Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Rick love his team-ups, apparently including the inter-species variety!

G Kendall shines the spotlight on not one but
two "X-event" books from my youth. Brings memories of junior high flooding back!

rob! has your ticket to ride.

I'm glad that Frank posted this study of the Martian Manhunter's haunts, because, in all honesty, I had no idea on most of them!

Speaking of superheroic hangouts, I don't play Heroclix myself, but Scipio has been working overtime creating maps for it! Now you can throw down in Central City (or is it Keystone???), above Ferris Aircraft, or at the Iceberg Lounge! Keep up the good work, dude!

My man Adama believes in the free market economy, even if it hurts his left-wing cred.

Finally, check out the firth creator's commentary for Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Who Wears Short Shorts?  We Wear Short Shorts!  WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #30
Where Monsters Dwell #30 -- I love the rocking shorts this dude is sporting. They're "da bomb," as said in the vernacular.

I. "The Thing in the Black Box" -- A survivor of a sinking cruise ship washes ashore on a deserted island only to find a beautiful woman struggling to open a mysterious box. He helps her out, and to the surprise of no one except the guy who did it, the woman is Pandora and that was her Box. A purple (not green, as on the cover) winged beastie climbs out, and quickly conquers Japan and Russia, threatening the whole world. Lucky for us, the guy saves the day by forcing Pandora to look in a mirror, and see how old and decrepit she really is, then blackmailing her to call off her monster. Women: Vain and easily manipulated.

II. "13 Years" -- A work-a-day Joe gets caught up in a jewelry store heist when the two perps try to use his car for a getaway. He manages to dump them off, only to discover that they left their loot in the backseat. The guy immediately decides to ditch his wife and kids, lay low for a while, then sell the gems and become rich. He waits thirteen long years, only to discover that the stones are fakes, leaving him with enough money to buy a quick trip in the form of a gun and one bullet.

III. "The Man Who Wasn't" -- In the 50s, when science didn't need any real purpose, a research scientist has developed a de-aging formula, and wants to test it on Adam, the oldest patient in a nursing home. Adam refuses, natch, and it seems that he has been living in the home as an old man for 100 years. Furthermore, his lungs are bizarrely shaped and his heart is missing. Undaunted by these facts, the doctors inject him with the serum, whereupon he not only de-ages, but transforms into a Little Green Man, thus signalling his compatriots to invade the Earth in their George Pal-esque flying saucers.

IV. "Just Suppose..." -- A science fiction hack up in a cabin has writer's block until he hears a strange whirring outside. He investigates and finds a bizarre creature that looks like a mix between a dog and a kangaroo. He of course decides to keep it as a pet. Drawing inspiration from his new companion, he works on his story, thinking that the creature is an atomic-bred mutant from the University down below. He builds a cage for his pet and goes to tell someone about his find, when two more of the creatures show up and bust the third out of captivity. Seems that his "pet" an alien prince, and that the extraterrestial royalty has taken quite a fancy to his new Earthling pet. Why, he even has a cage ready for it on his spaceship.

Overall Weird Factor: 2 (of 5).

Even more than the previous installment, this Marvel Bronze Ager is just a reprint mag -- at least Tower of Shadows had one new tale in it, while all four of these date back between 13 and 20 years before the published date of 1974. Still, there is some genuine weirdness to be found, primarily in the third feature. The first (art by Jack Kirby) and fourth are pretty standard stuff, while the second, originally printed in Spellbound #22 from 1954 and featuring Jack Davis-esque art by Bill Savage, is more akin to something you'd find in a "True Crime" comic.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

True Tales From The Comic Shop

Regarding the new title from Radical, Calibur:

Me: I think this is something you'd dig. I think you told me you like Weird Westerns. It's Arthurian Legend in the Old West.

Borderlands Employee Darren: Oh yeah man. I want MacBeth in the Old West.

Me: I think anything works if you put it in the Old West. Like, a World War 2 story, put that in the Old West, and it'll sell like hotcakes.

Admin Note: I'm going to be out of town this weekend, so the Weekly Dose of Weird and your Links are most likely delayed. I am going to try to post them, but I may have to wait until I get back.

Not Blog Ex?

I'm going to jump backwards a bit and pick up these three done-in-one issues for this installment of Not Blog Ex? Wonder just what the heck this is all about? Go check out G Kendall's exceptionally cool Not Blog X, and all will become clear.

Excalibur #52
All You Ever Wanted To Know About Phoenix... But Were Afraid To Ask

Credits: Alan Davis (Script), Will Simpson (breakdowns) (Pencils), Jimmy Palmiotti (finishes); Dave Hoover (finishes) (Inks), Kelly Corvese (Colors), Michael Heisler (Letters).

With Rachel still recovering from the battle with Necrom back in issue #50, Professor Xavier tries to communicate with the Phoenix Force. Excalibur and the Prof get to experience the Force's origin, and how it came to inhabit Ray's body. Afterwards, it retreats into the cosmos to fully heal.

This is one of the era's typical "quiet stories" which happen after the big events. But this issue is a little different insofar as it does explain some of the Phoenix backstory and in a not too complicated manner (at least, to someone with a passing knowledge of the X-Men). Alan Davis always liked the Excali-gals, so seeing this story from him is not surprising. The Simpson and Palmiotti pencils are nothing special, but a disappointment underneath the Davis cover. Speaking of which, the cover has a nice joke on it, with Jean claiming that this should help sales. I guess it didn't work that well! Fans of Rachel Summers, Jean Grey, or the Phoenix would like this comic, and Excal fans will probably appreciate the insight.

