Friday, November 30, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

The End of Civilization, once more, via Mike Sterling.

The Strange Saga of the Justice League Plate. (Now there's a Silver Age title!)

rob sez he didn't have anything to do with this outcome, but I have my doubts.

As Rick'll tell ya, Two-In-One always something awesome going on in it's pages.

Bonus: Hey, hey, we're the Monkeemen!

And finally, from Newsarama: Is there a faceless person really out there? Hide your sinister aglets and your 32nd flavor of ice cream!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Special Content-Free Edition

This week, despite the huge, huge, incredibly huge pile of comics I have obtained, has been very stressful and not a lot of fun. I don't have much in the way of coherent thought to offer today, so it's Content-Free time, with a cool interview of Jack "The King" Kirby.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What Looks Good?

Between last week being a hefty week and a holiday and this week being heavy as well, it's going to be a pricy trip to Borderlands. But such is the price of being a comic nerd.

Batman and The Outsiders #2 -- Bats' crew of "super crooks" might have bitten off more than they can chew on their first mission. The burning question of "Where are Agent Orange and Baron Bedlam?" remains unresolved, however.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash #2 -- The previous issue featured one of the most disturbing images I have ever seen in a comic book. I can go the rest of my life without seeing Freddy Krueger have sex with Pamela Voorhees and it wouldn't be long enough. *shudder*

JSA Classified #32 -- Okay, so I'm a sucker for holiday stories. And Alan Scott.

Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes #36 -- Coming soon: The return of Shooter! Coming even sooner: the conclusion of the current way-cool "Quest for Cosmic Boy!" Where's my flight ring?!

Superman Annual #13 -- Wow, a double-sized issue, then a double-sized Annual two weeks later? I'm in Kryptonian Heaven! (You know, the one where you come back to life with a mullet.)

Trails of Shazam! #10 -- 4 Quests down, 2 remain as Freddy Freeman continues his (admittedly delayed) journey.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #7 -- Any series which makes Captain Kraken cool gets an automatic pass from me. (Captain Kraken!)

Futrama Comics #34 -- I need to get to a big-box store and buy Bender's Big Score, dammit!

The Phantom #20 -- Welcome to the jungle, baby! You gonna diiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee! The Ghost Who Walks kicks it "old school," as the kids say.

Wow, it's a very DC-ish week on my end. What about you, folks?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Discount Bin Finds

MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #32Magnus, Robot Fighter #32

Well, that certainly was a long Turkey Day break, from work as well as from blogging. I thought that after being MIA for almost a week, I should ease my way back into things. And what better way to ease into comic book blogging than by talking about a guy fighting alien robots with karate in the far future? And we all know that when that is the taste you are craving, you turn to none other than Magnus, Robot Fighter.

A little catch-up for those unfamiliar: Magnus fights robots. using karate. In the future. In all seriousness, this story takes place during the invasion of the Malevs, evil space robots who attack Earth and manage to capture and enslave NorthAm, the giant city consisting of the entirty of North America (Magnus' traditional stomping ground). As the issue opens, Magnus and several of his freedom fighter allies are in SouthAm, where the Malevs are trying to spread their conquest by destroying the rain forests in an effort to choke out all resistance. In the aftermath of stopping this plan, however, a most curious event takes place: A Malev drone develops Free Will, and is forced to ask the question of Why am I killing?

For a stand-alone story which takes place during a larger arc of an even larger ongoing saga, this comic is surprisingly easy to read. There is some continuity-stuff which will confuse new readers (who is Talon and his Steel Legion, for one), but I think most readers familiar with certain science-fiction trappings will be able to enjoy this one. Anthony Bedard (better known around these parts as Tony Bedard) poses some heavy questions for a comic from 1994. Talon, a Freewill robot, accuses Magnus of genocide, for his countless deactivations of other Freewills, while Magnus believes he acted in the best interest of humanity. The Malevelent Emperor Malev-7 questions the ramifications of a Malev gaining sentience and emotions. And poor Unit 2438, who must come to grips with the fact that it (he?) is little more than an engine designed to murder humans and harvest their base elements for fuel -- and finds quite a few people very interested in it's very existance.

Califiore's pencils are not showy or ostentatious, but he seems to enjoy rendering the various robots and sci-fi tech on display as well as the action. In a lot of ways Bedard's script embodies a lot of the strengths of a property like Magnus -- or, really, a lot of science fiction settings -- by mining the surface premise for the allegorical core. That is a generally superior aspect of this series from it's revitalization by Valiant, but here, stripped of some more commonplace superhero window dressing, the meaning rises the tope easily.

If you find this one in a discount bin someday, give it a shot. Even if you don't normally like Valiant or Magnus, this is a thought-provoking tale about morality and freedom.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What Looks Good?

This is a special, early Turkey Day edition of What Looks Good? right here on the Bunker. So check out the shipping list, and get yourself some 4 Color goodies before you gorge yourself stupid. Be sure to give your retailer a call and double check, because we all know how the mail likes to work around a holiday.

Scream #1 -- New Horror from the Horse. Always worth a peek.

Countdown to Mystery #3 -- Gerber & Justiano's Doctor Fate stuff is so good, it almost makes you forget Jeanclipso. Almost.

Flash #234 -- Waid's got a little less than a year left on this title. Bummer... but hey, Johns isn't writing enough comics for DC yet, right?

Graveslinger #2 -- The Old West meets the Living Dead! Weird Western, ho!

Captain America: The Chosen #4 -- Maybe this is a poor reflection on me, but this is one of the most interesting and thought provoking Cap stories I have ever read.

Heroes For Hire #15 -- Is this the end of HFH? Will I be forced to add it to the list of Marvel titles I have supported only to have them cancelled before the magic "25" mark? Oh, woe is me, woe is me.

