Monday, June 30, 2008

What I Read This Week

The Phantom #24 -- Did not read, as this was shorted to Borderlands by Diamond.  Evidently, Moonstone's time with the series is drawing to an end, which stinks.

Final Crisis #2 -- Morrison and Jones continue their deconstruction (of sorts) of the DC Universe as Dan Turpin finds himself closer to the truth than he realizes, the Justice League investigates the murder of a New God, and deep-rooted evil plans are partially revealed.  All this and Sonny Sumo!  I don't see what is so hard to understand about this series, honestly, as I can follow it fine and I am not neither a "DC Historian" nor a "DC Completist."  (And perhaps I should add for completeness sake that I am not a "DC Apologist," either.)  I am very much enjoying this series so far.

Caliber #3 -- I wish I could say the same about this one, though.  More lovely art paired with confusing storytelling, at least the general plot is easily digestable this time.  But so far this great concept has barely been scratched, and with only two issues remaining I am left disappointed so far.  

Conan The Cimmerian #0 -- A short introduction to the next phase of Conan's life, this features enough blood and carnage in it's short span to satisfy most feature-length stories.  Truman and Giorello have a good grasp on the character (colorist José Villarrubia's bold choice for the blood is also applauded) and seem to relish the idea of transitioning him into the mercenary/pirate era.  I do believe I will be checking this series out.

Project Superpowers #4 -- The (re)introduction of some interesting characters -- namely, The Flame, Hydro, and Pyroman -- make this installment more fun than the last.  That, and a more readable script which seems to finally have a sense of momentum rather than a series of vignettes.  I have been on the fence about this title lately, sometimes enjoying it and sometimes not, but for this month I am falling into the "enjoying" camp.  It will be very interesting to see how this series wraps things up for the revamped "Superpowers" universe we have been promised from Dynamite -- as well as whether or not that wrap-up will have me interested enough to invest any further time and money into it.

The Pick Of The Pile is Final Crisis, beating out strong competition in the form of Conan.  But Morrison and Jones' work is a superior effort and I eagerly await the next issue just to see what the heck is going to happen next, and that's a pretty ringing endorsement where I come from.

So what did YOU read this week?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Short Hiatus

Well, I am off to Hilton Head for the weekend, so unfortunately, no Weekly Dose of Weird nor Links this week.  The Bunker should be back on Monday with this week's new comics.  Till then -- have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Looks Good?

Well, this is going to be frustrating, because I have a lunch meeting on Wednesday, and have to work late, and then am leaving town on Thursday, so, yeah, all these lovely comic books are going to have to wait at the store this week.  Dang!

Conan The Cimmerian #0 -- I'll pick up this low-cost preview of the new series just to see the setup.

Final Crisis #2 -- Not being able to read this means I will have to avoid the entire internet until I can get to the shop!

Caliber #3 -- It's beautiful and mind-boggling all at once.

The Phantom #24 -- The Ghost-Who-Walks in it deep right now, so it's time to bust some skulls and hand out some Deep Woods Justice.

Project Superpowers #4 -- More heroes return; more bad stuff goes down!

Wow, looks like I am immune to the big "Marvel flood" this week!

So, what looks good to YOU?

True Tales From HeroesCon

Overheard while shopping at a dealer selling bootleg DVDs:

Random Guy 1: (holding the Japanese Spider-Man tokusatsu show) See! I told you the Japanese created Spider-Man!

Random Guy 2: When was that made?

RG1: The 70s! I told you!

RG2: Stan Lee created Spider-Man in... the 60s!

RG1: Whatever, I told you so! Spider-Man is Japanese!

Personally? I weep for the future.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Wrath Of CON! HeroesCon 2008

Well, after breakfast, watering the plants, and putting out food for the cats this past Friday morning, Adama and I headed up I-85 to Charlotte, on our quest to find the Charlotte Convention Center and spend lots of money at HeroesCon! But more than spending money, going to Cons like this is a chance to see the sights and meet the folks, whether it's renowned creators, indy guys you've never heard of, or just other fans like yourself. To that end, this really was a success on pretty much all levels.

(As a note, let me say that over at Dispatches From The Arrowcave, Adama has posted a ton of pictures of costumes and creators; I'm posting a few here but be sure to head there to check out more zaniness!)

Myself and Al Feldstein
Right after we got on the floor we ran right into Al Feldstein, whose work on the EC horror comics as well as the early days of Mad magazine have played a big role in informing my tastes. Mr. Feldstein was very gracious, and seemed really happy that there were still EC fans kicking around some nearly 60 years after they first began to be published. I picked up a Tales From The Crypt cover reproduction print, which Mr. Feldstein was kind enough to sign for me. (Luckily, there was a guy selling the print flats right behind us.) After Adam took the picture, Mr. Feldstein asked for a copy of it, so I am going to email him this week and thank him again. Starting off the Con in such a way really put me into a good mood. Not that I wasn't already in one (the sheer amount of capitalism on display warmed the cockles of my cold, shriveled Republican heart), but having such an engaging moment with one of the true giants of the world of genre comics really put me on a different sort of track. Like a relaxed euphoria which took the edge off some other Bad Things (tm) which were going on in my mind at the time (unrelated to comics). Really a great experience, I must say.

Myself and My Hero.  *swoon*
After some more shopping, Adam and I were trying to find the ultra-elusive (apparently, since we never even saw him) Dick Giordano, whom did we run into but Iron Man himself! This guy went all out, from the LED repulsors and Unibeam to the voice modulator! This guy certainly looked the part of one ready to fight and smite with repulsor rays.

While Adam went over to see Michael Golden, I took the opportunity to visit former Iron Man artist Sean Chen. I had forgotten to bring a comic for him to sign, so I ended up lucking out earlier in the day when I found a copy of Iron Man v.1:no.1 in a dollar bin. Unfortunately, Mr. Chen was on the phone (looking annoyed to be on the phone at that), but he was kind enough to sign my comic and at least flash a smile when I thanked him.

Barbecue, GI Joe Firefighter
Right as we were heading to lunch, we ran into the GI Joe team's firefighter specialist, Barbecue! I can't imagine he was all that comfortable in the fire suit and helmet, but he was a really cool guy nonetheless.

As Adam noted on his blog, I did set a screen on Darwyn Cooke while on the escalator coming back from lunch. I'm just standing there, my mind wandering, and the guy behind me asks if he can get by. And sure enough, it's Darwyn Cooke. I look at Adam and say "Wow, I could have held him hostage on the escalator!"

