Monday, September 30, 2013

Nice to find it, but now I need the whole thing!

Although I haven't gotten around to reading Gun Machine yet, I lucked into some early Warren Ellis the other day: Lazarus Churchyard #2 and #3, with art by D'Israeli.

Plastic cyborg Lazarus Churchyard is virtually invulnerable, indestructible, and immortal; and bored off his ass. That's the short description, but a lot of stuff continues to happen to him. It's pretty easy to draw a line from this to Spider Jerusalem; but D'Israeli's art is an interesting counterpoint. I think there's a complete trade, though: Lazarus Churchyard: the Final Cut that has a short conclusion to his tale, which makes it a little silly that I just have the middle chunk here.

There's a few guest artists here and there (like Gary Erskine or Phil Winslade here!) although Ellis says D'Israeli is the definitive Churchyard. Well, sooner or later it will turn up...

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Out today!

The Youngest has an open house at his school tonight, so we're out for this week! He was kind enough to let me have his Happy Meal toys the other day, though, from Beware the Batman, which I haven't actually seen yet. Not bad!

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

When a Klingon says "Four thousand," they just mean "a lot," or "scads."

It wouldn't really be fair to characterize all Klingons as congenital liars, but they do have a tendency to blow up stories in the retelling, and to believe their own hype. Like today's book! From 2009, Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Klingons, written by Keith R.A. DeCandido, art and color by J.K. Woodward.

This issue follows one of the three Klingon captains from the original series: Kang. (At first glance, I thought Koloth and Kor were in the framing sequences as well, but nope, just Kang!) After the events of "Day of the Dove," Kang sadly informs his crew that thanks to the Organians forcing the issue, the Federation and the Klingons were negotiating peace. As his men complain about not getting to kill all humans, Kang tells of his first dealing with proxy. When the Federation makes a Klingon-conquered world a protectorate, a young Kang is part of a crew sent to retake their conquest. Unfortunately, the alien Fortrans have upgraded with Federation-made phasers and tractor beams, and destroy a Klingon satellite and capture a ship and crew.

Caged, Kang's captain, Kraviq, counsels patience. Wait for an opportunity, which Kraviq takes when he was removed for questioning. Killing his guards, Kraviq escapes and makes a weapon, and according to Kang, kills four thousand Fortrans in a single night; holding out long enough for Klingon reinforcements to arrive. The Federation claims to have known nothing of the Fortrans' intentions or of arming them; but Kang calls that a load.

Some years later, Kang is home after a mission, and his somewhat estranged wife asks him about it. After the destruction of the energy-producing moon Praxis, many Klingon houses went broke, causing economic strife throughout the Empire. The Enterprise-B is running relief supplies, but the planet Qadyaq refuses any aid. Kang and Captain Harriman visit the planet, since Kang knows the ruling family had sold off its farming and mining equipment, but it appears to be doing all right for itself. An aide to the governor lets Kang in on the secret: piracy. By ripping off other Klingon planets, Qadyaq was able to prosper. Kang reports to his superiors, but the aide takes matters into his own hands, slitting the throats of all four thousand and fourteen Klingons on planet, before killing himself. Kang sees the aide's actions as honorable; his wife, not so much.

Years after that, Kang is caring for a dying Klingon woman, the wife of the Albino; who was responsible for the deaths of Kang, Koloth, and Kor's sons. (Setting this episode right before the Deep Space Nine episode "Blood Oath" and it really is a crime that it took that long to get Kang, Koloth, and Kor into the same episode!) She asks him the origin of his favored phrase, "four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man." Kang tells her of the impenetrable fortress of Goqlath Castle, defended by four thousand Klingons who didn't believe in the ways of Kahless. Finally, a young warrior uses the path of stealth and guile, to sneak in and kill the all the defenders in a single night. The woman dies in her sleep, but still gives Kang the information he needed.