Excalibur #53
The Litter

Credits: Scott Lobdell (Script), James Fry (Pencils), Chris Ivy (Inks), Glynis Oliver (Colors), Michael Heisler (Letters).

While looking through an old photo album at Braddock Mannor, Brian tells a story to Meggan of his early days as Captain Britian, when he was roommates with Peter Parker and working with Spider-Man at night. Spidey tries to teach Cap the ropes, but Cap doesn't know his own strength, and has a serious problem when it comes to his drinking. A battle with The Litter, a group of canine-themed shapeshifting baddies, leaves one of them near-death after Cap uses his super strength without thinking. And things aren't much better socially, as Peter gets fed up with Brian constantly leaving their apartment a mess and just throwing his money around. Peter asks Brian to move out. In the present, Brian wonders if he can live up to the high standards set by someone like Spidey.

Despite not being a Davis issue, I really liked this comic. Brian's self-doubt and attempts to grow were some of my favorite parts of this series, and tying into his brief stint back in the States is a novel way to do it, since there isn't much material there in the first place. (And I don't think the two of them have had much contact since then, which is a shame, as I would like to see their relationship explored some more.) Lobdell writes a pretty good Spider-Man, and his flashback Brian sounds pretty good as well, so it's too jarring of a transition from the norm. Overall, a good issue.

The Litter, made up of a group of snobbish Eurotrash who transform into doggie-humanoids, are an amusing bunch who look like they could have stepped out of an issue of Marvel Team-Up. It's surprising that they have never been heard from since, as I would have thought Kurt Busiek or Dan Slott would have found a use for them by now. Also odd is the cover, which uses a pretty similar take as the previous issue, this time with Spidey claiming that he is taking over this title as his own.

Excalibur #54
Curioser And Curioser

Credits: Alan Davis (Script), Alan Davis (Pencils), Mark Farmer (Inks), Glynis Oliver (Colors), Michael Heisler (Letters).

Nightcrawler finally gets the cast off his broken leg, and is more than happy just to be able to scratch his skin again. Meanwhile, Excalibur investigates a mass dissappeance in the countryside, as a whole town has just up and vanished without a trace. Meggan's tracking senses lead to a rabbit hole, and down she goes, followed by Cerise, Kylun, and finally Cap. Cap finds himself in one peril after another, eventually having to fight from drowning in a giant teapot. He manages to escape, and discovers that he is a bizarre version of Wonderland, with Meggan as Alice, and his other teammates seemingly under the spell as well. He rightfully thinks it is the work of the Crazy Gang, but he is surprised to find Joyboy of the Technet there as well. Seems that Joyboy's illusion power is working in concert with Red Queen's already twisted brain to produce an idyllic Wonderland. All of the residents of the town are present, but they are not held against their will -- they were invited for a tea party, and are having great fun. The only reason that Cap was met with violence is because he expected trouble. Cap decides to let the Gang be, as they are not hurting anyone and staying out of trouble. While the adventure is taking place, Kitty Pryde and Alistair Stewart are examining the new form of Widget, but he vanishes in a brilliant flash, with Kitty's quick thinking the only thing saving them from being vaporized.

Davis is back and even though this is a fun stand-alone story, already the seeds of the rest of his run are begun planted, specifically with Widget. Anyways, this is a fun, bouncy issue, with lots of great Alice in Wonderland visuals. This definitely is a comic that any Marvel fan could pick up and read, even if the continuity is a bit dicey with regards to the Gang and Joyboy (when exactly they managed to obtain Joyboy from them, I am not sure). Still, a very good issue, as is typical for the Davis run.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Looks Good?

It's going to be a welcome respite this week, heading over to Borderlands to pick up some fresh new comic books. A week without comics is just plain sad.

Futurama Comics #36 -- A funnybook that's actually funny. Huh. Go figure.

Phantom #22 -- The setup to the huge storyarc that started last issue was pretty extreme, so hopefully this issue will continue it without getting too bogged down.

BONUS GAME! Since I was a slacker last week -- you know, out doing my job, of all things -- these little tasties should be in my pull box as well, just waiting for me to spend some of the money I earned on them.

Batman And The Outsiders #5 -- Hopefully the upcoming James Robinson Extreme Justice Justice League series means that the days of Green Arrow: Outsider are short-lived. Also: need more Geo-Force.

Flash #238 -- Let's all welcome new writer Tom Peyer! *handshakes, handshakes* Let's all hope he lasts longer than the last four scribes!

So what looks good to YOU?

Discount Bin Finds -- Darkhawk Annual #2

No, not Dreamweaver, Dreamkiller!  DARKHAWK ANNUAL #2
Picked this one up for a buck one day while killing time at Borderlands. I was suitably impressed by the fact that whomever had bought it originally, and anyone who may have had it between that point and it's eventual deposit in the discount bin, never actually opened up the polybag. Because lord knows Darkhawk Annual #2 was going to be one of those in-demand sealed bag books. In any event, this oversized Annual features, like all of the Marvel offerings of this type from 1993, the debut of a new character -- in this case the villain Dreamkiller -- who is enshrined on a trading card. And I am willing to bet that this is the only Dreamkiller trading card in existance.