Iron Man Annual #1 -- I for one cheer the return of Annuals. At least until we start having Annual crossovers. *eyes Marvel*

What If? Annihilation -- Someone finally answers the question --how exactly would have Annihilation saved the MU from Civil War? My prediction: PAIN.

So what looks good to YOU? I'm out of here until next week, so have a good holiday!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What I Read This Week

Batman and the Outsiders #1 -- After all the hype, it's finally here! The new Outsiders -- Katana, Catwoman, Metamorpho, Martian Manhunter, and Grace, along with Batman back in the Batcave with Thunder -- undertake their first (second, really) mission, infiltrating Jardine Tower in Central City. But what is waiting for them inside is something none of them are prepared for. Chuck Dixon takes the team which Bedard put together and runs with them -- literally, as we have a fast paced tale here which is little more than an introduction to the team and a setup of what should be a brawl next issue. Julian Lopez's pencils are a good fit for the action-orienataion of this book, and he does facial expressions nicely as well -- what else has he worked on? I don't recognize his name, but I like his style. Dixon's script is something of a mixed bag, however. I like the pacing (no shots of Batman standing around a table!) and the dialogue rings fairly true (I hated Catwoman putting herself over on Katana... but that's how Catwoman would talk, so I can't really fault Dixon for that). But there's just not a lot of meat here. It's a fast read, and left me feeling a little let down. Hopefully the next issue will resolve that, because this is a very cool setup for the new series.

JLA Classified #46 -- Another issue of "Ghosts of Mars," another Walt Simonson cover. This one is nicely laid out, even if it doesn't match the sheer awesomeness of the previous one, which is one of my favorite covers of '07. Anyway. With Malefic using the Martian Manhunter's body to battle the Justice League, J'Onn must overcome the mental walls he is imprisoned in. But even if can regain control of his body, can he possibly hope to control his guilt and loneliness? "GoM" wraps up in satisfactory fashion here, as we get a nice psuedo-MM/JLA fight, including getting J'Onn's hilarious insight into Plastic Man. Leonardi and Phillips shine; Leonardi's pencils especially are evocative of Simonson without aping him, appropriate for the story. We also get some real character bits from Gray with J'Onn, which, while not ground breaking, are interesting and do offer a nice sense of closure. Overall a nice Martian Manhunter (woo!) story.

Wonder Woman #14 -- Hey, did you hear? Apparently Gail Simone is writing WW now. I heard something about that, I think. Heh. Anyway, Simone doesn't do anything too groundbreaking here, building on the previous stories in this volume and setting up where her Diana is going to go. Don't mistake me -- this is a good story, filled with talking apes and foreshadowing, but it's not going to blow your mind and change your conception of what the Amazon Ace is all about or anything along those lines. But the last page tease of the next chapter, coupled with the Dodson's somewhat-less-but-still-cheesecake art and the return of an old, old WW supporting player marks this issue a a good starting point for Simone and a good point to "jump back on" for those who bailed on the series.

X-Men: Die By The Sword #3 -- After the morass of last issue, things get back on track here as the Captain Britain Corps. and the Exiles go toe-to-toe with "Mad" Jim Jaspers and his newly created army of Furies in Otherworld. Claremont is in his element here, using the battles to provide insight into his cast members with some nice omniscient narration. This is further evidence to me that this series was scripted and plotted for 4 issues, but then stretched out in 5, as things move smoother here and feels a lot less padded -- you could combine this one and the previous into one issue without much loss. Still only for Claremont/Excal fans, even though Excal themselves only appear for about 2 pages within; the Exiles stuff seems a little forced into what is primarily an Excalibur tale.

The Pick of the Pile goes to Wonder Woman. None of the comics I bought this week were world-beaters, but Simone's take on Diana was interesting and the new story arc looks very promising.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Physics? We don't need no steenkin' physics! Adama drops knowledge on Green Arrow's Boxing Glove Arrow!

G. Kendall scopes out one of the best X-comics of the 1990s.

"Project Rooftop" indeed!

Rick presents one insane issue of World's Finest.

Meanwhile, rob shows off one of his reader's ink. Yikes!

Martian Manhunter and Texas-style Chili. A match made in Gerry Conway Land.

Finally, check out this Director's Commentary for the first issue of Freddy vs Jason vs Ash.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Discount Bin Finds -- "Robocop" #2-4

Evil Robot Cops!  ROBOCOP #2
I hate starting so many posts with variants of "when I was a kid." But sometimes there's just no other way to address a topic. Like this post, for example. In the summer of '87, not too long after I had turned 7, my family and I went to a sneal preview double feature which strongly influenced a lot of my interests and is still felt today. That double feature? Predator and Robocop. (And no, my wife does not understand why my parents took their 7- and 9-year old sons to a pair of hard R movies.)

Predator was a known commodity to my brother and I -- it was Schwarzenegger, for one, and the film was hyped a lot of WWF programming because of Jessie Ventura. But Robocop? Never heard of it. Needless to say I enjoyed it. A lot. I even had the one sheet on my door for many years, before it was eventually replaced with Darkman. So when I received these comics (along with most of the rest of the run) from my brother after one Con or another, I was very intrigued to see how Marvel handled ol' Robo. The answer: surprisingly British.