It's a tough call, if Kang is full of crap, or just believes the legends. Or at the very least, believes in the value of the legends. And if a thousand slit throats makes for a good story, hell, four thousand's better. I'd have to say it's up to the reader if Kang's a reliable narrator or not. Maybe the moral is, "One Klingon in four thousand, can take four thousand Klingons."
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Hmm. I know I used a binary translator for Ultron's dialog in the sixth panel, but can't remember what he says...

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I hope everyone has something like Hastings in their neighborhood: a regional chain where you can pick up some new or used books on the cheap. Like today's book! From Dark Horse, the 2008 trade Conan: The Blood-Stained Crown and Other Stories, written by Kurt Busiek (with Fabian Nicieza on "Helm") and art by Eric Powell, John Severin, Timothy Truman, Bruce Timm, and others.

In the introduction, Busiek explains that since regular Conan artist Cary Nord wasn't going to be able to draw twelve issues a year, they scheduled "Born on the Battlefield," stories of Conan's youth, with other artists. But they ended up with other issues as well, that would be considered fill-in issues if they weren't so good! Eric Powell draws a tribute to Robert E. Howard called "Storyteller," where a young man thought to be touched in the head is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for an ungrateful, and unknowing, village. Tim Truman draws "Seeds of Empire" and the titular story, where a young prince reads conflicting versions of Conan's time leading hill raiders. "In the Tower of Tara-Teth" Conan fights his way through said tower for a prize that could save a village, but he's not the only one. (Art by Rafael Kayanan.)

My favorites of this one, though, are "The Helm," following Conan's lost horned helmet, as it passes from wearer to wearer on its unknowing way back to the Cimmerian. Then, clocking in at an efficient four pages, Bruce Timm draws "Conan's Favorite Joke," which Busiek credits to John and Paul--no, not those two, John Buscema and Paul Smith. It's great, although I certainly wouldn't mind seeing those other two artists versions either.

I've read Busiek's Conan only sporadically: I've enjoyed the issues I've read, but he always seems...I don't want to say "too good," but maybe too polished? Not pulpy enough? That's what I thought before, but I could be wrong; it may have just seemed that way in Busiek's adaptations of Howard stories I had seen before like "The Frost Giant's Daughter." I was glad to pick this one up for $2.99, which more than covers any flaws, real or imagined.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

I suppose nobody wants a Super-Bros movie...

I'm not dead-set against a Superman/Batman movie, but I'm a little disappointed at the thought that a good chunk of it is probably going to be them fighting. I prefer them as friends, even if they both think they're humoring the other most of the time. And in today's comic, Bats probably figures Supes is just being polite letting him hang out, but we'll see: from 1981, World's Finest #273, "In the Citadel of the Weapon Master" Written by Cary Burkett, art by Adrian Gonzales and Bob Smith.

In the previous issue, Superman and Batman fought three Kryptonite-powered robots in the Fortress of Solitude, and barely beat them. Now, with a force-shield protecting the Fortress against immaterial foes, they try to find some clue of the robots' master. Batman notices a new addition to Superman's equipment: a power-charger, designed to return Superman's powers if he should lose them to gold Kryptonite. Supes explains the bugs aren't quite worked out, since using it would give someone powers, but burn out their body inside of four hours. No foreshadowing here. The robot was booby-trapped to explode, but not before Superman gets the location for the robot to return: less than a hundred miles away!

In the titular citadel, the alien Weapon Master rants about the cool stuff he jacked from the Fortress, including half of an alien weapon that he'd been searching for: the Dabalyan Will-Paralyzer. After Superman and Batman attack his base, Batman is nearly shot down in the Bat-Plane, while Supes is beaten with Kryptonite. The Weapon Master puts Superman into a crystal to use him to power the weapon, draining the will of everyone on earth. Everyone except Batman, protected in the Fortress. He knows he's alone, but thinks he might have an ace he can still points for guessing.

That does kind of undermine the Batman-iness of Batman, but I do prefer this Batman that would sacrifice his life for his friend, to the mean-spirited crabass one that ends up punching it out with Superman.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

I probably could've used Namor in this strip, too...