In the main feature, entitled simply "Dreamkiller!" teenager Danny Powell (secretly our hero, of course!) is living with his mother and two brothers in a run down Queens boarding house after their house had been destroyed in a fire. He is disturbed from his slumber and summoned to Westchester county by the daughter of one of Darkhawk's adversaries, who claims to be the victim of an extortion scheme to return one of her father's mystical "Objects of Power." Turns out the Object is now in the possession of one Alex Tennyson, who uses it to summon his subconcious to the corporeal plane in the form of the hulking monster known as Dreamkiller, who, appropriately, seeks to destroy the hopes and dreams of his enemies. Darkhawk clashes with the hugely powerful Dreamkiller, and promptly gets tossed from pillar to post. A little quick thinking on Danny's part, though, and Dreamkiller has to beat a hasty retreat. Danny's not in the best of shape, but I guess it's not easy being a hero as a teenager, huh?

The three backup stories are all shorter, but still somewhat interesting. The first, "Force of Evil," has Ocsh, the sentient Darkhawk ship, fighting off an assualt from the evil Darkhawk, foreshadowing the villain's eventual return. Next is "Taking a Stand," where Danny gets his two brothers tickets to a Mets game, where he is working as a vendor, and things turn ugly. Finally, in "Savage Is The Night!" we see the creation of the new Savage Steel, who intends to use the Stane Industries-product armor for good instead of turning into a bloodthirsty killer like the previous owners.

Darkhawk was a title I picked up occassionally when I was a kid. The character's looks and personality appealed to me as a "tween" and young teenager, and his adventures were usually pretty fast and fun. So it's not too surprising to me that I liked this Annual well enough. It's not great by any sense of the word, but it has four stories which would have no doubt been welcome to a Darkhawk fan in 1993. The main feature is pretty strong, even if it is mainly just an extended normal issue. Dreamkiller, despite being a product of a gimmicky "event," is actually a pretty decent setup for a bad guy. It's too bad he got used exactly once more (ironically, in Darkhawk Annual #3). His looks is pure 90s goofiness, but I think you could work with it. It wouldn't even be that hard to change it around, really. The second and fourth stories are of the "sneak-peek" variety, giving readers a little glimpse of stories that will come forth later, and to that end they both do a good job. The idea of Ocsh having to store the Evilhawk android on board and yet be constantly vigil of it is pretty cool. The third feature is a nice piece of characterization of the Brothers Powell, which is pretty welcome in between all the action but ultimately meaningless out of the context of the series.

All of the stories are penned by Darkhawk creator and regular scribe Danny Fingeroth, so the tone and characters remain consistant throughout. The art, handled respectively by Aaron Lopresti (!!), Don Cameron, Larry Alexander, and Scott Kolins (!!), is a mixed bag of early-90s Marvel house style... but at least there is nothing too outlandish or bizarre to complain about! Actually, in all fairness, the art is not bad, but a lot of modern readers won't be able to relate to it, I don't think.

In any event, for the dollar I paid for this, I was certainly satisfied with the quality of the stories and the art. And, to be honest, if I had paid $2.95 for this back in that summer of '93, I'd have probably been pretty darn happy with it then as well. And no doubt, my Dreamkiller card would be in a hard plastic card case, and I'd be lamenting his lack of further appearances. Kinda like I am doing now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What I Read This Week

Well, my trip to Missouri was uneventful (other than the nonstop torrential downpours of Monday night straight through to Tuesday night after I went to bed!). I didn't have control of the rental car, so I didn't get to check out any of Springfield's Comic Shop establishments, so instead I return with some comic book reviews, slightly out of date though they may be.

Superman #674 -- As seems typical, at least for the titles I tend to read, right as Kurt Busiek is on his way out, we get some fairly interesting "world building" stuff which may or may not be jetisoned completely in the next quarter. Anyway, with the new digs for Clark, Lois, and Chris established, we're rocketed off into a new adventure, dealing with the metahuman chameleon known as Paragon, as well as a little bit of Mon-El for good measuere. A very enjoyable comic, typical of the work that Busiek has been doing, and new arteest Renato Guedes is very eye-pleasing. It's just too bad that this team will only be together for one more issue.

Tiny Titans #2 -- DENIED! Once again my shop failed to receive either 1) Enough or 2) ANY copies of this super-cute super-deformed title on the 12th, the last time I was in. Hopefully it will be available this week.

Annihilation Conquest #5 -- As I mentioned to Adama the other day, the first Annihilation series was the "Oh &%^#!" series, where the stakes were continually raised with each issue and the situation got more and more grave. At this point I think I can safewly say that A:C is the "WOW..." series, in that each issue brings in some new jaw-droppingly awesome development which just staggers the reader. That's about par for the course here, as the endgame is in sight, but exactly how our heroes can survive what Ultron has in store for them is beyond me. Great stuff.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin #6 -- The flashback finishes up here with mainly a big throwdown, as one pretty much had to figure it would. I don't know what else I can say about this title without repeating myself, so just know that if you like Joe Casey's retro work, or Canete's art deco-meets-Tales of Suspense pencils, then pick this one up, either as singles or in the inevitable trade, because it's pretty rockin'.