On Saturday, we started out on the other end of the floor, where we ran across the guys from Hallboy Comics, who had a nice display with lots of original art -- in the form of trading cards, buttons, and small poster-prints! We all got some nice swag; I picked up a trading card each of Iron Man and The Flash, and then a button of Luke Cage in his classic Power Man duds. Sweet Christmas! Check out their website with all of their original creations here, and see the art style here. Cool guys all around!

Since we were joined on Saturday with non-blogger Joe in tow (sucker had to work on Friday like a sucker!), and, seeing as Joe is the biggest GL fan I've ever met, we then made a bee-line for Ethan Van Sciver's table. Van Sciver was very amusing, and after we all made a comment about the randomness of having Tom Servo at his booth, he said that he was always on the lookout for other MST3K fans! The randomness continued, though, as who should pop up to talk to Mr. Van Sciver but Dan DiDio! I nudged Adam and nodded at him, saying, "That's Dan DiDio." To which Adam said "Where?" and I responded "Right there!" Repeat this exchange two more times. I'm personally amazed that when I shook Mr. DiDio's hand that I didn't just blurt out something stupid like "MIKE W. BARR ON OUTSIDERS!" or something. Mr. Van Sciver suggested we go to the DC Nation Panel later that day; I said that not only was I planning on going, but that I would make my Barr request there. For what it's worth, Mr. Van Sciver really seemed to like that idea. So maybe I'm not crazy.

The DC Nation Panel
The Panel was at noon, so we got up there about 11:30 to get good seats, and the room filled up pretty quick. From left to right, the panel was Matt Sturges (more on him later), Mr. Van Sciver, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Jann Jones, with Mr. DiDio standing on the podium. I knew things were going to be interesting when Ms. Jones brought in a box of Moon Pies! The Panel was pretty lively and I got a few words in, so that made me happy (even if I probably was trying too hard). When Mr. DiDio asked us what DC was doing that we liked, I called out "Outsiders!" evidently drowning out a guy in the front who had said "Final Crisis." I think my enthusiasm was evident, as he then asked me what I liked about Outsiders, to which I responded the pacing and action, as I have mentioned here on more than one occasion.

Once the floor was opened to questions, things got interesting. At one point, a gentleman in the back of the room asked if there was any truth the rumor that Rip Hunter was an older version of Booster Gold. I kid you not, the entire room, including the panel, went dead silent. We were all looking at each other with that "that's the most brilliant thing I have ever heard look." Dan DiDio was absolutely speechless and he dodged the heck out of it, not that I blame him.

There was a girl who identified herself as a Spoiler fan, and Mr. DiDio asked her if she was happy now that Spoiler was back. Her noncommital response annoyed Adam, who said in my ear "One of my favorites is dead, another just got murdered, and my top guy needs his wife to keep his comic from getting cancelled!" I can't say as I blame him, either. Another question about Catwoman prompted Mr. DiDio to ask if we all understood the concept of "when a book doesn't sell, we have to cancel it." He then explained that Catwoman will be moving straight into Tec, and that she isn't going anywhere. I didn't think his response was very dickish, but evidently others on the "blogosphere" thought it was. I don't know.

I finally got picked to ask my question, inquiring if we were going to get more "weird" stuff like Tor, The War That Time Forgot, and House of Mystery. I liked the response, which was that there is more of it coming, and while that audience is not very big, it's an audience they want to feed, which was pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear. Next, I made my request, taking it straight to the top: I told Dan DiDio to bring Mike W. Barr back to the Outsiders. This got kinda a laugh from the DC honcho, but he did say that after Frank Tieri's story, that big things are coming for the team, so I was happy about that.

Things got strange(r) in the Lightning Round, with Mr. Palmiotti throwing out Moon Pies to people, and constant references to "Mammazons" and Mr. Sturges' unfortunate choice to highlight a superhero-themed mini-golf course upcoming in Blue Beetle. Questions included whether Dan DiDio could take Chuck Dixon in a fight, a bizarre back and forth about a question involving Arrowette ("Arrowette...?"), and my utterly ridiculous request for Mr. DiDio to sign my Moon Pie (His response: "Find me later at the bar, maybe after you put a few drinks in me."), which I regret asking but oh well. Not a lot of news or information, but it was a ton of fun nonetheless.

Myself and Matt Sturges
After the panel, we hit the floor a little more in order to allow the creators to get back to their tables. As Joe went off to get his second batch of autographs from Ethan Van Sciver, I sought out Matt Sturges, whose House of Mystery is absolutely amazing. I gushed like a news anchor on CBS about how much I enjoyed the title. I had picked up a freebie copy from one of Adam's contacts we had run into, and it simply worked out. To my delight, Mr. Sturges said that because I liked the title so much, he'd give me a little run-down of it, and we went through the introductory parts of the issue, including the splash page, and he picked out each character and gave me a little tidbit about them. A very telling bit was about Hollow Sally's appearance; originally, she was depicted as hollow but still retaining her spine, but it was removed as it was simply too gruesome. Yikes! He struck me as a really cool guy who I think was excited to have someone be such a fan of his more off-beat title. (I was nice enough not to mention superhero mini-golf, as well.)

Soon after, we finished up for the day, then headed out to get lunch and catch a matinee of The Incredible Hulk (which was quite good, but that's a different post). Our wallets summarily drained, we decided to pass on going back on Sunday, but between Friday and Saturday, it was a pretty amazing Con. I had a lot of fun, met some really nice creators, saw some great costumes, and spent way too much money. That's pretty much all you can ask for in a Con experience.

The next one can't get here fast enough!


It occured to me this morning that I started this blog in June of last year.  So some quick checking shows me that, yup, El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker was launched on June 21, 2007.  So, it seems I have been doing this blogging thing for a full year!  

Big thanks go out to all my readers (you know who you are) and all the great comic bloggers out there who have inspired me and kept me honest with this thing.  Honestly, when I started this blog, I never thought I'd be able to keep it up, and yet, here I am.

El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker... making questionable choices about comic books since 2007!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Unbridled Capitalism: Queen City Spend-A-Thon (HeroesCon '08)

Well, the spending was fast and furious this weekend, as Adama from Dispatches From The Arrowcave and I made our way up to Charlotte, NC (along with a non-blogging friend) to soak up the goodness that is HeroesCon.  I'm still working on getting all the pictures together, so a full report will be later in the week, but for now, here's a rundown of the exactly one longbox worth of comics which I picked up at the show, meaning that your's truly really, really doesn't need to go back issue shopping any time soon.