I know Aquaman was paired up with Mer-Man in the Masters of the Universe Classics/DC Universe Classics two-pack, but I could definitely see Clawful giving him the hassle.

Out today, so have a good weekend!
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

No funny suicide here, but Harley dies anyway.

Since the Internet was all aflutter last week about the Harley Quinn #0 contest (try Ty Templeton's take on it, "Some Comedy Writes Itself") let's look at a couple Harley Quinn comics that I just randomly stumbled back across the other day! From 2002, Harley Quinn #17, "#1 Am the Loneliest Number," #18, "The Bride of Bizarro!" and #19, "Going Out with a Bang!" All written by Karl Kesel, penciled by Terry Dodson, and inked by Rachel Dodson.

Harley Quinn and her, um, pal Poison Ivy have only been in Metropolis a short time, but so far Harley's got a job at the Daily Planet as lovelorn advice columnist Holly Chance and stolen a swanky personal jetpack; while Ivy has the city's street-level vigilante, Thorn, captured. Using her psychology expertise, Harl realizes there's something more to Thorn than meets the eye, namely multiple personality disorder; but she has a bigger fish to fry: Bizarro! He had been at the Daily Planet to see his "worst enemy," Jimmy Olsen; who had been hitting on "Holly." Following Holly, the imperfect duplicate sees her real identity, then enlists her help in finding a bride! Harley balks at first, but quickly realizes a big dumb lug with most of Superman's powers (and some oddballs like X-ray hearing and flame breath) could come in handy, and Bizarro wins Ivy over as well, with the gift of a stripped-bare tree.

Still, none of them were prepared for the sudden-yet-not-entirely-surprising arrival of Jimmy, who shows up thinking he might get lucky, then finds Harley's costume in Ivy's plants and realizes his mistake, but is stopped from escaping by Bizarro. Jimmy brings up Lexcorp's "Bizarrotron," and Harley decides maybe they should check it out, but Ivy misspeaks her "Bizarroese" and Bizarro frees Thorn before he leaves. At Lexcorp, after the usual beating of the guards, they meet a helpful scientist, who's thrilled to meet a Bizarro. While Bizarro "hates" Lois Lane so much he'd love to spend the rest of his life with her, well, Harley's already right there, right? As the scientist scans Harley, a locked-in-a-closet Jimmy builds a signal device to try and summon Superman, but the ultrasonic noise also hurts Bizarro.

Harley tries to make a break from the berserk Bizarro, but flies straight into the real Man of Steel. Stopping Jimmy's signal, Harley tells Bizarro that Superman isn't going to let her help him, and Bizarro fights Supes, but Harley also realizes he let Thorn loose, and she and Ivy are throwing down as well. Still, Harley had one ace up her sleeve: "The Kryptonite Kiss-Off!"...which was actually glitter and dried parsley. It's psychological, see? No? Well, all right.

I like Thorn, since every time I see her it's fun.

Bizarro is less than smitten with his prospective bride, Bizarro-Harley, a grey, dour, no-fun shrew. BH does zing the real deal, pointing out at least she's not in love with the Joker--since "Joker am never in love with you." The imperfect duplicate explodes shortly thereafter, and Harley manages to wheedle Superman into letting her fly the jetpack back to jail, but instead pushes Jimmy off a ledge and makes a break for it. Unfortunately, that jetpack was experimental, and not meant for the abuse Harley was giving it: it explodes, atomizing Harley Quinn. She makes the front page of the Daily Planet (as does Ivy, brought in by Thorn) and while Superman notes Harley could've been thrown into another dimension or back in time or something; Jimmy says whatever Harley's faults, she always followed her heart, and had good intentions. Maybe.