Lone Ranger and Tonto #1 -- In the West, the Lone Ranger and his companion Tonto come across a young boy seemingly left for dead by bandits. But is just a simple case of frontier lawlessness, or does the young man hide an even bigger secret? A nice, meaty one-shot featuring our titular heroes, this effort from Dynamite by Brent Matthews, Jon Abrams, and Mario Guevara is a solid Western romp, with a good mix of action and pathos. I enjoed how Tonto was protrayed -- smart, cautious, not a blabbermouth but not speaking in hokum, either, which is a risk with the character. Guevara's art is especially nice as well, having a windburned sort of sensibility to it which is exceedingly appropriate for the material. I have been wanting to check out the ongoing series but funds prevents me from doing so, but I will say two things: Firstly, that this special is definitely worth the money, and secondly, that if the regular title is around this quality level, I need to find budget space for it.

Iron Man #27 -- Following up on the sheer righteousness of last issue's man-made tactical black hole, it seems that the neither the American government nor the UN is very happy with Tony Stark and SHIELD for dropping a WMD on Nebraska. But while Stark tries to figure out how to keep him and his senior staff out of the international courts, the Mandarin is still enacting his plan to use the weaponized version of Extremis to ravage the world. Got this in the mail when I got back from Missouri, and it was a real treat -- not much action this time out, but the main thrust of the storyline keeps building, like a Clancy novel on steroids. Radical stuff, with a huge helping of super-spy/espionage stuff thrown in for good measure, that gets absolutely no attention from Marvel. Buy this title!

The Pick of the Pile this time out is a very close call between Annihilation Conquest and Lone Ranger and Tonto. The crazy ape-spit insanity of the space opera versus the low key, dust-bitten rawness of the western -- a tough choice. By the slimmest of margins I am giving it to Lone Ranger, just because it was a nice change of pace to read. But AC is intensely good as well.

So what did YOU read this week?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Short Hiatus

Well folks, I am flying on a jet plane (two, actually) tomorrow morning, heading out to Missouri for some work related stuff. So, no updates this week. But I will be back and ready to go next Monday, the 24th, so until then please feel free to check out some of the truly awesome comic sites I've linked to over on the side. Thanks, and see ya soon!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekly Dose of Weird!

This scene is, like, total splitsville, man!  TOWER OF SHADOWS #9
Tower of Shadows #9 -- I always like it when a horror comic has a cover that has absolutely nothing to do with the contents. Like, not even close! I wonder which one is not a "super thriller?"

I. "Pickman's Model" -- Roy Thomas and Tom Palmer themselves introduce this story by H.P. Lovecraft. Our narrator, Thurber, tells how he was writing an article on weird art and was examining the horrific and morbid work of a painter named Pickman, when he was invited to see his North End studio. There, he sees the most horrific painting of all, depicting a creature with such realism that it looks like it could reach off the canvas. Grabbing a picture Thurber thinks Pickman has used for background reference, he is startled by Pickman's use of a revolver to keep "rats" at bay, and flees. Only then does he see that the reference photo is not of the setting, but of the subject, standing in Pickman's studio.

II. "The Haunted Room" -- A nondescript 50's guy designs and creates a "bismuth atomic bomb," and plans to hold the world ransom with it for some unknown reason. Needing a place to hide it, he rents an old house in the country, but is warned never to enter the "haunted room" that has been closed for centures. He stashes his bomb there, then heads to New York to threaten the UN, only to realize that he is naught but a ghost since he entered the room.

III. "The World That Was Lost" -- A guy who looks like Professor Xavier charters a yacht for a month with the intention of finding Atlantis. When they reach exact co-ordinates, the wheelchair bound man leaps off the deck into the drink. Turns out he's a merman who, uh, evidently can breathe in the air.

IV. "The Threat From the 5th Dimension!" -- Dream demons who look like demented paper dolls try to kidnap a guy in his PJs, but the fact that believes in them drives them off. Going to see a doctor for help, he is told he is crazy -- only his doctor is an advance agent for the demons. The man decides the only way to save the world is to tell his story to the world -- through Tower of Shadows.

Overall Weird Factor: 4 (out of 5).

Talk about your wildly varying quality! The first tale (the only non-reprint of the bunch, which was common for Marvel horror mags of this period) is excellent, and the closer, with art by Steve Ditko, is really far-out. The two middle pieces (with art by Don Heck and Jack Kirby, respectively) are average, without any real innovation or twists. Still, Lovecraft and the super-bizarre last segment combine to make this one weird little comic. Tower of Shadows would become Creatures On The Loose with the next issue.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What is Weird?

When I started the Weekly Dose of Weird feature, I knew eventually I would end up writing this missive as a sort of companion piece. After all, if I am giving you a weekly shot of 4 color weirdness, it's probably a good idea to understand what I consider to be weird comics, right? This is by no means a definitive, "this is attractive, that is not" list. I want this to serve more as a guideline, or, if you prefer, an examination of how I look at comic genres and the mixing therein to produce something which could rightly be called "weird."

The genre most associated with weird comics is Horror, primarily because of the limits placed on the form by the Comics Code. I mean, if you can't show grisly violence, or axe murderers, or what have you, then your Horror stories tend to feature more supernatural stuff, and push themselves headlong into weirdsville. (Not to be confused with Weirdsville, which is also pretty cool.) You can have a Horror story that is not weird, but for the periods I like to read, I find these pretty rare. True Crime falls into this category -- by being true, it is very hard for it to also be weird. Science fiction is also a good place to mine weird stories, again, based on the foundations of the genre. Aliens and spacemen mixing with the more mundane tend to make good reading of this type. So if you have a Horror or Sci-Fi anthology title, there's a good chance it'll be weird. It's also a good rule of thumb that if your title has the word "weird" in it, there's a good chance it's got off-center content; ie, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science-Fantasy, and so forth.