Iron Man:  The Shellhead collection continues to grow, and I am within sight of finishing up -- which is amazing to me, considering.  Anyway, I added about 30 more issues to the box, including issues #40, 46, 67, 77, 80, 81, 85, 92, 95, 98. 100, 105, 116, 159, 161, 164-166, 172, 180, 285, 297, 301, 303, 304, 307, 310-312, plus Annuals 3, 5, 7, and 11.  I also snagged the issues of Force Works and War Machine which crossed-over with Iron Man for the "Hands Of The Mandarin" storyline, as well as a second copy of v.3:no.1 for Sean Chen to autograph (see my Con Report).  

I also managed to pick up, thanks to Adama's keen eyes, a pair of beat-up issues of Tales of Suspense for $2 apiece.  #90 is in pretty good shape, while the copy of #69 is rundown, including having the "Captain America" copy from the cover cut out with a scissors.  Still, ToS #69 is the first appearance of my favorite Iron Man villian of all time, Titanium Man, so for 2 bucks I'll deal with the clipped cover!  Another of the more unusual things I found was a copy of the Iron Man: Crash graphic novel, which you may remember as the first OGN to be completely illustrated using computer graphics.  And, shockingly, I got it for one dollar!  Hot dog!

(Batman And The) Outsiders: The "other" DC superteam was extremely well represented in my purchases this time out.  Right away I found a dealer who had a complete run of Outsiders v.1, the Baxter paper series, so I picked up nearly all of his stock, completing the entire series.  I followed that up with another dealer who had a huge selection of half-off trade paperbacks, where I was able to obtain four volumes of Outsiders v.3, leaving me missing a grand total of three issues to complete that series.  I also located and picked up three issues of the original series, #3, 28, and 31.  The latter two I have never read, but the former is one of my favorites from the Showcase volume, featuring the crew facing off with Agent Orange.  Topping things off, I found a trio of Outsiders v.2 in discount bins, which netted me #1-Alpha, 1-Omega, and 7 for the stacks.

Flash: The Scarlet Speedster's book has always been popular, so when you find row after row of DC Bronze Age stuff, you are bound to find plenty of Flash-y goodness.  Added to my burgeoning Pre-Crisis Flash collection were issues #234, 245, 254, 257, 262, 263, 265, 269-271, 278, 284, 286, 298, 306, 316-318, and 320.  I also purchased the long-lusted after (by me, anyway) Superman vs. The Flash trade, featuring some of the great races between Big Blue and the various Flashes.

Furry Underpants Crowd: A veritable opening of the proverbial floodgates, as between my shopping sprees and the freebies scored by Adama's forum friend, my sword and sorcery piles have grown into a minor horde, of sorts.  From Marvel, I managed to score nearly every issue I was missing of the classic Kull The Conqueror/Destroyer series, leaving me only #1, 2, and 25 to fill in.  I also picked up both issues of Kull's second volume, and #1-2 and 10 of his third Marvel series.  That more famous barbarian, Conan, was primarily found in freebies, but what freebies: full runs of the three-issue second Marvel volume, along with both the '94 Conan The Adventurer and '95 Conan titles, plus miniseries River Of Blood, Lord Of The Spiders, The Usurper, and the Vs. Rune one-shot.  The Dark Horse Conan minis and specials had some love too: the Daughters of Midora one-shot, The Demons of Khitai, The Jewels of Gwahlar, and The Book of Thoth are now all in my possession.  On top of those is a pair of issues of Savage Sword of Conan, #8 and 17.  Yay for comic magazines!

The DC side of the Furry Underpants Coin was substantial as well.  Things started off with a full run of the DC Explosion version of Tor, and then moved onto a full run of Beowulf, Slayer of Dragons.  Moving into the 80s, I found a nice run of Arak, Son of Thunder, obtaining #5, 7, 12, 21, 27, 28, 39, 44, 47, 48, and Annual 1, a solid foundation for picking up the balance of the title.  I also grabbed an issue of the classic Claw The Unconquered (#10), and a couple issues of Arion, Lord of Atlantis (#2, 9) to cap off what was a grand day for fantasy comics.

Weird Stuff: Combing discount bins for Mystery and Horror titles can be fun just for all the great covers.  But personally, I enjoy buying these comics as well, as you can see here.  Personal favorite Weird War Tales had the most exposure, and I added issues #24, 44, 52-54, 57, 59, 63, 66, 77, 79-82, 85, 88, 89, and 92 of the series.  Other DCs included single issues apeice of House of Mystery (#318, featuring I, Vampire), Ghosts (#12), and Secrets Of The Haunted House (#6).  I found a few Charltons as well, including Ghost Manor #11 and 22, The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves #64, and Haunted Library #43; Marvel even snuck in there with Journey Into Mystery #16 (volume 2, obviously).

Other Stuff: I found some very cool random stuff as well, which is half the fun of going to shows like this as far as I am concerned.  From Adama's lack of a punchlist for the title I managed to get a few issues of ROM, Spaceknight (#54, 61, 63, and 68), which no doubt will include lots of Dire Wraiths being blasted.  Other Marvels included Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos #143, a sweet copy of Devil Dinosaur #1 (!), Power Man & Iron Fist #89 (a series I need to be more conscientious about collecting at this point; I just keep ignoring it), Captain America Annual #6, plus Essential Captain America v.1, the latter of which was a cool $5.  

On the DC side, I managed to snag an issue of Black Lightning (#11), leaving me one issue away from completing that series.  I also picked up an issue of Star-Spangled War Stories (#164... Unknown Soldier!), Our Fighting Forces #175 (with the Losers), and Ambush Bug #1!  Amongst the freebies were the first three issues of JLA/Avengers (must... get... last... issue!), plus a nearly complete run of Wetworks v.2 (#2-15), which I have always wanted to check out.  And beyond that, I also managed to find a couple of interesting Gold Key books.  First is The Phantom #4, from 1963, which unfortunately was missing it's cover.  And second was, much to my surprise and delight, Huckleberry Hound #36!  The cover is no longer attached, but Huckleberry has always been my favorite H-B character, so the chance to see one of his Gold Key comics is going to be a lot of fun for me.

And that's it as far as purchases.  Once I get the pcitures, I'll start to put together my thoughts on the Con itself, including getting to meet a few professionals, my first DC Nation panel, and some other fun stuff.  So until then, enjoy!

What I Read This Week

Iron Man #30 -- Stuart Moore is still handling the scripting chores as Tony Stark's history catches up with him in a tiny former Soviet Republic.  Meanwhile, bad things are going down back stateside as a mothballed SHIELD superweapon gets a little more super thanks to some outside interference.  Another solid issue in what is turning into an interesting two-pronged story, with action going down on two continents.  De La Torre's art pairs up nicely with the techno-thriller setting and Moore has a good handle on Tony Stark, both past and present.  If the Knaufs are leaving the title, Moore would be a good candidate to replace them based on this arc so far.