Although there's more than a fair amount of cheesecake, the Dodsons draw the heck out of everything here. In #17, Harley's inner monologue is manifested by a little Harley-doppelgänger, doubling the amount of Harley per page! (Picture if Deadpool's little caption boxes were each a little Deadpool yelling at him...) #18's recap pages are Harley's subconscious interviewing Jimmy Olsen's brain, which he probably wasn't thinking with at the time...Although they would do covers for a while longer, these were the Dodsons last issues of interior art, while Kesel would stay with the book to #25. Far more issues than her "Puddin'" ever got...
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Rage of Ultron."

This may not be 100% consistent, but Ultron usually doesn't make exact copies of himself, although he totally could. There are exceptions to that, like Marvel Two-in-One #93 or as Bully mentions, Ultron Quest; but more often than not Ultron seems to want other robots with their own personalities copied from other Avengers like Jocasta or War Toy. I can kind of understand why, because Ultron's rather grating, and probably doesn't want to have to put up with himself. Furthermore, even though he totally could go all Skynet and live on the Internet, Ultron seems to prefer having a sweet adamantium bod.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Still Defending that copyright:

Another recent pick-up, that doesn't fit in the scanner; from 2008, The Last Defenders, written by Joe Casey, art by Jim Muniz, with co-plotting by Keith Giffen. It's good, but not quite great; set during the Initiative and featuring Tony Stark at his absolute doucheiest, a somewhat left-field use of longtime Defenders villain Yandroth and some revisionist history with the team, and a surprising array of line-up changes.

It's mildly disappointing that it sticks true to a lot of Defenders continuity, but maybe not all of it. There's a few flashbacks with Damian Hellstrom, who gets passed up for the choice gig of Sorcerer Supreme and visits his ex-wife Patsy (Hellcat) Walker; there's Nighthawk trying to make a go with any super-hero roster he can hold together, and there's She-Hulk, not looking to be part of a team and rather getting roped in anyway. The She-Hulk plotline in particular seems to be going in a direction that isn't picked up the next time she's seen, which seems to happen to her every so often.

Still killing me there isn't a Marvel Legends Nighthawk; although I'd also love a Blazing Skull, who guests here as part of Nighthawk's New Jersey based team.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Hammers, nails, zombies, handguns. Seems simple enough...

I missed the new reboot of pulp hero The Spider when it first came out, but got #2 the other day. I always could've sworn that Chuck Dixon wrote the character at some point (possibly here?) and described him as being more into it than the Shadow: when the Shadow does his evil laugh, it's calculated, a show, he knows it gets to the hearts of men. The Spider laughs because goddamn, he loves his work...

But this Spider is set during the present, and has modern problems: his best pal Kirkpatrick is his Commissioner Gordon-figure and suspects him of being the Spider. His love interest Nita Van Sloan is a Lois Lane type, but also knows his identity, and is married to Kirkpatrick. And the Spider's villains this issue are Egyptian god-masked terrorists with a surprisingly sympathetic back story and a weaponized zombie formula. The Spider is in a bit of a pickle, since he doesn't want to just gun down innocent infected citizens if they can be know, I'm 90% sure the Shadow would've shot the lot of them. Omelets and eggs, right?

From Dynamite's The Spider #2, written by David Liss, art by Colton Worley. I may have to keep an eye out for that, the art is great. And I'm almost positive it has nothing to do with this:

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Five, ten years ago, this would've been a Vertigo book...

...except that DC Comics seems willfully determined to crawl up its own ass and take Vertigo with it, so Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson take it to newbie indie Black Mask Studios for Ballistic. Going indie possibly means less sales, but more of a cut, and they own the book if it gets made into a movie or cartoon...

Because Robertson was the artist for the classic Transmetropolitan, Ballistic is going to be compared to that, and there is a bit of overlap. But where Transmetropolitan was about truth and lies and media over-saturation, among other things; Ballistic so far is a little simpler tale of a wannabe gangster air-conditioner repairman and his partner-slash-parasite, a talking gun. Instead of the media blitz of news and entertainment and noise, Ballistic goes with a gene-splicing gone gonzo theme. (Yeah, Transmetro probably touched on that once or twice.) It does have an interesting setting slightly to the left of the nameless City; the island of Repo City, built on a plastic garbage patch and owing at least some of its DNA to a penal colony, which explains all the gangsters.