I think one of the key ingredient for a comic to be weird is the inclusion of some bizarre or fantastical element which is so out of place in the genre that it immediately calls attention to the fact that it is not normal fare. It's from this that we get the crossover type of weird stories. Weird War Tales and Weird Western Tales and the like fit nicely into this category, since the War and Western genres are so broad that it is easy to fit supernatural, alien, fantasy, or other unusual characteristics into them without bursting the seams too badly. But this can work on other genres too, even if less common. Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love and Sinister House of Secret Love were DC's attempt at doing a weird romance comic, although they didn't last. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Silver Age House of Mystery, starring that weirdest of superheroes, the Martian Manhunter (Hi, Frank!) -- but let's not forget the Phantom Stranger or the Spectre, either!

So something like The War That Time Forgot or the Haunted Tank is definitely weird, but what about The Unknown Soldier? That's a tough one, because while the concept of the Soldier is not alltogether too weird (I mean, a master of disguise is not an impossible concept), but some of the situations he got himself into were pretty out there. Vamprific Nazi octopi, for example. So depending on the story, it could be pretty weird. Same goes for Jonah Hex, who depends a lot on his context to determine his weirdness.

I guess in the end it's all subjective; what is weird to one may not be to another. Which is good, because I think when you have a difference of opinion like that, it is a good opportunity to see something from a new perspective, and maybe appreciate something you hadn't seen before. So hopefully as I continue to hunt down titles to read and feature here, I can find new and different weirdings to keep expanding my horizons.

So, I ask you, gentle readers (assuming there are any): What is weird to you? What weird comics do you enjoy? What kinds of things would you like to see on the Weekly Dose? I am honestly interested in your feedback. And tune in tomorrow for another Dose, which hopefully will kick your weekend off on a weird foot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Looks Good?

It's always good to have high points to look forward to each week. It helps you get through work and keeps morale high. My high spot? It shows up every Wednesday thanks to the good people at Borderlands in Greenville, SC. Thank Hashut It's Wednesday!

Superman #674 -- Yeah, no Chloe Sullivan. And yeah, next to last issue for Busiek. But hey! New bad guy! Woohoo!

Tiny Titans #2 -- The cuteness factor is through the roof! Witness the most adorable Titans-Hive Five battle of all time!

Annihilation Conquest #5 -- And, if you want to go in a completely opposite direction, this comic should satisfy your quota for grand, sweeping space opera.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin #6 -- This is sort of like the appetizer to the main course of Shellhead miniseries and specials the House of Ideas is bringing out this summer. Luckily for readers, it's the proverbial hot wings, and not the mixed greens.

Lone Ranger and Tonto #1 -- I haven't checked out the Dynamite ongoing series, but not for lack of interest. But a one-shot, even at a higher price point? That I think I can swing.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You Know What Bugs Me?

You know what bugs me? What bugs me is when a comic book creator bends over backwards to make sure that their favorite gets put over in ever story, against all odds, no matter how ridiculous or silly it may be. Logic and reason are tossed out the window, and any semblence of (sur)realism is trampled as the writer makes sure that his or her "golden child" ends up as the victor, no matter what the situation or circumstance. It bugs me to great length when I see this happening, and it starts to get under my skin when I see it happening repeatedly.

I, of course, refer to Batman beating Superman in a fight.

I know what you are saying. "Cmon Luke, isn't this a bit immature, even for you?" And yeah, it is. I admit that. But this is my blog, and dammit, it bugs me that Batman can beat Superman with alarming regularity for little reason other than the fact that he is more popular with fans and creators.

I mean... seriously.

Batman is a great character. I think everyone who reads comics has a minimum threshold appreciation for him. I've never met anyone who actively dislikes Batman. The range goes from "Yeah, Batman's pretty cool" to salivating adoration. But no one really hates him, unlike pretty much every other superhero character in the history of time. And I too am part of that range. I have never bought a Bat-book with any regularity (unless you count Batman And The Outsiders), but I always like the Adam West-era Batman, as well as Batman: The Animated Series, and enjoyed most of the movies and so forth. So I am not a Bat-fan, but I think he's alright.

The problem comes from the rabid Bat-fans who elevate him above all others. Furthermore, the problem comes then that a lot of creators are just this type of rabid Bat-fan. Which is fine, really, because people will like what people will like, and obviously Bats does pretty good for DC. But this business of Batman beating Superman in a fight just strains credibility to me, and if a superhero comic is straining credibility, well, that's a problem.

People: Batman is a guy with a ROPE and a BOOMERANG and a CAR. He cannot beat the pinnacle of physical development, who can fly, see and hear a mouse sneeze half a world away, see through walls, burn things by looking at them, change the course of planets, resist impacts up to and including nuclear bombs, and pretty much approach godhood in most definable ways.

(That sound you here is all of my readers storming off in disgust. At least, you would hear it if I had any readers.)