Batman And The Outsiders #8 -- Batgirl has to save her teammates from the Chinese army, with a little help from some friends.  With Chuck Dixon's exit, it seems that what I have dubbed the "Jardine Saga" (in fact, I recommend DC collect the story under that title, as "Saga" always makes things sound dramatic) will be his sole story arc on the title.  But that's okay, as I am enjoying it.  Outsiders is an action title, and that is what we get: action.  Lopez's art is dynamic and fluid, and a great fit.  My main complaint: Where's Geo-Force?  We saw him last issue, so we know he was out on the Navy ship, but he doesn't show up this time.

Guardians Of The Galaxy #2 -- Time, Adam Warlock tells us, does not necessarily repeat itself, but sometimes, it does rhyme.  Such a case happens here as the newly formed Guardians discover a certain familiar shield frozen in a block!  This title is quickly establishing itself as fast-paced and fun, with a good mix of characters and a wide-open concept.  And anything featuring a talking bipedal racoon and a Russian talking dog, who just so happen to be at odds with one another, is a winner for me.

Flash #241 -- Speaking of talking animals, Gorilla Grodd is in town, and a guy of his stature makes the new supervillian Spin seem pretty tame by comparison.  Plus, just what have Brother Drive and Brother Think done by kidnapping Jai and Iris?  I have really liked "Fast Money," and Peyer has a nice voice for all aspects of Wally West -- hero, father, and regular guy.  He spends a good amount of time this issue in examining Wally's thoughts on how he dealt with Inertia after that dweeb murdered Bart.  It's interesting stuff, but at the same time one does wonder how this ties into the larger story... well, I mean, I see how it does, but it's very circuituous.  Williams' art looks fast, which is a good trait for Flash.  I am liking this team on the title, but I am not sure how long they will last.

Captain Britian and MI:13 #2 -- With Captain Britian dead, the Skrulls pour into Avalon in an attempt to secure all of the Earth's magic for themselves, forcing Pete Wisdom to call in a favor of sorts from the fairie folk.  Better than last issue by a good measure, Cornell does a good job of putting over the loss of Captain Britian as a blow to the entire island, as well as to the magical community.  I'm still not sold on the series -- it's hard to tell in the middle of a "SI" crossover -- but I can see how this is a setup for a superteam that deals with threats both normal and supernatural... you know, like Excalibur.  I'm less enamored with the new girl taking the role of British Kitty Pryde at the moment, but I have to give that angle more time to develop.  Penciller Leonard Kirk's work is very nice, I must say.  

The Pick Of The Pile is Iron Man.  Yeah, I know, a bold choice for me.  But it really was the best book of the bunch this time out, continuing the trend of mixing superheroics with intrigue and political machinations, all without reading like a poly-sci major's blog.  I actually really enjoyed all of the comics I bought this week, so between that and HeroesCon, it was a good Four Color Week.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Hey guys, up in Charlotte for HeroesCon, having way too much fun and spending way too much money! Here's some quick links I think you'll enjoy.

Adama busts out some neato trick arrows in this Adventure Comics spotlight.

Rick brings us one of my favorite obscure comics: The Green Team!

BONUS GAME: Check out Plas's super-suit!

As Lilbones knows, Cat Grant... Is kinda questionable.

rob! has always got Aquaman in the bag.

And finally, Frank shows off how his favorite beetle-browed badass is the greatest hero you've never really heard of.

Well, we're heading to the Con in a few hours, so have a good weekend everyone -- and pray for my wallet!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Yeah, she looked behind her, but who goes grave robbing in a miniskirt?  HOUSE OF MYSTERY #190
House Of Mystery #190 -- Finally, this chick understands the importance of looking behind her.

I. "Fright!" -- Gerald Rogers, an American studying in Germany, finds he has to join a fencing fraternity to win the heart of the beautiful fraulien Helga. As part of his initiation, he has to spend the night in a "haunted" house. Brushing off their theatrical tricks, he emerges the next morning confident of his success -- until he learns that he stayed in the wrong house, and the devils and ghosts he saw were the real thing. Naturally, he goes insane, rotting away in a cell, never to be visited by Helga. Typical.

II/III. "Cain's Game Room," "Cain's Gargoyles" -- Silly shorts, including a three-legged man buying shoes, and a perplexed mailman told to beware the shapeless "thing" in the yard.

IV. "A Witch Must Die!" -- (2 Chapters) In Salem, Mass, Esau is lovestruck with the young beauty Ruth... only she's married to Jacob, and he to Jennifer. Jennifer is understandably upset by this, and plots to have Ruth branded a witch and executed. Jacob arranges an escape for Ruth and their daughter Hester, fleeing to the woods. There they run into an Indian chief, who demands they leave, threatening to use his powers against them. When Jacob refuses, the Indian brings a tree crashing down on the family, only for Ruth to use her witchdraft to divert it's path and kill the chief.

V. "Cain's Mail Room" -- The Caretaker of the House answers readers letters.

Overall Weird Factor: 2.5 (out of 5)

Pretty average issus of House of Mystery, all told. The first feature has some really neat Alex Toth art, which really gives all the spooks an unearthly quality. The second feature is too predictable, though, and the art is stiff and a real let down after the first one.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird Bonus Feature!

Well, I am getting ready for HeroesCon this weekend in Charlotte, so I am going into a "content-free" mode for today. Hopefully this image of the Nazi Witch Doctor from last week's Weekly Dose will tide you over for today. I should have a new Weekly Dose, some new Links, and hopefully some reports from the Con up this weekend. In the meantime, enjoy! (Click to expand to SPINE-TINGLING size!)
Nazi voodoo bastard!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Looks Good?

This weekend is HeroesCon up in Charlotte, but if you think that is going to stop me from buying new comics this Wednesday, you're wrong, pal!

Batman And The Outsiders #8 -- Well, Chuck Dixon's time on the title is limited, so it will be interesting to see where the team ends up when he finishes with them. In the meantime, of course, the you-know-what is really going to hit the fan!

Flash #241 -- The battle against Spin and Gorilla Grodd continues, as the fate of Iris and Jai hangs in the balance. I am not sure if Tom Peyer is staying on long term or not, but so far this has been a cool adventure.

Showcase Presents: The Flash v.2 -- My wife just got me Essential Avengers v.6, I still haven't started Essential Iron Man v.3, and I have Showcase Presents: Superman v.1 sitting unread on the pile. Yikes!

Guardians Of The Galaxy #2 -- After the setup and teaser last time, I have been eagerly anticipating this cosmic craziness.

Iron Man #30 -- The Director of SHIELD brings it techno-thriller style. Even with Stuart Moore filling in for the Knaufs, this book remains top-tier.

So, what looks good to YOU?

