten or twenty bucks for comics. And if I lose ten or twenty bucks, then I just blew ten or twenty bucks worth of comics. Plus, there's no cool holographic games or gladiatorial matches...yet.

Of course, unlike Han Solo, I'm far too polite to throw my change at a hapless droid. Plus, there's every probability that I'm gonna need it later. Pocket change came in handy the other day, when I finally managed to find a copy of the new Justice League Unlimited, starring the Question.
'They thought I was mad, but it was all in Countdown! No one saw it coming!'
My local comic shop sold out, so I had to buy it at a chain store that puts price tags on the covers. Of course, I did have to peel it off in the store, since they didn't know their JLU from their JSA, and it was the wrong price; but easier just to peel it off rather than explain it. It was the last copy there, too; and they had a few left of last month's. Why the big rush for this issue?

Well, since he appeared on the cartoon and just because he's intrinsically cooler, the Question's issue had to have sold better than the previous month with Steel, Natasha Irons, and the Millennium Giants. But, I wonder if this one is selling more because a lot of fans may be wondering, how many more original Vic Sage Question stories are there left?

Replacing Vic as the Question probably seemed like a good idea, on paper: his last regular series was years ago, and I don't think his most recent limited had set sales records on fire. (I've bought it out of the quarter box, twice: once for my Oldest, then eventually for myself.) Like Captain Atom or even Blue Beetle, the Question was best remembered, if at all, as the inspiration for a character in Watchmen. In fact, often the Question was written as Rorschach after that.

But Jeffrey Combs nailed the voice of the Question in Justice League Unlimited, and brought the character into a limelight he might never see again. Just in time for Vic to be killed, by cancer, in 52. I'm still not convinced Renee Montoya needed to be given a costumed identity, but I'm really wishing she was the new Peacemaker.

No, I take it back: that helmet would look terrible on her...

From Star Wars #19, "The Ultimate Gamble!" Written and edited by Archie Goodwin, art by Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek. Hell, my copy is coverless, so check it out from the GCD.

Question panels from Justice League Unlimited #36, "Wild Geese" Written by Simon Spurrier, pencils by Min S. Ku, inks by Jeff Albrecht. This book may be phased out soon, with DC starts their new younger-reader initiative, so enjoy it now.

In other news, I got new end tables, which means I can use the old ones in my basement, to keep my books off the floor. Or, block up the room so I can't even get it. Guess which it is right now? Read more!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Once again, Friday Night Fights!

I thought hard about how to phrase this, but I think the Absorbing Man works best as a two-dimensional character. I don't want to see Crusher Creel's relationship with Titania, I don't want to hear about his crummy childhood, and I definitely don't wanna see him try to reform or join the Thunderbolts or the Wild Pack or anything. Absorbing Man equals mean-spirited thug. That's it. That's all I want out of the character. (And frankly, I think some of the attempts to humanize or add layers to his character, have just made him creepier.)
Big words? Thor didn't use a word bigger than 'against' when he was talking to you.
This month, Thor's got a bit on his plate already, with his girlfriend Jane Foster in the hospital and dying, and his dad Odin missing and living like a homeless yokel. That might be an unfair assessment, but how do you explain the majesty and might of All-Father Odin, dressed like Hillbilly Jim?
I have to admit, it's a better plot device for getting Odin out of the scene than the Odin-sleep again.
Actually, that bit's weird in and of itself: Amnesiac Odin gets attacked outside a grocery store in California, by a concerned batch of citizens who find it odd and distasteful such an old man should be in the company of a much younger, pretty woman. The elderly should be in homes, where we need not be offended by their wrinkly visages! Admittedly, these guys are first seen standing in front of a bar in broad daylight, which seems to hint at their state of mind, but they accuse 'Orrin' of being a dirty old man and pick a fight. Yeah, take the law into your own hands and females from senior citizens. Hmm, Dateline NBC this isn't; and they receive a Norse-sized whipping.

Elsewhere, Thor is picking himself off the sidewalk, after being stoutly floored by the Absorbing Man. Beaten, he refuses to give up:
Nice to see Mjolnir get a close-up every now and again.
Anyone read a new comic this month with a simple 'KLOM!' in it? If so, please let me know so I can buy it immediately.
Thor renews the battle, and Crusher takes a moment to explain how after his last fight, when he accidentally absorbed the power of water and nearly dissipated, it took him six months to build up his nerve. Thor responds by punching him in the face and running.

Convinced he's now won, Absorbing Man gives chase, following Thor into a department store ( seen on the cover) and cornering him in the toy department. Thor holds up his hammer, as if to shield himself, but true to his name, Absorbing Man takes on the hammer's power. (Wait for it...)