Oh, don't get me wrong, Robocop still patrols the streets of Old Detroit. But the creative team -- penciller Lee Sullivan and scripter Alan Grant -- both have a decidedly British feel to them. And why not: Sullivan is English, Grant is Scottish, and both cut their teeth working on 2000 AD like all good British comic pros. And they bring that Dredd sensibility to these comics featuring the decidedly American take on the Future of Law Enforcement.
Robot On Robot Violence!  ROBOCOP #3
The stories herein are surprisingly good for a licensed comic from 1990. In Old Detroit, OCP is still trying to build Delta City, but in the meantime, crime runs rampant. The police force is overworked, outgunned, and overwhelmed, and the success of the Robocop program has inspired some competition. One of OCP's rivals, Nixco, has introduced a new kind of cop: the brutal robots called Nixcops. To make things worse, there are factions inside OCP who still think the ED-series is the future, and have access to ED-209s. Thrown into this mix is the insane genius Dr. Cybex, who once consulted for not only OCP, but Nix and the other Detroit Megacorporations, and created the preliminary designs for many of their most successful products -- including Robocop! Needless to say there's a lot of moral ambiguity, not to mention violence, robots, and robot violence.

The series is both surprisingly and unsurprisingly violent. There's plent of gunplay, and both innocent citizens and perps are gunned down. This is surprising considering the fact that this is a licensed book; but, really, it's unsurprising given both the license in question, and the timeframe of publication. Truly more surprising is the amount of care given by Grant in his writing and Sullivan in his rendering. This is a mature comic, despite the subject matter -- not exactly Frank Miller, but leaps and bounds beyond Marvel's other attempt at the Robo-license, the cartoon series. The tone connects with the Verhoven original as well as the first sequel, with frequent Media Break broadcasts and shady white collar criminals mixing with the more outlandish elements of Robocop 2, like a pizza pie eating slob of a ganger named (I kid you not) Joe Pizza. Grant handles the action, violence, scheming and satire equally well (more 2000 AD influence), and even handles some of the idiosynacracies of the license fairly well (ie, we never learn The Old Man's name, so he has to be referred to "The Old Man" by everyone.)

Not Really Evil But Still Mean Robot Apes!  ROBOCOP #4Sullivan's work is very interesting, looking back at it some 17 years after the fact. At first blush, he doesn't look all that different from a gaggle of other Marvel artists from the era. But his storytelling skills are stronger, and it soon becomes evident that his work suits the subject matter far better than his contemporaries on various superhero or mutant titles. Everything has a layer of grit and grime on it, and there's a lot of shadows in this dark, decaying city. Occassionally, there's some inconsistancy (The Old Man has a moustache in one issue), but his linework is strong and works very well in this science fiction setting, without sinking into lurid gore or splatter. He's helped out somewhat by his inker, Kim DeMulder, who works at a nice, variable weight -- humans are easily differentiated from their robotic castmates based on the heaviness of their inking, which is nice.

Overall, these three issues (read in one sitting) were a lot of fun to this Robocop fan. They're not on the same level as the films or the Dark Horse comics, but they are fun, with a lot of action and some humor mixed in. They may not be the greatest pieces of comics literature ever produced -- in fact let me go out and say that no, they are not -- but considering how cheaply you can probably pick them up for, you can't go wrong with these tales. Plus, one story has cybernetic apes in it. Cybernetic apes!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Awesomeness!

Well, it looks like this blogging thing is infectious! My pal Adama has started up a comic book blog of his very own, focusing on the Emerald Archer, Green Arrow! Check it out:

Dispatches from The Arrowcave.

Now, I often play the Hawkman to his Green Arrow... by this I mean that I frequently walk around with no shirt on, and he has been known to galavant about town with a rather dashing goatee. Seriously though, go check it out!

4 Color Cinema

He's the man with the spinach can!  POPEYE, 1980

A lot of pundits like to pontificate about comic book adaptions to film and how they have finally "made it big" in Hollywood. While this is not really wrong, it's not really right, either, as comic adaptions, like all cinematic trends, are cyclical. Things come and go, with a certain routine to the proceedings befitting an industry known for churning out the same thing over and over again until it is no longer profitable. (By the way, I mean the film industry, not the comic book industry. They'd never do that!) So for anyone over the age of 12, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the late 70s and early 80s were also rife with 4 Color adaptions in Tinseltown, including the film we'll be looking at today, Robert Altman's Popeye.

And I think it is crucial to put Altman's name before the title, because his influence is strongly felt in the final product. Altman was at the forefront of what was known as (and is still called today) the "New Hollywood" era, which was the period in American film history ranging from the mid-60s to very early 80s at the latest. New Hollywood was formed when the studios, reeling after the Paramount Case essentially broke their old "Studio System" lock, began to look for some way to reach the youth audience they were unable to communicate to with traditional fare. The big studio pictures of the late 50s and early 60s depended largely on spectacle -- improving and innovative technologies for pciture and sound made it possible to present epic period pieces or grand musicals on new scale. But audiences grew weary of these trends quickly, and after a few large scale financial flops (most notoriously Cleopatra, which remains the most expensive American film in history with inflation and nearly closed down Fox, but also Hello Dolly, which did good business but failed to turn a profit), executives were willing to try just about anything so long as it was cheaper. So they turned to the new generation of filmmakers, most fresh out of film school, and almost all inspired by the cinematic exploits of avant-garde contemporaries like those of the French New Wave. Names like George Lucas, Woody Allen, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorcese, and Steven Spielberg all began their careers around this time.

The upshot of all of this is that there were new ideas being played out which bucked any type of conevtional filmmaking guidelines. Altman, best known for MASH, Nashville, and McCabe & Mrs. Miller in the first half of the 70s, had a certain trademark "style" which evoked classical autuer theory of the New wave. He became known for his world building, to borrow the comic book term, creating deep and involved settings for his characters to exist in, which were believable and tactile to the audience. He liked to use large, ensemble casts, and would often choreograph scenes in such a way that no matter where the eye looked, something was going on. And, probably most notably, Altman was known as an "actor's director," and he would frequently allow improvisation and let his actors talk over one another in an effort to portray realistic, well-developed characters -- often at the expense of the plot.