True Tales From The Comic Shop

Regarding whether the upcoming Watchmen film will connect with mainstream audiences:

Me: I mean, Watchmen is held in really high regard, but it doesn't have the public awareness of even something like Iron Man.  Iron Man has been published for more than 40 years, Watchmen was only 12 issues published from 1986 to 1987.

My Beautiful Wife: Well, I guess it's hard to suck in 12 issues.

(Technically, this conversation happened in the car and not the comic shop, but still.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Critical Commentary: Wizard's Top 200 Characters

It may (or may not) surprise you that read Wizard magazine.  And have been reading it, in fact, since the very early days.  Say what you will about it's content, which has admittedly varied in quality over the years, but the mag has been a constant in my comic reading life since I was a pre-teen.  Recently, Wizard rolled over the 200 issue mark, and put out a pair of commerative issues to celebrate.  (Of course, this happened several months ago, but I am very slow about reading magazines!)  One of the specials was the "Platinum Anniversary Edition," and inside was their list of the Top 200 Characters Of All Time.  And while, overall, this list is not a bad collection, I really felt the need to make some sort of commentary on some of these choices.  I mean, honestly.

-- #65 Jason Todd; #68 Robin (Tim Drake): Wha... ?  How does Jason Todd rank higher than Tim Drake?  Their explanation that Todd has been cool since he came back from the dead simply doesn't hold water... does anyone, anywhere, actually like Jason Todd?  I haven't met any such fans.

-- #62 Red Skull; #139 The Leader; #143 Loki: I have no real problem with any of these rankings (in fact, I'd probably put Loki a little higher), but by who is not ranked... The Mandarin!  How can you put the top baddies for Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor on the list but not Shellhead's big bad?  Mandarin is one of Marvel's top universe-wide villians, and deserves to be on this list, if not the Top 100.  Will this anti-Shellhead bias never stop?!

-- #21 Daredevil: I just can't wrap my brain around how a character as inherently unoriginal as Daredevil can be so high on this list.  Whether we're talking about starting out as a poor man's Spider-Man, or languishing on the bottom of the Marvel barrel teaming up with Black Widow, or rushing to be re-invented into a poor man's Batman, DD has never struck me as anything but an also-ran.  His popularity baffles and astounds me constantly.

-- #14 Jesse Custer; #26 Cassidy; #31 Tulip O'Hare: Now, I know that Preacher was the Greatest Thing Ever because Garth Ennis is Just So Damn Awesome, but all three of the stars in the Top 50?  Not to use a "comic blogosphere" trope, but "really Wizard?  Really?"  Also note that all three of these characters evidently rate higher than Conan The Barbarian, Silver Surfer, Usagi Yojimbo, and Cerebus.  "Really?"

-- #1 Wolverine: Ahh, nothing says "Everything that everyone says is wrong with Wizard" than putting Wolverine on top of a list of the Top 200 Characters Of All Time.  Sometimes it makes you wonder just how much of their enthusiasm for things comes from actual appreciation, and how much comes from an editorial directive to piss off the netmarks as much as possible.

Good ole Wizard: You are many things, and boring is typically not one of them.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What I Read This Week

Iron Man: Legacy Of Doom #3 -- Fresh from escaping from Hell, Iron Man runs into Merlin -- whom he has not yet met -- and has to stop Dr. Doom from acquiring the scabbard of Excalibur, which will make completely unstoppable.  Of course, Doom has other ideas.  I know that this series is just a one-off, with no bearing on the ongoing title, but as far as I am concerned this is part of my so-called "personal canon" for Shellhead.  Bob, Dave, and Ron nail the classic tone and look of Iron Man and so far have really delivered on their promise to produce a third installment of the Iron Man-Doom trilogy which lives up to the others.  Top notch stuff which should make a good trade paperback in a few months.

Captain Britian and MI:13 #2 -- Did not ship locally, evidently.  Hopefully it'll be in this week.

Caliber #2 -- In the West, Arthur nearly runs into his lady friend Gwen, while his party runs afoul of the local law.  Meanwhile, the keeper of the great weapon finds his Chosen One.  This series has a great setup, but it's just confusing as all get out.  Garrie Gastonny's artwork is beautiful, but his storytelling is a little iffy, and his characters tend to look alike, so it's difficult to tell one from the other.  Sam Sarkar's script doesn't help differentiate them as much as I would like, either, so while it looks amazing, the overall effect is frustration as I try to puzzle out just what is happening.  Would probably benefit greatly from a second reading, or perhaps read in one sitting.  Still, I am going to stick with it.

Tiny Titans #5 -- Say hello to the Tiny Titans East!  Marvel at just how fast Inertia can run around the world!  Shiver at Enigma's nonstop knock-knock joking -- and Speedy's inability to escape it!  Witness the lamentation of Brainiac... I mean Psimon!  All this, and is it Robin or Nightwing?  Simply TOO CUTE for words.  It's fun and funny, and that's all I ask for from this title, and it consistantly and effectively delivers.

Robin/Spoiler Special -- Two tales from recently-destaffed scribe Chuck Dixon focusing on Spoiler, her relationship with herself, her relationship with Dr. Tompkins, her relationship with Robin, and finally, her relationship with her foot -- namely, driving it into punks' faces.  The first feature, with art by Rafael Albuquerque, details Spoiler and Robin have a "non-date" which ends with them tracking down a kidnapped little girl and laying some down some smack.  The backup, pencilled by Victor Ibáñez, flashes back to Stephanie's time in Africa with Dr. Tompkins, and her decision to return to Gotham City.  I picked this up on Lilbones' suggestion, and was very satisfied with it.  Doxon has a knack for writing the Bat-characters, and Steph and Tim are no exception.  As someone who came in with little-to-no knowledge of Spoiler, I walked away liking her as a character, and not adverse to seeing more of her adventures.  Ibáñez's art in the backup is smooth and eye-pleasing, while Albuquerque's is more of an urban take, harsh and immediate.  I like both of them -- Albuquerque's Robin has a sort of punk face which I would not like for Dick Greyson but looks great for Tim Drake -- and thought they both worked well for their stories.  As a one-shot, this is a solid pickup for Bat-fans or those who are interested in either Robin or the newly-returned Spoiler.

The Pick Of The Pile is a no-brainer with Iron Man: Legacy of Doom.  I had three really, really good reads this week (Caliber just didn't have it), but the combination of a personal favorite creative team with old school armored action that speaks to this fan specifically, I had to go with it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Let's start at the top with Rick showcasing this Hulk letterhead, then swing over to his Team-Up site for a classic meeting between Spidey and the Hulk, starting here and finishing here.

Adama scores an interview with one Mr. Mike Norton!