The hardest part of Thor's plan? Keeping a straight face...
I know Crusher's a moron, but 'outsmarted by Thor' looks way worse in the papers than 'beaten into jelly by Thor.'
Marvel's America even outsources cardboard hammer replicas? Wouldn't Cap have asked Thor to buy American?
If you're wondering how Crusher was fooled by a cardboard replica, that toy company does really good work. Thor and the other Avengers once replaced Cap's shield with one of the company's toys; and although Cap got himself shot three times, they all had a good laugh about it later.

I can't wait for a Thor movie, because I'm totally buying one of those. Actually, since we live in the space-age 21st century, by the time it comes out we should have toy Mjolnirs that return when thrown, and spark lightning. Or at least make cool sound effects. BOMM! KROOMM! KRAK! Oh, I want the Walt Simonson version, you have to hook it up to a car battery for the sound effects.

In the end, Crusher needs to get on the horn to the ACLU, quick: is keeping him trapped in a refrigerator box even legal? I wonder if he eventually remembered he could just turn back to human and punch his way out. That might be tougher than it sounds for most people, but in his normal form Crusher's still a brute, hence the name.

Also at the end of this issue, Sif gives her lifeforce to save Jane Foster, although she's really just absorbed within her and would eventually return. Hell, we even saw it mentioned in passing way back when, as part of a knot of continuity so dense, even Chris Claremont wasn't going to get into it, and that's dense.

From Thor #236, "One Life to Give!" Written by Gerry Conway, art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. And check out Bahlactus for more Friday Night Fights! Read more!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Probably should be a Better Off Dead joke here...
Sort your recycling, people!

Not much sucks more than having a great artist under a terrible writer, unless of course it's a great artist (John Cassaday) co-writing with Ben Raab, and making your favorite character look like a schmuck.

And Ben, I don't want to say I hate the guy, but god I hate him. I don't know if he was given an editorial fiat to clearcut everything cool Warren Ellis did on Excalibur, or if he did it himself, but he rode that book into the ground. I'm sure Raab's a good guy and doesn't eat puppies, but I have the same level of distaste for his work that others have for say, Chuck Austen's. Austen at least had brief shining moments of not-total crapitude.

Of course, Raab and Austen may have freed hundreds of readers from a mindless completism, from that stupid primal impulse to buy a comic like Uncanny X-Men month in and month out regardless of the quality of the product. (True, by bottoming it out, but still...) So, don't think of them as hacks, think of them as emancipators. Seriously, it's very much like comics readers didn't realize that they didn't have to buy a particular comic if they weren't enjoying it, until these guys.

Man, out of all the comics I've lost or sold over the years, I still have a ton of these. And almost uniformly, they reek. It just occurred to me, and I probably wouldn't since I'm a huge packrat, but could I even get rid of them? Or are they like hazardous waste comics, potentially toxic to anyone that might want to continue reading comics in the future? Like lead poisoning or something, like leaving the Draco or the Drago or whatever the hell it was somewhere where kids could read it would permanently put them off comics.

It also staggers me to think that about the same time as the first X-Men movie, the comic was going into a long doldrums. And right about now, with the third Spider-Man movie out, I can't remember the last time I bought a new issue of the regular Spider-Man comics, at full price anyway.

I think I blogged too many good comics lately, so this has been from X-Men/Alpha Flight #1. This copy has a quarter sticker on it, but I have a sinking feeling that I paid full price for it back in 1998. Read more!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

RE: Green Lantern #22

Grife, Jack T. Chance snuffed it? Hell, I liked him, especially since I can remember his first appearance. Nice Flint Henry art.

This Green Lantern Corps vs. Sinestro/Yellow Lantern/Manhunter/Cyborg Superman/S-Boy Prime/He-Man Green Lantern Haters/Corps thing is going to rack up a lot of casualties, 99% of them unfamiliar to the casual fans. I kinda doubt Kyle's going to die, Kilowog or Mogo are beloved to GL fans, and I don't think DC would kill someone like Arisia for fear of another 'women in refridgerators' moment. Who's left, Charlie Vickers? The Green Man?

Frankly, a lot of Green Lanterns seem to get killed off, then return; either because there was a demand from the fans (like Kilowog) or because the writer forgot or didn't know they were supposed to be dead. Still, the ranks of the crowd-filler Lanterns could get a little thin during this crossover, especially when it's overstuffed with villains like this one. (Sinestro Corps seems like a perfectly good idea for six or more issues, then put them to the side for an equal amount of time, then escalate and bring them back with the Manhunters, then the Cyborg Superman, emo kid formerly known as Superboy-Prime, God, etc.)

Where am I going to find a new favorite obscure Green Lantern? Who will rise up, to fill up the background?
Yeah, maybe not.
OK, I thought it was funny. Anyway, totally dogging it today. I wanted to work on a longer piece and I got some new back issues and...
That's not funny, Hal's about one ceiling tile to the head away from that.
Yeah, that is about how I feel, sorry. A big thanks to SallyP for the head's-up on Green Lantern #22!