I get that Frank Miller made this fashionable. I get that DKR has pretty much defined Batman for my entire lifetime. But, come on people: this is getting a bit silly. Batman being able to beat meta-powered folks in hand-to-hand, I can buy that. Someone like Green Lantern is not as skilled in fisticuffs as Bats. Similarly, Batman outsmarting and outplanning a superpowered opponent makes sense for most of the DC pantheon. But for him to do this to Superman on a regular, recurring basis just boggles my mind. These stories (including the still-excellent Justice League: The New Frontier Special, which you should totally go buy) rely on Superman being an idiot in order to fall for Batman's traps. And not just an idiot, an idiot who takes the least-efficient way to do everything. I have to essentially forget that anything that Batman does has to be filtered through the "Batman is a Badass"-scope, and I just can't do that.

I understand that Batman is popular. Like, really popular. Really I do. But the madness must stop eventually. When you reach the stage where having Supes defeat Batman would be considered a daring creative choice, I think we've gone past the tipping point, and sanity needs to make a come back.

(This message brought to you by Guys Who Like Superman And Think He Could Totally Take Out Batman. "I'm Luke, and I approved this message.")

Monday, March 10, 2008

What I Read This Week

Graveslinger #4 -- The finale to the first adventure of Frank Timmons, custodian of the undead in the Old West, comes to a close as Frank's metaphysical conflict comes crashing headlong into a more mundane, but just as deadly, skirmish. This issue is pretty much just a running gunfight, along with the ubiquitous (and not entirely unexpected nor unwelcome) set up for a sequel. Sorat's surreal art is a good fit for the bloody action herein, and Denton and Mariotte seem to enjoy writing their anti-hero. The whole thing never gels together all that well, but I guess this is sort of a pilot for the Further Adventures of Frank Timmons, and in that sense I guess some disconnect is expected. Not bad, but overall this series was not as good as I would have hoped.

Project Superpowers #1 -- After the backstory in #0, we're off to a proper start here as the eldery Fighting Yank, now obsessed with both righting the wrong from his past as well as his prophecised demise, travels to the remote East to meet with his old ally, the Green Lama. Jim Krueger (and ostensibly Alex Ross) turns in an interesting premise, and as good a reason to revive these characters as I can think of. What I don't like is the relatively simplistic characterizations of both the Yank and Black Terror we see here. Yank is very one note regarding his evidently soon-to-be-forthcoming death, and Terror seems like bloodthirsty killer who would not have been out of place 15 years ago in an Image comic. This may change, of course, but at first blush his rantings about killing his one-time ally as well as his enemy didn't do it for me. There are some nice touches -- the villain of the piece seems pretty interesting, and the fact that his company is called "Dynamic Forces" is a cute bit as well. Carlos Paul's artwork is unique in-so-far as it doesn't look inked; there is not a lot of linework, giving a sort of "colored over pencils" appearance which makes things look other-worldly. On the whole this was a mixed bag, but I have hopes that the series will improve.

Justice League: The New Frontier Special -- Having never read the original New Frontier, I figured it was only right for me to pick this one up, even with the hefty price tag. And I must say, it was definitely worth the cost. We get three features here, all written by Darwyn Cooke, with retro-style art by Cooke, J. Bone and David Bullock, plus some bonus features in the back. The lead story is a "deleted scene" of sorts from the original, and details the battle between Superman and Batman before they became chums. The second feature stars Robin, The Boy Wonder, as he tackles a case involving a street racing ring that is more than it seems, and ends up getting some scarlet-and-yellow assistance. Rounding out the lineup is a humorous Wonder Woman and Black Canary tale, featuring the two ladies attempting to "enlighten" the patrons at the opening of a new Playboy Club. The bonus material has some character designs and storyboards from the film, and is not too heavy on info but nice nonetheless. Pretty much everything about this comic works: from the intense clash of the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight, to the goofy, psuedo-rivalry camraderie of Robin and Kid Flash, to the outright slapstick of Wonder Woman in the Playboy Club, from start to finish this is enjoyable, quality work. Even as someone who was not familiar with the property until a very shot while ago, this is truly a special any DC fan would get a real kick out of.

The Pick of the Pile this week is an obvious one, the New Frontier Special. As I said, even at $4.99, this is chock-full of content, and the vast majority of the content is really stand-out stuff (about the only gripe I have is a story-based decision, and trust me, I have a rant all planned for that already). If you passed on it last week, definitely grab it this week.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

I know this isn't comic book related, but Straight Cash Homey Dot Net brings it, and brings it hard. (Warning: New York Mets related humor).

My man Rick has a new blog, and it's streeetching to new heights! Take a look at Plastic Man Platitudes and get some flexibility in your life.

Nerd power! (via rob!)

Check out the first promo shots from Watchmen.

Frank shows off some ink.

And finally, Adama has some Fun In The Arrowcave!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Weekly Dose of Weird!

Beware the Spectral French!  WEIRD WAR TALES #26
Weird War Tales #26 -- This title almost always has a striking, awesome cover. This issue is no exception. I especially like the orange moon.

I. "The Survivor" -- In WWI, a French batallion has a rather unusual member -- a guy who likes to get "up close and personal" with the enemy before he dispatches them. But his commander is more than a little concerned with his strange laugh and odd manner... so what's his deal? Can't say for sure, just that he saves Hitler. Serious.

II. "Jump Into Hell" -- Being a paratrooper is a dangerous line of work to begin with, but when you jump into a fog-shrouded town that looks like a remnant from the Middle Ages, you know something is up. And that something is a town which worships Satan, and wants to use the boys as a sacrifice. Unfortunately, they happen to pick the Chaplain, and thus things don't go so well on the sacrifice front.