Plas gets into the delivery business?

Lilbones breaks out some sweet LEGO Batman screenshots!

Have any of you guys seen my finger puppet? rob has!

And finally, one should always include some Professor Hugo in one's Martian Manhunter diet, Final Crisis or not.

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

These heartless Nazi motorcycle soliders... are ACTUALLY SKELETONS!  WEIRD WAR TALES #19
Weird War Tales #19 -- I tell you what, for skeletons, those riders are pretty beefy.

I. "The Platoon That Wouldn't Die" -- (3 Chapters) The crack Nazi strike force known as the Blue Bolts is observed stealing the body of their commander from a gravesite right as US Intelligence determines that the man, Maj. Bruekner, has been reported dead three times! The Army sends in a convict named Harry Nielson, an impersonator and con-man, to infiltrate the unit and see how this is possible in exchange for his freedom. Nielson's first mission with the Bolts is to capture the officer who sent him inside; but things go south and Nielson is forced to kill him. In the ensuing escape, the Major is killed once more, and Nielson hitches a ride with the ambulance to see where he is being taken -- the Institute of Para-Psychology! Inside, the Major's body is wheeled into the Caribbean Research room, where Nielson finds a witch doctor performing a voodoo ritual to revive the Major as a zombie! Nielson tries to escape, but is blocked by the Bolts' Sergeant, which leads to a chase by a platoon of undead Nazis! Nielson flees to another room in the Insitute, discovering a control room -- the reanimated soldiers aren't zombies, but actually robots, the zombie angle being a ruse to fool the Americans! Nielson destroys the control room, and shuts down the robotic legion before escaping back to American lines, where we see that he did not, in fact, kill his CO in the raid. Eager to get started on his freedom, Nielson calls the Army a bunch of nuts and bugs out.

Overall Weird Factor: 4 (out of 5)

You have to like any story which starts out with zombie Nazis and then switches to robot zombies. A witch doctor in full regalia performing the voodoo rites over a Nazi is a nice touch too. This is a relatively rare full-length issue of WWT -- at least for this timeframe. Later, towards the end of the run, the title would host more long features and less shorts. But the constant twists make this a fun installment.

(Sorry this is a day late, I had training al day at work yesterday and things became more hectic than they had any right to be!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- "Conan The Barbarian" #195

Welcome to the furry underwear group!  CONAN THE BARBARIAN #195
My RL- and online-pal Adama snagged this one for me, along with several other issues of Marvel's long running sword-and-sorcery epic, during a quarter-bin hunt at one of his local comic shops down in Atlanta, Galactic Quest. See, it pays to have friends who are also into comics, as they will find stuff like this for you even when you are not around. Thanks, Adama!

Anyway, our story opens in a temple with the remains of the Devourer of Souls, who was defeated by the hero Kaleb The Destroyer, leaving only his cloak, cowl, and massive sword. A looter decides to pick up the sword, and faster than you can say "bad idea," the Devourer is reborn, and swears his vengeance as is typical. Meanwhile, Conan, who has been traveling with a group of soldiers and a princess named Annika, broods uncontrollably, much to the dismay of Annika. Another member of the party, an Eastern prince named Kobe, clashes with the captain of the soldiery, Shapur, after Kobe allows the command horses to run free. Sending Kobe to retrieve the horses, the prince is set upon by bandits lead by the warlord Bahkt.

Shapur eventually sets out to find Kobe, only to discover that Conan has gone ahead to confront the well spoken Bahkt. Our favorite barbarian easily defeats the bandit lord, while Shapur rescues Kobe from the poison-spiked prison he was being held in. Back at the camp, Kaleb's daughter Solaise has some strange -- that is, arcane -- interactions with her cat, causing several blinding flashes of light at the bandit's camp, while off in the capital, Emperor Strabonus hires a certain She-Devil with a Sword to hunt down Conan and bring an end to his travels in this region.

Overall, this issue is confusing on the details but decent on the action. There's a ton of characters, most of whom are not introduced very well or expanded upon all that much. This makes it very difficult for a reader coming in without having read the previous chapters to make heads or tails about the relationships of these characters. Why is Conan traveling with these soldiers? Who is Annika, and why is she so concerned with Conan's brooding? What is the Emperor's connection to all this? It's all very dense reading which is hard to comprehend, and scribe Jim Owsley doesn't seem interested in explaining all that much.

Beyond that, though, this is a perfectly fine example of the long-running series. Valdis Semeiks, who's name sounds like a character one might encounter in a Conan story, turns in a good set of pencils which portray the Hyborian setting nicely. His Conan is big and beefy, as he should be, and the action sequences, though bloodless, flow nicely. The Andy Kubert cover is nice, too. It's a simple enough story underneath the details -- just a rescue, essentially -- and it moves along at a good clip while setting up some future conflicts at the same time. In a sense it's nice to see some thought being given to driving the bigger story forward instead of 22 pages of hack-n-slash; even if the end results end up being confusing to the casual reader, I suspect that the long-term subscriber would enjoy such developments.

If I had the other installments in this saga, I think this issue would have been much better. But as it stands, this can be safely skipped as a single -- look for a run, instead.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The heck... ?

Chuck Dixon no longer working for DC Comics "in any capacity."

This news, coupled with Frank Tieri writing two upcoming issues of Batman And The Outsiders (specifically, the tie-in to "Batman: RIP") suggests that a sea change is coming for the Outsiders.  Which stinks, as I have really enjoyed Dixon's work on the title and was looking forward to a nice long run on it.  But this begs speculation: Who is going to take over?  I wouldn't mind Tieri at all, as I have liked his work dating back to his time on Iron Man.  And I suppose Tony Bedard could come back on, as he was originally supposed to handle the writing chores.  But I wonder if DC realizes that it is staring a perfect opportunity right in the face at this very moment.  There is an opportunity to do great things, amazing things, and I am willing to bet it would only take one phone call.

That's right, DC.  Get Mike W. Barr, that magnificent bastard,  to write the Outsiders again.  Now is the time for the Man to return!

(This message brought to you by the Internet's only Outsiders fan.)

What Looks Good?

I started on a new project at work this week, which means a new cubicle, a new phone number, and some new coworkers.  But it's good to know a world where things are always changing, some things you can almost always count on!

Tiny Titans #5 -- It's the feel-good comic book of the year, without irony.

Captain Britian And MI:13 #2 -- AKA Secret Invasion Goes All Mod.  The first issue was a little underwhelming, so I am hoping this one knocks my socks off.