Oh, one more thing: the above panels were from What The--?! #11, "This Man, This Meal!" Written by Rob Tokar, art by Keith Wilson. Not great, but it has it's moments. On the other hand, "Okay, It's Not Such A Wonderful Life!" written by Scott Loebdell, skewers Daredevil with art by then-DD artist Lee Weeks, Rob Liefeld (!), Keith Wilson, Ron Wilson, and Dale Keown. Keown delivers a great faux-Byrne page:
Seems unlikely, but it's not impossible...
Two points: somewhere I read something mentioning how Marvel's humor stuff brought more to the table when it had the regular writer or artists for a particular book spoof it; and while it's not something I'd want a steady diet of, eight pages a year would go a long way. And I think Daredevil should have to do a flashback or throwback book once a year, set back in the Lee/Colan heyday, when Daredevil was having way too much fun. It'd be fun in and of itself, but every time you did it, it would underline how much Matt's life outright sucks in the here-and-now.

Man, that's a lot more than I intended to write today... Read more!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This works in Gotham Adventures, but would've fallen flat in Gotham Central. Weird.
If this plot hit the regular DCU, figure at least a four-figure bodycount.
In Batman: The Animated Series, there were several episodes that were adaptations of stories from the comics, like "The Laughing Fish" or "Cape and Cowl Conspiracy." The comic version that followed was set in the Animated continuity, but to the best of my knowledge was all original tales, no adaptations or kiddie-friendly watered-down versions. (There were numerous elements taken from the comics, of course; but the DC Animated books always seemed to avoid the remake-of-a-cartoon feel the Marvel cartoon adaptations had.) Which is why for a number of years, it was the best Batman title on the racks.

But I mention all this because I picked up the trade for Batman: Gotham Adventures at a yard sale last weekend, and the first story struck me as one that works great in the Animated Continuity, yet I can't imagine setting it in the standard DC Universe: "With a Price on His Head!" Written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Terry Beatty. We, and the camera crews, join the Batman crew's roundup of the Joker, already in progress. As Batman and the Joker punch it out in front of a Times Square-style giant television, a press conference from pharmaceutical tycoon G. Douglas Reid runs. During his current crime spree, the Joker had killed Reid's son, for splashing mud on his new khaki shorts. Reid had planned a reward for his capture, but instead offers a fifty-million dollar reward, to whoever kills the Joker.

I really, really thought there was no way this would end without the Joker shot in the face. Or maybe that's hoped. That kid with the fists is either insanely optimistic, or superbad. No telling. This mob should be at Arkham Asylum every time the Joker's captured, since the odds of getting killed/maimed/stuffed full of Joker Fish by Mister J. is probably like 1 in 5 in Gotham. I've wanted the Joker dead, written out of the comics since the Killing Joke, since A Death in the Family, since No Man's Land: all perfectly good points for the last Joker story, but he keeps coming back.
Hell, with good enough lawyers, he might not even have to pay out the money. Read the fine print!
Not trusting Gotham's populace, or police, to not kill the Joker, Batman has little choice but to...handcuff him to a rail in the Batcave. Because the Animated Batman is too nice to punch the Joker in the kidneys and leave him stuffed in the trunk of the Batmobile, that's why. In a clever touch, Robin (the younger Tim Drake) stops Alfred from coming down to the cave, to remove the chance of the Joker seeing and possibly recognizing him. As the Bat-signal is lit, Batgirl is left to watch the Joker, while Batman and Robin are sent on a Riddler case, and Nightwing patrols solo.

From here there's a few plates spinning: the Riddler tries to extort Batman and Robin into giving up the Joker, revenge for an earlier attempt on his life. A bounty hunter tries to turn in the Joker, and is in turn attacked by other bounty hunters, who discover it's really Clayface trying to make a quick buck, and Nightwing has to take him out. And the Joker, unsurprisingly, escapes; by stealing from Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
Even for someone who launched bodies out of coffins at a funeral, that's low.
Luckily, Alfred is there to bash the Joker's skull with a serving tray and duct tape him up, putting him yet another point over Jarvis in the butler standings.

Later, after mocking Batman for solving a riddle with a computer, and feeling ignored, the Joker tells Batman why he's never killed him: he's been letting him win. 'Yeah, and every time you beat me up? I was FAKING!' 'That's a lie! I hate you!' Looking at it again, it seems like the reverse of Batman's taunt from Mad Love, where he tells "Puddin'" that Harley came closer to killing him than the Joker ever did. It doesn't hold a lot of weight as an insult, since the Joker usually shoots himself in the foot before getting to the finish line, but it does have to sting at least a little.