III. "A Time To Die" -- A B-52 bomber captain left his men to go down with the ship, and now he is laid up in an Army hospital, wishing he could go back in time. And so he does, in his hallucinations. Going down with his doomed bomber, he saves his men, only to be gunned down in a Nazi ambush. But it was all a hallucination, right? Then explain the sand in his boot, brother.

Overall Weird Factor: 3 (of 5).

Weird War Tales combines two of my favorite genres, and as such I am really a sucker for it. But it generally was a good read, filled with punchy little stories which usually left quite a bit to the imagination, and were a little dicier than stuff like House of Mystery due to the combat angle. The first story is definitely the Weirdest, but the second one has some great moments in it as well, helping that Weird Factor.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- Unknown Soldier #266

Picked up this one at the Borderlands "Big Annual Sale" last month, and let me tell you, it's not too frequent that I spot a War book in them discount bins, so I snatched it up.

Like any good comic featuring tough as nails fightin' men, this is an anthology. The first story is our cover feature, and finds the Unknown Soldier in the deserts of North Africa, with an American tank batallion opposing Rommel's offensive. After a member of the unit was murdered, the Soldier has handcuffed himself to the Commander -- who is the prime suspect. There's a rat in the company, and it's up to the Soldier to sort out who it is before the Desert Fox bulldozes them all with a couple hundred tons of rolling steel! Haney's script is your usual Unknown Soldier fare, filled with testosterone and bravado, but not too over-the-top. The main weakness of the story is Dick Ayer's art -- there's a crucial plot point which is based around a betrayl, but his soldiers are hard to tell apart, which makes it confusing. It's not impossible, but it took a second reading to get it straight. I am a sucker for the Soldier and his adventures, so I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I always hear Lee Marvin's voice when he talks.

The second tale is everyone's favorite Hammer of Hell, Enemy Ace. German WW1 ace Hans von Hammer has been tangling with a wild American pilot, who seems more cowboy than flyboy (Balloon Buster!). While his Fokker is being repaired from their previous encounter, von Hammer has time to mull over the nature of war, and of this unusual man he finds himself set against. Setting out to engage his rival one-on-one, the Ace may have bitten off more than he can chew this time out! Enemy Ace was always one of the stronger War features at DC, and this little story is a good example of that. John Severin's moody pencils evoke Joe Kubert without aping him, and set the tone very nicely for this aerial tale. And despite a Bob Kanigher script, things remain relatively low-key in this outing, again, as is typical for the Enemy Ace.

That whole notion of "low-key" gets tossed aside in the final story, starring none other than the Viking Commando! Viking Commando? For those not in the know, our star is Valoric, a Viking who was killed before his time, and sent by Odin back to the land of the living -- in World War 2. Oh wait, it gets better. Because, you see, since he's a viking, he fights the "Huns" with an axe. Not a gun, not an axe-gun, but just a normal axe. Oh, and did I mention that he has a spectral Valkyrie who follows him around, jealously commenting about his living love interest? Not all of them were Sgt. Rock, folks. Unsurpsingly, the story involves the Viking Commando being declared legally insane and unfit to serve! Written and drawn by his creators, Bob Kanigher and George Evans, this is a silly tale, almost comic relief. I think that Kanigher had big plans for the Commando (he was the star of All-Out War, which was canned after 6 issues in 1979... in fact, I think this story is a leftover from that period), but time has not been so kind to poor Valoric.

Overall, this comic was a lot of fun to read. You have everything from the sublime to the ridiculous all in 22 pages. All three features are enjoyable in their own way -- Unknown Soldier for the in-your-face, Dirty Dozen style war story, Enemy Ace for the more pensive approach, and good ole Valoric for the inane. Save for the slight confusion in the first story, the art is nice throughout, with each artist having a distinct and unique style. But most interesting to me is that this comic was published in 1982, and yet the kind of stories being told in it could have just as easily been the 70s, or 60s. For most readers, World War 2 (and heck, World War I for the Ace) has such a timeless feel to it that the stories about it (fictional or otherwise) never seem to grow stale or old. It's the strength of the setting and one of the strengths of the genre. The end was in site for this title (it would last but two more issues), but it does make me happy to see that DC was still publishing above-average quality genre comics during my lifetime. Not long into my lifetime, but during it nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What Looks Good?

Another week, another list of new comic books. I'm telling you, it's like they are on some sort of schedule.

Justice League: The New Frontier Special -- Well played, DC. Well played.

Graveslinger #4 -- Hopefully, this will not be the last ride for Frank Timmons. Time will tell.

Lucky Luke v.9: Wagon Train -- I've always wanted to read this series, as I like Westerns, I like trying out Eurocomics, and the lead character has an awesome name. Have to find it, though!

Also, ostensibly Borderlands will get their allotment of Project Superpowers #1 that they were shorted last week.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

4 Color Cinema

Justice League: The New Frontier
Justice League: The New Frontier

Okay, right off, no, I have not read DC: The New Frontier, though, yes, I have heard good things about it. I blame this solely on it being published in that period after I got out of college before I got "mad on" into the DCU. Because, in all honesty, this is a series right up my proverbial alley. But I'm here to talk about the movie, so let's get to that.