Iron Man: Legacy Of Doom #3 -- I think it's safe to say that if, somehow, this creative team could do the regular Iron Man title, I'd probably die from the sheer joy.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Luke Cage & Iron Fist Fantasy Series: Year 2

Well, the first part of my fantasy summaries (link: seemed to be pretty popular with everyone here, so I am unfurling the second year of the series for your perusal.  This bacth contains my favorite story of the bunch (#17-18), and builds to a climax of all the main plots of the first two years in #25.  Frank commented that he liked the street-level approach to the series; the third and fourth year would have introduced more fantasy elements as the focus shifted slightly over to Iron Fist and K'un L'un, as a sort of balance.  But, for good or ill, here is the second year of the existing-only-in-my-mind Luke Cage & Iron Fist series.  Enjoy!

#13 "It's Just A Game" -- Hired to protect the controversial and outspoken football player Londell "Bad Boy" Jonas, Danny and Luke are forced to put up with the prima dona and his rodent-like agent. But even as Jonas gets the job done on the field, Luke becomes more and more impatient with his racial rhetoric, as "Bad Boy" sprouts epithets against anyone in sight. The climactic confrontation between Luke and Londell doesn't come to blows, but is a knock down, drag out fight nonetheless.

#14 "New York Underground" -- Lt. Scarfe contacts Luke and Danny asking them for help with a case he is working on involving several mangled, mutilated bodies of underground-dwelling homeless. Scarfe and the police think it is a crazed killer, but when the boys venture into the tunnels under the city, they find something quite different: A hideous, carniviorous, subterannean beast with an appetite for human blood!

#15 "West Coast Heroes For Hire pt.1: La-La-Land" -- Brought out to LA to meet with entrapanuer Grant Nettles, the boys meet with the eccentric billionaire and learn his plan -- he wants to "franchise" the Heroes For Hire brand and put locations all over the country! Danny is shocked, but Luke immediately goes into business mode, talking about licensing fees and intellectual property copyright. The negotiations are cut short, though, when the Wrecking Crew make their presence known!

#16 "West Coast Heroes For Hire pt.2: Down In The Valley" -- The LA Freeway is brought to a halt as Luke Cage and Iron Fist brawl with The Wrecker, Thunderball, Piledriver, and Bulldozer! Businessman Grant Nettles looks on with glee as the 6 men pummel one another during the middle of rush hour and right in time for the news stations to pick up live footage! What is his connection to the Crew? And what of his franchise idea?

#17 "Vice City pt.1" -- Luke and Jessica are caught in the middle of a drive-by on the streets of Harlem, and only Luke's quick thinking -- and thick skin -- keeps his lady from harm. Pissed off beyond belief, Luke begins to investigate into the shooting, and they find a twisting path of heroin, corruption, and sex, all leading to the man known as... Piranha Jones?! And where the Pirhana is, you know the Cockroach soon follows!

#18 "Vice City pt.2" -- Now facing down Piranha Jones, Cockroach Hamilton, and the barrels of "Josh," Luke and Danny learn that Jones runs all vice in Harlem -- and has been for years, right under Luke's nose. Further, they learn that Jones isn't the top of the food chain -- Power Master is! The fight spills from the tenements of Harlem down into the sewers, as its Cage's strength and Iron Fist's skill against Jones's steel teeth and Hamilton's now even more lethal Josh!

#19 "Interview With The Living Weapon" -- Jessica convinces Danny to do an interview with a new reporter from The Bugle, after ensuring him that she will only toss him softballs. Turns out Jessica is more correct than she realizes, as the young reporter, Jeanie Akers, has a bit of a crush on the handsome martial artist. While Luke complains that he would make a much better interview, Danny takes the girl to dinner to conduct the interview. It's all going swimmingly at the posh penthouse establishment, until dinner is interrupted by the might... the menace... the muscle of... Stilt-Man?!

#20 "A Double Dose of Iron pt.1" -- After the boys were unable to apprehend The Ghost last year, he has begun to make trouble again -- this time at a subsidiary of Stark International! Taking the gig partly for the money, and partly for revenge, Cage and Iron Fist search high and low for the mysterious corporate saboteur. Just as they are about to give up, having found nothing even close to a lead, who should pop up to help by Iron Man!

#21 "A Double Dose of Iron pt.2" -- Now working with Iron Man, Cage and Iron Fist track down the physical hideout of The Ghost while Shellhead works on protecting the Stark facility from further harm. When the Heroes for Hire surprise The Ghost, though, they are in for the fight of their lives, as he can not only negate the effectiveness of Danny's attacks, but reach right through Luke's skin! Can the boys hold out long enough for Shellhead to make the assist?

#22 "The Calm Before the Flood" -- With no cases on docket, Luke and Danny each take a day off to relax and unwind. Luke spends the day with Jessica, and Danny spends the day in meditation and training. Unknown to the Heroes for Hire, Power Master is also taking the day off -- getting a massage and making last minute preparations for next week's "big day." Caesar makes good of some free time as well, honing his skills and swearing that he will kill both Luke Cage and Iron Fist!

#23 "Gang War pt.1: The Rising Tide" -- The heads of the Maggia families are meeting in New York, and Power Master is not about to let this opportunity slip past him. He assembles an army of both powered and non-powered thugs -- including Caesar, Piranha Jones, Cockroach Hamilton, Hardcore, Wreckage, Stiletto, Discuss, Scimitar, and the Steel Serpent -- and sends them to "retire" the Maggia bosses -- so he can step in and take control! But, the Maggia are not so easily brushed aside, and have assembled their -own- forces to defend their interests, including Blizzard, Whirlwind, Shocker, Mr. Hyde, the Unicorn, Crossbones, Tombstone, the Rhino, and Hammerhead! Its all out war on the streets of Manhattan, and with the Avengers gone and the FF missing, its up to the Heroes For Hire!

#24 "Gang War pt.2: Never Tell Me The Odds!" -- On one side, Power Master's army is bearing down, while on the other, the Maggia's forces are standing their ground. And who's in the middle but the Heroes For Hire, outmanned and outgunned. Its a desperate fight, but in the end, Cage and Iron Fist have to retreat lest they become casualties of the Gang War. But all is not lost, as some phonecalls are made and REINFORCEMENTS are called in!

#25 "Gang War pt.3: Back In Business!" -- Double Sized Issue. With the Gang War raging out of control, Luke Cage and Iron Fist call in some backup -- in the form of Hercules, Black Knight, Sersi, and She-Hulk! The HEROES FOR HIRE are back! But can their combined might be enough to save Manhattan before Power Master and the Maggia destroy it all in their bids to run the Underworld? And what about Caesar, and his vow to kill Cage and Iron Fist? Its all out chaos on the streets as the three way battle roars to its conclusion. Plus: What will the fate of Power Master be?