And so we arive in 1980 at Popeye. (And if you managed to read the previous three paragraphs, give yourself a pat on the back.) The film stars Robin Williams (his film debut) as the titular Sailor Man, complete with bulging forearms and squinty eye, and Shelly Duval doing her best impression of Olive Oyl. The cast is rounded out with character actors and bit players, cast seemingly less for comic timing than for their ability to embody their comic strip counterparts -- Paul Smith, best known as the torturer from Midnight Express (!) is the perfect Bluto, and Paul Dooley, who has appeared in everything from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to the remake of Hairspray, looks like he was born to play J. Wellington Wimpy. Sweethaven is inhabitated by a gaggle of goofballs, including Olive's family (patriach Cole, his wife Nana, and her brother Castor), lots of burly sailors, and one nameless, bespectacled taxman who seems to always linger just out of the frame.

And what a town the little hamlet of Sweethaven is. Like a matte painting come to life, the town couldn't possibly exist, and yet, it does. With a few dozen homes and buildings crammed into what looks like one city block, it's streets winding and twisting up and down hills, Sweethaven is a fully realized setting. And Altman knows it -- he uses Sweethaven like another character in his ensemble, with each new setpiece bringing some new facet to the forefront. Bizarrely enough, this set, now dubbed "Popeye Village," is still standing where it was built in Malta and is a popular tourist spot.

Ultimately, though, this is probably why the film failed to reach a wider audience than it did upon release. Altman gathers his cast together, gives them a great place to play, and then lets them loose. The film lacks structure and locomotion, moving from one setpiece to the next in an episodic, almost discrete fashion. Ostensibly the film is about Popeye finding his long lost Poppa, but once he arrives in Sweethaven, things take detours frequently, moving along different tangential adventures with the whole gang. Audiences in 1980, weren't expecting this, and responded with poor word of mouth which eventually shut the film down and gave it a bad rep. Ths is reinforced with the opening gag, as the film starts with the credits of a Popeye cartoon, only to have the sailor proclaim that he's "in the wrong movie!" They wanted Popeye, but what they got was Thimble Theater.

The musical aspect of the film doesn't help either. A musical is defined by the showtunes being integrated into the story and helping to move the plot along, and Altman takes this to heart. The songs are grafted right into non-musical scenes, often cutting between them. Coupled with the lack of rhyme -- almost all of the numbers use repetition of certain phrases instead -- this tends to make the music unmemorable and at times boring, especially to a modern audience. "Food, Food, Food" is a quirky little number which is paired with a silly scene at the Roughhouse Diner, and "He Needs Me" is a standout ode which would later be rerecorded for Punch Drunk Love of all things. But beyond that, nothing is really all that hummable -- the classic "Popeye The Sailor Man" being an exception of course!

Despite these misgivings though, I enjoy this film. Altman wanted to create a live action version of the Thimble Theater/Popeye comic strip, and he succeeded. Robin Williams is game as Popeye, and while he may be hard to understand on his overdubbed mumblings, he certainly looks like a live action version of our favorite sailor, and his goofy grin is infectious. Similarly, Shelly Duval is perfectly cast as Olive, her affectations in speech and gait combining to create a living cartoon in all the best senses. Great touches abound, like when Bluto gets so angry that he literally sees red, or Popeye's classic "twister-sock" punch. Sure Altman loses the plot (not an uncommon New Hollywood fault -- see One From The Heart for reference), but everyone is having a lot of fun, and it soon begins to rub off on the viewer. By the time the last reel begins to unspool, and the "high seas" adventure episode kicks off, the audience is right there with the cast.

So if you are in the mood for something 4 Color that doesn't involve funny looking people punching each other... hrm. Let me rephrase that. If you are looking for something 4 Color which doesn't involve funny looking people punching each other and having feelings about it, and can make you laugh at the same time, then give Popeye a try. It's not perfect, but it's amusing and great to look at. And besides, if anyone asks what you did with your time, you can say you were catching up on your New Hollywood cinema studies.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Looks Good?

I like spending money. Do you like spending money? Let's spend some money together. Plus don't forget, everything is pushed to Thursday this week! EDIT: No, it's not. I was mistaken, go buy your comics TO-DAY!

Batman and the Outsiders #1 -- Wherein we finally see just what the heck is going on with this series. I have to wonder how much of this will be Bedard and how much will be Dixon. At least we know it will be Julian Lopez pencilling it.

JLA Classified #46 -- "Ghost of Mars" finishes up here, just in time for a new arc in this title to be announced which features J'Onn prominently. Dammit! (Woo, Martian Manhunter!)

Wonder Woman #14 -- Gail Simone is here! (We think.) She's been saying all the right things to the media, such as it is, but Sweet Christmas, let's see a little stability in this title, alright?

Iron Man / Power Pack #1 -- I'm considering giving this a shot just to see how far Marvel's mandate of "Make Tony a Jerk" extends.

X-Men: Die By The Sword #3 -- On the one hand, I do like overly complicated stories involving Excalibur. On the other hand, there's, uhm, the previous issue. Still, I'm a sucker for Captain Britain and company.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Greenville Comic COOOOOON!

This past Saturday I pulled myself away from the Clemson-Wake Forest game to head over to the Greenville ComicCon in an effort to obtain even more comics for my already overcrowded collection. At least, this time out, I was armed with a list, and was trying target specific needs in my collection. And I wasn't alone -- my wife, despite being under the weather and in no real way a comic book fan, put on my Justice League of America t-shirt, packed some tissues and came along, occassionally popping up with a "I found some Iron Man over here" or "This guy's got some Flash books here." As long as I have known my wife, I have been impressed with her ability to deal with hardcore nerdery -- I remember one year at Borderlands "Big Sale," which is a mass of unwashed humanity trying to get good deals on gaming and comic goods, she simply grabbed a collection of Beetle Bailey, grabbed a seat in a corner and read for an hour. God I love her.