Two issues in, and it remains to be seen if the heroes of the book are going to get it together at all; but so far the villains aren't all that either. Twice mob figures have been introduced like bosses on a video game, but not done much. Still, the setting is engulfing, and Robertson is on fire: I've liked his work in other books like Nightcrawler (duh!) or Fury, but he had been let down on occasion by either bad inks or rush jobs. So far, this is a great looking book.

This is another book I'm probably going to add to my pull list, even like other recent addition Red Team, I'm not sure if this is planned to be a limited series, or if they're hoping to get a hundred issues out of it. I'm in for the time being, we'll leave it at that. I should ask the Comic Book Shop for a new copy of my pull list--so many cancelled books. And currently no DC or Marvel, although I might add Astro City, Batman Black and White, and Amazing X-Men...

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Winner Take Metropolis! ...perhaps 'Winner' should be in quotes.

Oddly, I think the last time I looked at a Mister Miracle comic, it had Superman in it too. But Miracle shows a bit more attitude than usual this time around, in 1979's DC Comics Presents #12, "Winner Take Metropolis" Written by Steve Englehart, pencils by Richard Buckler, inks by Dick Giordano.

After a dramatic televised escape in the Nevada desert, Scott Free is more than a little pissed to hear Galaxy Broadcasting was airing a Superman documentary at the same time, and he'd be lucky to get a 15 rating. (Which, if the ratings are the same today, would be more than twice last week's highest rated show?) Which also makes him wonder why he went through all the trouble of escaping from Apokolips, to what, do three shows a day at the Flamingo in Vegas? But his complaints are interrupted when he sees recent prison escapee/Intergang boss/hot pants enthusiast Carolyn Doyle, and follows her.

Doyle is checking out Intergang's newest invention, the Mentropy Machine, which can completely control minds in a fifty-foot radius, and should take care of Superman but good. As Mr. Miracle watches, they test the machine on an FBI snitch, leaving him unable to testify--he can't make himself say the words. Doyle suspects they're being watched, and they teleport out with the machine before Miracle can stop them. Even though he's jealous of Supes, he can't let Intergang kill him; but Miracle finds he was within range of the machine's effect and can't warn Superman! Scott is stuck, until he realizes he can't tell Superman, but he can challenge him, and begins a campaign to replace the Man of Steel in Metropolis!

Superman confronts Mr. Miracle on the issue, and Scott challenges him to a duel in the Nevada desert, loser leaves town. Lois asks Superman why he's bothering: "If you win, people will only say 'of course,' and if you lose, you lose everything you've devoted your life to!" Geez, don't oversell it, Lois. Still, Superman decides that beating Miracle would be both the fastest way to get rid of him, and send a clear message to anyone else who might coming gunning for his spot. Miracle seems to have more than got Superman's goat, but after the fight turns to fisticuffs, Miracle is eventually outmatched. After Superman starts to fly back to Vegas, the Intergang thugs are in position with the Mentropy Machine, but they weren't expecting the sudden appearance of Mr. Miracle, who smashed the machine. Scott is finally able to explain his game, and why he threw his match with Superman; although he's in no hurry for a rematch.

I'm more used to JLI-era, easy-going, cheerful, occasional house-husband Scott Free; but this one's a little more hungry for the big time.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Caps Lock."

Every time I do one of these Avengers strips, I feel like a big hypocrite; because I usually hate it when Brian Bendis would do this kind of snarky back-and-forth dialog. On the other hand, it was three or four bucks an issue for those. And his big crossover plots were pretty much terrible: I got the last issue of Age of Ultron out of the quarter bin, and it was terrible. (Usually, I'd say it's not fair to judge a book by it's last issue, but I maintain, terrible.)

Dale did an Ultron strip the other day, beating me to the punch, since I'm lazy as all hell lately. But we'll have three weeks or so of Ultron, so I'd better finish the last one soon!

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