In the end, Batman kidnaps Reid and brings him to the Batcave, leaving the Joker's fate in his hands:If you want something done right, Mr. Reid... Since the Animated continuity is ostensibly for kids, Mr. Reid makes the 'right' decision to let the Joker live, and puts the money into a charity fund in his late son's name. I just can't see that happening in the regular books. Templeton has a great plot going here, but I still wonder how another Batman writer like Ed Brubaker or Alan Grant would've done it for a book like Detective Comics, even if DC wouldn't let them kill the golden goose either.

Out of the six issues in this trade, I had bought two of them individually: one because it had a fun cover, and the other because it had one of DC's B-list characters that I love. But, later for that one. Read more!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bite my tongue: Zaran and Machete were an improvement.

Way back around Captain America #302 or so, Batroc unveils the newest incarnation of Batroc's Brigade, which is less impressive than it sounds since it's just two other guys. To be fair, one of them, Zaran, has given Shang-Chi a hard time of it more than once; but with an Asian martial artist, a guy named Machete from south of the border that uses...machetes, and 'ze mastair ov savate,' they might as well have called themselves the Ethnic Stereotype League. (Pronounced 'Easel'? As in, when your evil plan can't stand on it's own, get Easel!)

They knocked Cap out?  Obviously hired but not trained by Batroc...
But this 'Brigade' is somehow less impressive, even though it has more guys. Probably because, it's just some guys. I had thought Captain America #149 was going to be their first appearance, but my issue is coverless, so I pulled it from GCD and it looks like it isn't. Were the Swordsman and the Living Laser called Batroc's Brigade when they teamed with him? If so, they need to have a serious talk with Batroc about billing.
Jesus, Nick, did someone put Vaporub on your eyepatch again or something?
This is kind of a weird issue all the way around: Cap is thinking things over hanging out at a S.H.I.E.L.D. installation, when Nick Fury asks him to join S.H.I.E.L.D. full-time. Cap declines, saying he needs to devote more time to his partnership with the Falcon; and Fury doesn't take the no graciously, taking a swing at Cap and declaring him persona non grata with S.H.I.E.L.D. This also effectively shoots Cap's love life in the foot, as Nick specifically forbids Agent 13 Sharon Carter from dealing with him. I don't know if there was an in-story reason for Nick flying off the handle, or if this was just another situation of a new writer trying to reset Cap's status quo as quickly as possible.

Leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. behind, Cap switches back to Steve Rogers, and reports to work as a cop, now assigned to a patrol car. Captain America, indeed, the idea of most super-heroes working as a police officer in their secret do I put this gently? Goddamn moronic? Is that too harsh? I know Nightwing was also working the cop by day, costumed vigilante by night angle: still, moronic. For one thing, I'm not sure an officer's shifts are that flexible, and it's hard to think of another job that would be more difficult to ditch out of for superhero hijinks. For another, it seems like the fast path to burnout, or confusing the two: hitting a jaywalker with your shield or reading the Red Skull his miranda or something. I know I've seen that guy  Piano bar?  Wanted poster, that was it, wanted poster. Lastly, I'm not sure how great a cop Cap's going to be, if he can't recognize Batroc out of costume. Seriously? How many people are roaming around with that mustache? Yukon Cornelius is the only other guy I can think of...I don't think Cap has ever seen Batroc unmasked--he mentions that one issue--and it seems like this has happened more than once: Cap sees a guy in plainclothes with a crazy mustache, but can't quite place him, Batroc shows up twenty minutes later. I'd just rough up everyone I saw with facial hair. Just in case.

For a comic girlfriend, Leila is pretty realistic, in that she's not overly sexualized, and she's horrible.  Dump her, Sam!In the subplot, the Falcon is taking an incredible amount of crap from his girlfriend while trying to track down some stolen children; who were of course stolen by Batroc, who naturally was working for the Stranger. Oh, well, that makes perfect sense...hey!

So the Stranger was stealing children.  Well, I guess that was bound to happen.
For those of you not familar with him, the Stranger made appearances in books like the original Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four back in the day, but is probably most recognized as a chair-filler whenever there's one of those big cosmic collections of omnipotent heavyweights like Eternity, Galactus, Master Order and Lord Chaos, and so on. Not a great looking character, and the shortest description of him would probably be, 'alien scientist dickweed,' as he's not above kidnapping lab rats for his experiments, which included Magneto at one point.

The other defining characteristic of the Stranger is that his origin is never the same twice, either because he's a lying bastard, or no one remembers his origin from one time to the next. He's been the condensed lifeforce of an entire alien race, he was supposed to be the back face on the Living Tribunal, and he always shows up at events like the Infinity Gauntlet, even though if he was so great, he probably wouldn't need a whole planet's worth of science fair exhibits. But, we'll save that for another time. Long story short, he's one of the last characters I'd have expected to turn up in Captain America #149, "All the Colors of Evil!" Written by Gerry Conway, art by Sal Buscema, inks by Jim Mooney. Read more!