Here's how I fared at the Con.

Excalibur: In the last two years or so, I had completed my collection of the original Claremont/Davis run, right through the end of the "Cross Time Caper." My original collection, though, was spotty -- I began reading the title around when Davis came back and was essentially handling both writing and art chores, and was missing a few issues here and there. I was able to pick them all up (48, 56, 60-61, 64) at a good rate and thus complete everything I am actively seeking for the title. I might pick up an Ellis issue here and there, but otherwise, QED: I'm done.

Steel: The Indestructible Man: Frank will be glad to know that I did not go over his defined "whole run for $10" advice for this series, although I still have a little left to go. I was able to find #3 and #4 in very good shape from a surprisingly well-organized dollar bin. Both copies look quite nice for their age, and, interestingly, both issues contain two Steel stories apiece. Double the value! Unfortunately, the dealer (the only guy with any stock of Steel there) did not have a copy of either #1 or #5, so those remain on the list.

Black Lightning: The same guy who had the Steel also had some nice looking selection of Jefferson Pierce's first series. (Oddly, I find the original run a lot more than the second volume.) I would have liked to finish the run, but still, I got #6 and #8-10, leaving me only with #7 and #11 eluding me. Not too shabby all told, and I have to say that BL has some of my favorite DC covers from this era, including the really cool logo.

Iron Man: Ahh my Iron Man collection. Two whole boxes of my collection is nothing but Shellhead, the fruits of my labors over more than a decade, but primarily the last 3 years. Everything from 1996 onward is in the collection already, and budgetary reasons cause me to rely on reprints for the real early stuff, so I tend to focus on the late 70s through the early 90s when Iron Man shopping. Starting from when Bob & Dave came on board with #116, I have about 85% of the title up through the close of volume 1. So I'm mostly hunting for individual "onsey-twosey" type things. I picked up #183, #191-192, #279 (featuring my man Ronan The Accuser!), and Annual #10. The same dealer also had some stuff from the mid 70s, including #68 and #72, but no way I'm paying $2 apiece for books in such sorry shape -- I mean, one was missing it's back cover for crying out loud! I don't care if Shellhead does have a nose in the issue, I've got some standards for collection here.\

I also ended up picking Showcase Presents: Superman v.1 (you can't be 500 pages for $5!), Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgement in Gotham (because Dredd rocks), and 200 bags and boards because I'm a geek. I also got a free Flash button, to go with my Legion of Superheroes, Vote Luthor 2000, and Mr. Myxzptlk buttons which I intend to wear on a lanier at some point.

I had to pass on a few things, though. One dealer had a full run of DC's Claw the Unconquered, which was very tempting. I probably could have talked him to under $20 for the set of 12, but thoughts of 'Do you really need another DC Explosion title?' made me hold back. I also put back Justice League of America Annual #3, featuring the Detroit League. If it had been #2, I might have pulled the trigger, but for $3, eh, I thought it was a bit much. Finally, despite this one dealer really putting the hard sell on me, I passed on a copy of The Life Story of the Flash autographed on the IFC by Mark Waid. I like the Flash, and I like Waid, but he wanted too much for it, and I'm sorry but being a jerk to your potential customers? Yeah, pal, it's a turn off.

All in all, I was satisfied with what I was able to buy despite this being a very small Con. It's never a good sign when your Con is in the "ballroom" of a Days Inn. But that's okay, I had fun and my wife didn't seem too put out either. I would have liked to spend more time digging through the dollar bins and finding "buried treasure," but you know what? Sometimes it's better to have a plan and stick to it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What I Read This Week

Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin #3 -- I'm convinced that Joe Casey's flashback minis -- including this title as well as Avengers: World's Mightiest Heroes I and II -- are primarily designed to be read with the relevant Essentials trade paperback at your side. This issue is the perfect argument for that theory. After all, who really remembers Marvel's Scarecrow, let alone the nature of his encounter with Iron Man from the old Tales of Suspense besides those of us who have read Essential Iron Man v.1 more than once? The increased backstory does flesh him out a bit, enough that a neophyte could at least understand who he is and what his motivations are, but I imagine that for a non-hardcore Iron Fan, this wouldn't hold as much weight. Of course, I doubt many non-hardcore Iron Fans read this title. Anyway, Casey introduces a modern-age character into this Silver Age flashback, and as a fan of this character I'm rather pleased by this development. Eric Canete's frentic, slightly cartoony pencils continue to impress me, despite it being a real "change of pace" type of rendering for the character.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash #1 -- Most folks who know me know that I grew up on a steady diet of horror movies. As such, one of the few things I mark out for more than comic books remains, to this day, horror movies of all types. And so this series, an adaption of the script to the never-going-to-be-made sequel to Freddy vs Jason, was right up my alley. I cut my teeth on modern horror (well, it was modern when I was a kid) with the NOES series, have always been a fan of F13, and honestly, who doesn't like Ash at this point? Anyway, this issue serves primarily as a "pre-credits" prologue and the very beginning of the first act, tying up the loose ends from FvJ and establishing Ash's role in the conflict. Craig's art is good but not great; his facial work runs hot and cold, but his draws the gore quite nicely and things never get too confused or cluttered. Campbell's covers are all pretty, well, Campbell-esque, but the Jason cover, which I chose, looks pretty nice. A very interesting set-up for what hopefully will be a worthy followup to one of the best horror "party" movies of the last decade.