Right from the start you realize that this is not your typical Justice League adventure. In the late 50s, superheroes are still a source of fear and paranoia in the United States. The Justice Society of America has disbanded, Batman is seen as a menace, and Superman and Wonder Woman seem to be on shaky ground. Into this world are introduced three very important young men: police scientist Barry Allen, secretly the Flash; Air Force pilot and now fearless test ace Hal Jordan; and J'Onn J'Onnz, a Martian transported accidentally to Earth. It is through the eyes of these men that we see the planet face a peril heretofore unimagined, and begin down the path to a new age of heroism and courage.

New Frontier is a mature, relevant fable using the creation of the Silver Age as a very effective backdrop. The film ditches a lot of the politics, as well as some of the setup and supporting cast, to focus more on the members of the Justice League and their stories leading up to the it's formation. There's plenty of action and mystery, and cameos galore for those who are in the know. But even for casual fans or non-fans, there is a lot to enjoyed here, and even with the relatively brief running length of 75 minutes, the story never really feels cramped, abridged, or otherwise impacted.

The cast is an impressive group, and though the majority are primarily "face" actors, they do a good job on the voice acting. Miguel Ferrer stands out as the Martian Manhunter, giving him a human quality which was missing from the character's portrayl in Justice League, and David Boreanaz's Hal Jordan is equal parts likeable, impatient, confused, and confident. Jeremy Sisto's Batman is stony and intimidating -- the fact that he is only Batman, and not Bruce Wayne, helps add to this mystique. The ladies are also well represented, including Brooke Shields playing a fiesty and unstoppable Lois Lane, and Kyra Sedgwick of all people voicing the kinda-but-not-really-all-business Carol Ferris (a casting job I never could have predicted). And casting Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman? vey apt. Also of note is Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen, giving the Silver Age Flash more personality than he really had back then, but that's alright. And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Phil Morris as King Faraday, who brings a solid, WW2-era toughness to the all-around hardcore dude that is Faraday.

The design of the film is very true to the retro feel of the original series. It harkens back to the Fleischer Superman shorts as well as the very earliest Batman: The Animated Series episodes in it's human rawness, but also throws in strong dashes of Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino, which mixes things up nicely. Most everyone looks pretty true to their Wonder Woman rocking her old style eagle breastplate. All in all it's a distinctive, memorable look, one which I would like to see more of, even as I know that is not going to happen.

There's some neat little tidbits for the nerds in the audience. Besides the stars, we also get a few cameos of note, including Robin, a beard-less Green Arrow, the Blackhawks, Adam Strange, and Aquaman. In the finale, we see brief appearances by the Teen Titans, Black Canary, and a host of freakish villains. Even Captain Cold shows up! The DVD (I purchased the single disc version) contains a 40 minute documentary on the history of the League (which I sadly have not had a chance to watch yet), as well as 10 minute preview of the next DCUA feature, Batman: Gotham Knight. The two-disc set features more swag, including some bonus episodes of Justice League Unlimited for good measure.

The final verdict here is that if you are a fan of the DC Universe in any way, then you will almost certainly enjoy this film. It's a nostalgic trip back to a "simpler time," without being ham-fisted about it, a rolicking adventure, and just plain fun.

Monday, March 3, 2008

What I Read This Week

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash #5 -- I don't think I need to say that the spit really hits the fan here. Freddy Krueger is able to create "waking nightmares," Jason Voorhees has gotten an "upgrade" of sorts, and little Ashley Williams is stuck in the middle of it all. More violence and mayhem, and the The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly-esque showdown is set up for the finale next time. I am really enjoying this series, but if you haven't jumped on by now, just wait for the trade, seriously.

Justice Society of America #13 -- It's the Reign of the Supermen all over again! Okay, maybe not quite that drastic, but this issue does chronicle the meeting of Superman (of Earth-1) with Superman (of Earth-22, late of Kingdom Come). We also get some background on the big bad, get a little more information on the new Mr. America, and see firsthand the housing crisis at the JSA Brownstone. There's still a whole lot of characters here, and too many of them simply fade into the scenery (Power Girl, Liberty Belle, Hourman, most of the younger set). But In Johns I Trust (tm), so I am sticking with it. The art is by Fernando Pasarin, who has done some work on the title before, and it's not a huge departure from Eaglesham's work, but unique in it's own right. I enjoy this title consistantly, and suspect that Johns is building to something big (you heard it here: the "Justice Society Infinity" that has been bandied about is going to the international version of the team, and will feature most of the new guys).

The Pick of the Pile is Freddy vs Jason vs Ash. It was a light week (Borderlands got shorted on Project Superpowers), so it's literally only a two-horse race. And while I enjoyed the various goings-on at casa-de-JSA, the mayhem quotient in FvJvA proved too much to overcome.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Kevin Church sez: Get Off The Internet.

Frank, over on his ...nurgh... blog, makes some good arguments about Aquaman and his place in the DCU.

Check out rob!'s (my head is spinning from that grammar) New Frontier Contest, which your's truly did NOT win!

Similarly, Adama gives his hard hitting breakdown of Justice League: The New Frontier.

Hawkman stamp set? Oh yeah, you know Damian has got you covered.

I always thought it was weird that Spider-Man became so huge, but Ant-Man remained a bit player. Think about that while reading Rick's missive about a certain pair of bug guys teaming up.

Speaking of which, Bully may have concocted the greatest such team-up of all time.

And finally, check out the new Iron Man trailer! Looks sweet!