Annihilation: Conquest: Star Lord #4 -- It's all out, guns-ablazin' action in this, the final prologue to A:C, and Giffen, Green, and company do not disappoint. With Peter Quill and most of his team captured, it's up to Mantis and the wounded Captain Universe to shut down the Phalanx's nanovirus before it enslaves the remainder of the free people of Hala. But they were warned that this was a suicide mission, so even if they succeed, who will survive? I say if a concept sounds fun, then run with it, and that's what Giffen has done with this series. It doesn't really matter that this is a motley crew of loonies and wierdos, because the action is exciting, the dialogue snappy, and the overall presentation solid and entertaining. I am very much looking forward to seeing more of the "Suicide Squad of Space" in the upcoming issues of...

Annihilation: Conquest #1 -- With the situation and challenges established by the Prologue and the four lead-ins, the stakes have been set for the second Annihilation. DnA's story is epic and sweeping, and they have assembled a cast of heroes who run the gauntlet from the majestic (Quasar) to the ordinary (Star Lord), the noble (Ronan) to the brutish (Blastaar), and the driven (Wraith) to the reluctant (Adam Warlock). And in the best tradition of the space opera, they throw them against seemingly unsurmountable odds and a foe who not only has enough power to take down them all, but is so much of a surprise that I doubt anyone could have seen it coming. Tom Raney's pencils are lush and weird, matching the alien landscapes and armies populating the universe. Annihilation may not be high art, or even deep and meaningful, but what it offered (and continues to offer through Conquest) is true escapism fantasy, a relief from the crushingly depressing mainstream Marvel Universe, where supposed "reality" has replaced imagination and creativity. You may not be a fan of cosmic-style superhero antics, but if you are a fan of exciting adventures (preferably in space), then this is the series for you.

Superman #670 -- The story which (apparently) Kurt Busiek wanted to tell over a year ago bows here, in the double-sized conclusion to "The Third Kryptonian." The fact that in the interim, Johns and Donner introduced a fourth Kryptonian doesn't help matters, but at least Supes himself recognized that and acknowledged it himself a few issues back. The story at hand plainly was supposed to be in the Annual, as is evidenced by the chapter breaks, but it works just as well here. Alien hunter (in that he is an alien who presently is hunting different aliens) Amalak has tracked his prey to Earth, and now he and his crew -- armed with anti-Kryptonian weaponry -- are going to exterminate all remnants of the planet Krypton, including the great city of Kandor. So it's up to Superman, Supergirl, Powergirl, and Krypto (plus an assist from the Dark Knight) to stop him. Personally, I'm supportive of any story which features Batman driving Superman's battlesuit and commanding an army of Superman Robots, but beyond that, I really enjoyed this story. This is the kind of thing I thought DC was supposed to be moving to in the wake of Infinite Crisis. Nevermind that Busiek has been doing that, but with "The Third Kryptonian," he not only makes it easily accessible to the reader but also ties it up without any delays or distractions. There's plenty of action but not a whole lot of violence; there's nothing depicted on Leonardi's powerful pages which I would have balked at giving to a younger reader (tween-aged). Even the big tragic moment, while powerful and shocking, is bloodless, and does a good job of raising more questions rather than simply expressing rage. I know I am frothing at this point, but I am a sucker for Superman stories like this, which show how hard a beating Big Blue can take, and the lengths to which he will go to achieve justice.

The Pick of the Pile this week is really, really tough, as both Annihilation: Conquest and Superman are very strong candidates. On the one hand, A:C is the kickoff to what promises to be a great series, with a last page reveal which comes completely out of left field. On the other hand, Superman delivers on everything I could want from a DC title, and fires on all cylinders in doing so. In the final tally, though, I have to give the nod to Superman by the tiniest of margins -- with the tipping point being no fault of A:C's at all... namely that it is the start of a story, while Superman is the finale. A:C leaves me intrigued, but Supes left me satisfied.

So what did YOU read this week?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Hey, do you live in South Carolina? Then head over to the Greenville Comic Con this Saturday... I'll be the guy looking at comic books.

One of my favorite films from my youth (and one time Halloween costume), Darkman, is coming soon from Dynamite.

This joke about Galactus and Hardee's is substantially funnier if you actually live in the South.

Think Martian Manhunter has no villains? PSSHAW! Check out The Prophet!

Redesign Wonder Woman? Sure, why not. Personally, I'm a huge fan of re-designs of Wonder Woman which make her look like a thin, trendy 26 year old who just got off her shift at the record store. (NOTE: I'm lying.)

Rick brings the tunes in the form of Magneto and Titanium Man!

And a sad note, Aquaman co-creator Paul Norris passed away this week. RIP, Paul.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Special "Content-Free" Post!

Well, things have been hectic here today with work and taking care of some things for the weekend, so we have a special guest star for you today. Ladies and gentlemen...

The Penguin.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What Looks Good?

You know the drill: Shipping List, Comic Shops, spend money! Here's what's got my cash...

All New Atom #17 -- Personally, I'm hoping for a repeat of the Atom and Wonder Woman interaction from that one ep of Justice League Unlimited, although with the way Diana is drawn lately, Ryan might suffocate. But what a way to go!

Freddy Vs Jason vs Ash #1 -- Yeah, I know, the only thing more dead than superheroes is slasher horror, right? It really would have been perfect is this had come out last week. (I'm going to get the Jason cover if possible, because, well, Jason rocks.)

Superman #670 -- Wonder of wonders, a Superman story finishes witout delays or fill-ins! I think I feel the Earth itself trembling!

Annihilation: Conquest: Star Lord #4 / Annihilation: Conquest #1 -- DOUBLE SHOT! It's double, DOUBLE, DOUBLE the cosmic chaos!

Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin #3 -- Going back to the days of Tales of Suspense, only without Captain America as a back up.

So what looks good to YOU?

Monday, November 5, 2007

What I Read This Week

Countdown to Mystery #2 -- Let me just say this: if Gerber's intention is to re-invent the way we think of Dr. Fate, he's off to a good start here. It's always a hard line to toe with the magical hero set -- put too many limits on them, and things get much to staid and uninteresting, but set too few limits, and you have to figure out how to threaten a character who can pretty much do anything. There's a good balance here. Justiano's art is equal parts funky and mundane, which also works well considering the subject matter. The Jeanclipso/Spectre backup is helped by once more not really focusing on the titular (no pun intended) star, and instead on Crispin Allen and Plastic Man. It's nothing I would buy on it's own, but as a bonus feature in a Doc Fate story, it's not bad. Pretty neat double-shot for folks who like the mystical stuff.

DC Infinite Halloween Special -- First things first, this thing is thick. It's quite a tome -- and for the price it should be. Sadly, this was not nearly as charming as last year's Holiday special, with only a few standout tales amongst the 13 presented. The best, ironically enough, is the one with "AJ" Curry, Aquaman II, encountering a trio of witches who are actually the offspring of a human and a kelpie -- and considering the relative turn of Aquaman to more supernatural and mythological type stories over the last decade, I'm surprised no one has thought of this earlier. Of course, it looks like they'll be one-shot baddies. Amongst the lesser tales is a meaningless peek into the "Red Rain" Earth, which is little more than an advert for the upcoming one-shot, and the piercingly bad Robin tale featuring the Watchdogs, a set of action-oriented, bounty hunting, reject werewolves the likes of which would have been grating in 1995. Pass on this one, folks.

Justice Society of America #10 -- "Thy Kingdom Come" begins proper here, and appropriately enough we do get a few pages painted by Alex Ross to demonstrate "Earth-22." Say what you will about Kingdom Come and the legacy it created (or destroyed), but in this issue Johns does a good job of addressing some of the key issues raised by Waid and Ross more than a decade ago. Johns also effectively ties the new JSA's mission statement into the thesis of that series as well, so while this isn't really groundbreaking stuff, it certainly is enjoyable to read and expresses itself nicely. The setup for the big bad seems a little obvious at this point, so I am suspecting a swerve coming up. And Eaglesham can draw the "KG" Superman really, really nicely.

Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes #35 -- "The Quest For Cosmic Boy" continues here on the planet Lallor, as Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, and Atom Girl must face down the fiery assassian known as E.R.G.-1! From there, it's over to Earth itself, where Supergirl, Saturn Girl and my main man Lightning Lad come face to face with a certain big-domed baddie named Evolvo Lad. Bedard balances two concurrent stories with ease and brings a nice sense of flow to the preceedings as we move from one part of the universe to the next. Bedard once again is called upon by DC to be the transition guy, this time from Waid to Jim Shooter, and he is pulling off the role with aplomb. (Needless to say, your's truly is still ticked about the BATO thing.) Next issue is the conclusion, wherein Evolvo Lad will learn a several-hundred megavolt lesson in the class of "You Do NOT Touch Saturn Girl!"

Trials of Shazam! #9 -- Well, I made my Apollo Creed joke last week, and it looks like DC took note of it, judging from the copy on the cover! Anyway, this issue follows the precident set by the earlier ones, as the set-up for the Trial is followed by action, while Sabina and/or the Council of Merlin scheme and do evil stuff. The resolution is a bit too pat and predictable for my tastes, but overall it's not bad for a book-length fight. Say what you will about Judd Winnick -- lord knows everyone does -- but he's taking the ball and running with the concept in this series, despite the seemingly endless criticism it receives. The home stretch is in sight now, and I as a reader want to see how it plays out. Again, it's not classic Captain Marvel, but really, it never claimed to be, either. I find it hard to hold that against it.

Superman Confidential #8 -- I don't know what this title's deal is -- whether it is like JLA Classified, and telling stories from different eras, or if it's a continuity-free zone, or whatever, so I don't know how to deal with this tale itself. Is this an alternate telling of Forever People #1, or is this how the "New Earth" continuity dictates that the meeting occured? It's not really clear. In any event, the Forever People are characters I like (hey, maybe I'll blog that!), so seeing them in action is reason enough for me to check it out. It's a fairly average story all told, from the Kirby-esque cover by Chris Batista and Cam Smith to "DnA's" script featuring Big Blue and the Kids From Supertown battling Parademons and rescuing Beautiful Dreamer from Darkseid. DnA are game, ending sentences with "friend," and hitting most of the character notes for the kids. But there is a strange undercurrent of aggression which seems out of place for the quartet. Mark Moonrider talks about how Earth is not part of the Pact, and thus they are free to "wage war" there -- that's not the Forever People I know. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth for what would otherwise be a perfectly enjoyable tale with Moonrider, Vykin, Big Bear, and Serifan having an adventure. If this is the new. in-continuity first meeting between Supes and the New Gods, I'm a little disappointed, since while it may ramp up the action-quotient, it also jetisons all of Kirby's poinancy regarding the Man of Steel's position of being an outsider on Earth.

Annihilation: Conquest: Quasar #4 -- Meanwhile, over in the Marvel side of the cosmos, it's all out fantasy space opera epic action, with Quasar, wielding a giant sword made of pure energy, mounted on a flying dragon, leading an army of primitives against a legion of robotic overlords. That premise alone pretty much seals the deal for me, right out of the gate. Add in a battle against the Super-Adaptoid -- wherein Quasar summons up energy beings who suspiciously resemble the pantheon of creatures animated by Ray Harryhausen -- plus a cameo by Wendell Vaughn and a second-to-last page reveal of one of the major players in A:C, and things are cooking with gas. Not the deepest or most cerebral thing you're ever going to read, but Annihilation is not about that in the first place: it's an action epic, and so is this series. This week we get the finale to Star-Lord and then A:C proper begins. Not to sound too much like a squeeling fanboy, but... yay!

Iron Man #23 -- I was taking part in a discussion about the relative merits of Iron Man last week when I started to wonder why seemingly every online comic fan cannot sing enough praises for Brubaker's Captain America but have opinions ranging from disdain to ambivalence regarding the Knauf's run on Shellhead, despite both being similar approaches to the current Marvel Universe. The answer is obvious of course; thanks to the machinations of Mark Millar, J. Michael Straczynski, Dan Slott, and others, most readers are pre-disposed to dislike Tony Stark (before even taking into account the plain-as-day poltical aspects, which irritate me and thus will not be addressed). Thus, since the character is so unlikeable, obviously his solo series must be terrible. (I for one, adore people who insist on calling Iron Man a villain when referring to his own mag, which only highlights the fact that they haven't read it and are simply projecting their own thoughts onto it.) The fact of the matter is that the Knaufs have been crafting solid, well-told tales of armored superhero action mixed with political espionage and intrigue, building a complex plot over the course of several smaller stories. Things hit the fan here as the investigation in Omaha goes terribly wrong, and Tony is forced to clash not with Graviton or Paragon, but with the CSA and their hidden agendas. (By the way, not to be a "told-ya-so"er, but this issue also handily illustrates that Tony Stark has oversight and doesn't "control everthing." Thanks for playing!) The resolution is unsatisfying in the traditional Marvel manner, as there are no real "winners" or "losers," just consequences and after-effects. We also get some more foundation-building for the apporaching showdown with the Mandarin, and the inevitable addressing of Tony's Extremis. I doubt that anyone already a dyed-in-the-wool Iron Hater will be swayed, but this title remains one of Marvel's upper echelon.

Transformers: Beast Wars Sourcebook #2 -- Blame the gamer in me, but I like sourcebooks. There's something about reading all the profiles for lots of different characters which appeals to me. Some properties work better for sourcebooks than others, and Transformers is one of the best. Add to that the fact that "Beast Wars" featured a ton of toy-only characters who were never featured in the cartoon, and until recently there were no comics, and you have a lot to discover within these pages. Transfans will enjoy seeing the famous side by side with the obscure, as everyone from Mainframe mainstays to Japanese-exclusive characters to fast food premium toys (seriously!) are profiled. Highlights from this issue include repaints Manterror and Mantis being on opposite pages from one another, Killer Punch becoming a paranoid nutcase, head Pred Megatron, and some of my favorite Fuzors, including Injector and Noctorro. Unless you like "Beast Wars," like I do, then there's no reason to buy this, however.

The Pick of the Pile is JSoA, not an uncommon occurance around these parts.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

We're talking old school here as Mandrake the Magician has been cast. where's that new Phantom movie?!

Just for Frank, here's the DC sampler I mentioned a while back. Okay, the rest of y'all can click it too. (Thanks to Mike Sterling for the link!)

Ladies and gentlemen, Meatloaf!

Hey rob... Looking good!

Also, be sure to go check out rob!s newest attempt to corner the market on comic blogging, The Justice League Satellite!

Image is everything! So says G. Kendall, who is hosting Image Comics Week over at Not Blog X. Start with that link, and keep going forward, because Our Man In The 90s is shining a spotlight on those titles you won't admit that you bought! ("WildC.A.T.s Sourcebook?! I never bought that! Yeah, that's the ticket!)

And finally, Mike Sterling destroys your brain.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

You Know What Bugs Me?

You know what bugs me? Well, as a Republican, and a Conservative, not to mention a Mets fan, I could go on for quite some time on that topic. So instead I will focus specifically on something which bugs me about the comic book "blogosphere."

What bugs me is how some bloggers use the term "superhero" as a perjorative. Uhh... what? I mean, it's one thing to say "underwear pervert" like Warren Ellis does, because he has a point to make about how Marvel and DC use the term (that, and jumping on a bandwagon created by Warren Ellis automatically makes you cool), but using the term itself as a qualifier ticks me off. "It's pretty good," these bloggers say, "for a superhero comic." WTF? Every one of these punks reads superhero stuff every damn month, and I can pretty much guarantee that none of them grew up reading OGNs or relationship-y manga. What's wrong with the superhero genre? Not a damn thing! It sustains the industry in this country, like it or not, and has done so for a couple of decades now.

"But it's childish and immature and is just about punching people!" Yes, certainly superhero comics are not as sophisticated as a true Graphic Novel -- nor should they be! They're meant to be (*gasp*) fun, not something to be critiqued and dissected and analyzed for every possible flaw before being tossed off into a pile of crap in order to feed one's ego as a "critic." We don't go to superhero movies to feel and think things for 2 hours -- Superman Returns not withstanding -- we go to be exhilarated and entertained. What's so wrong with that? If the genre had some inherent, major flaw, wouldn't it have collapsed long, long before now?

Are comics more than superheros? Of course, as well they should be -- comics (like manga and anime, much to the contrary of how their fanbases address them) is a medium and not a genre into of itself. There's room for any type of subject matter in comics; hell, it doesn't even really have to be sequential if you don't want! But no. Some folk can't play nice with everyone else. They have to let people know just how WRONG they are for reading certain things, and DEMAND that everyone look at them and what THEY are reading. In their mad rush to distance themselves from "fanboys," abnd to portray "their" comics as "art," and not that trash you read, they have become little more than puppets, easily manipulated into regurgitating their hackneyed opinions about why something sucks again and again.

The other aspect which always boggles my mind: if these individuals dislike superhero comics so much, how come they always seem to be the first ones to find something to complain about or be offended by in one? What difference does it make if Civil War ships late or if Superman has a fill-in if the comic is "meaningless?"

And yes, these are the same folks who call comic books "pamphlets." And you do NOT want to get me started on that.

Superhero is a genre. Not an insult. Get. Over. Yourself.