Monday, June 9, 2008

What I Read This Week

Justice Society of America #16 -- I am reminded of the line from Ghostbusters: "Ray, if someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!"  The JSoA face down the true Gog -- god of the "Third World" who has re-emerged on Earth.  A pretty seamless transition from the previous story, Johns keeps things moving along and pushes in new and interesting directions.  New artist Fernando Pasarin does a good job rendering the towering Gog as well as keeping the look of the various colorful heroes at the same time.  Very enjoyable from start to finish, even if it does require you to know a few things about DC history to really appreciate and understand.  

Tor #2 -  This comic is many things, and almost of them good.  From the simple text on the cover to the pacing and progression of the story, from the timeless depction of Kubert's caveman to the feral visciousness of the saber-toothed cat, everything comes together very smoothly on this title.  For something which I would deem as "experimental" insofar as DC is publishing it now in 2008, this is a simple tale of survival and adaption, and making the most of what you have, even when you have nothing but your wits.  I wouldn't mind at all seeing DC getting Kubert to produce sporadic Tor minis or specials after this one wraps up.  Definitely worth your time to check this one out.

The War That Time Forgot #2 -- Ah, now things are getting good!  Last issue had a lot of setup to deal with, but this time we jump a bit more into the conflict, as we meet the other faction on the island and their strange diety.  The introduction of the Viking Prince and his friends on the side opposite from Tomahawk, Firehair, and Enemy Ace makes perfect sense, at least from the story standpoint, and sets up a very interesting dynamic.  I think that this series is really going to pick things up and just go bonkers.

Invincible Iron Man #2 -- Any comic with Advanced Genocide Mechanics and their leader, MODOG, automatically has a certain special something to it already.  Fraction pushes the "cool exec" mode just as hard as last time, and it's a good comic, but the artwork by Salvador Larroca did nothing for me.  For one thing, everything looks flat and static (a criticism levied often at Adi Granov that I do not share); for another, characters just look strange.  Pepper looks like a man for crissakes!  The Thor cameo will tickle fans of the Thunder God, but it smacked of more jobbing to this admittedly dyed-in-the-wool and paranoid Iron Fan.  Still, beyond those complaints, I really liked this issue, and this series is shaping up to be pretty fun.

Nova #14 -- Similar to above, any time Galactus and the Silver Surfer show up, generally, I am happy.  Throw it in with the awesome work that DnA have been turning out with this title, and Wellington Alves brutal pencils, and you have a recipe for success.  As Nova tries to appeal to Galactus to give him a few hours to get everyone off-planet, the Surfer shows why you don't mess with a Herald.  TI called this Marvel's answer to Green Lantern, and I mean that: DnA have the same affection for Nova and the Marvel cosmos that Johns has for the GL universe, and that affection shows on the pages.  

House of Mystery #2 -- The mystery deepens, as is appropriate.  Tig gets her bearings at the House and tries to figure out just how she got here, while the patrons hear a story from the greatest supernatural process server of all time.  Sturges and Willingham have a tight grip on their main story here, and while the introduction of the side stories does slow things down a bit, I don't mind; I like the idea of a broad backdrop of stories and characters to flesh things out.  The pacing and style remind me of Sandman, and that's pretty high praise from me.  The art in the main section by Luca Rossi retains that lmost minimalist, quasi-realistic quasi-fantastical look which I always liked on Sandman.  And Jill Thompson's art for the short is whimsical and fun, fitting with the narrator's tone.  All this plus the same awesome paper stock.  I think Vertigo has a winner on it's hands.

The Pick Of The Pile is a hard call this week, as everything was quite good across the board.  I am going to go a little out of the ordinary for me and go with Tor, which was exciting and intresting and just all around really well done.  But another good week from top to bottom, I must admit.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Rick gets us started with letterheads for the Outsiders and Teen Titans from the mid-80s.

Aqualung, my friend, don't you go away uneasy... you poor old sod, you see it's only Adama with a trick arrow!

Frank checks out the would-be archnemesis for The Indestructible Man, Baron Death.

Rick also has some sweet Con photos to show off. Wonder if I'll see any costumes this good at HeroesCon?

BONUS GAME: Boxing Plastic Man

I know Lilbones is looking forward to Mortal Kombat vs DCU after seeing Batman. I'm looking forward to it as well, but I was always that weird guy who actually liked Mortal Kombat.

rob always finds the best stuff, including this really cool Super Amigos card game!

And finally, Frank shows us the Last Days of J'Onn J'Onzz, but not like you think.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weekly Dose of Weird Bonus Feature!

You might recall in last week's Weekly Dose Of Weird that I mentioned a sweet in-house subscription ad for one of my favorite titles, Weird War Tales. Well, I got my scanner hooked up this morning, so he is a little Bonus Feature for you guys. Enjoy! (Click to magnify the weirdness to pulse-pounding depths!)
Weird War Tales subscription ad from GHOSTS #89

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Another in the time-honored tradition of cover stars who don't LOOK BEHIND THEM!  VAULT OF EVIL #19
Vault of Evil #19 -- I think I saw this in a movie once... it starred Abbott and Costello though.

I. "Inside The Tomb!" -- Two Egyptologists walk out of a crypt and promptly collapse as if in a waking death. Their partner, telling his girlfriend not to worry, enters the crypt and fumbles to the solution: his cohorts were hypnotized by the Pharaoh's mummified mentalists, their staring eyes still powerful some thousands of years after their death.

II. "Beware! The Ghosts Surround Me!" -- A German thief turns on his partner and hides out in an abandoned house. Needless to say he is surprised to find that the house is a weak point between two dimensions, and he has a conversation with spectral aliens! He's not conerned, since they can't touch him, but these things never work out well: when the police find him, it's only a matter of time before he discovers that he now exists in a limbo state between the two worlds.

III. "Strange Doings in Cell 4-B!" -- A viscious con is celled-up with an old man who seemingly has the power to wish whatever he wants into existance. The young con forces the old man to conjur him weapons and a getaway car, but just as he and his buddies are going to make their escape, everything vanishes. Should have gotten there sooner, as the wished-for items only lasted while the old man did.

IV. "The Evil Eye!" -- A shunned old hag is avoided like the plague -- literally -- thanks to her "evil eye." Driven from her hovel, she winds up in an old farm house, and discovers the strange object called a "mirror"... and promptly brings doom to herself in the process.

Overall Weird Factor: 2 (out of 5)

Not a bad reprint mag, as Marvel was known for at this time, featuring tales originally from Uncanny Tales, Strange Tales, World Of Fantasy, and Astonishing Tales. The second and fourth features are the best, while the first one is somewhat disappointing in that it really is not even close to the cover image, honestly. It's funny reading these, because just reading the anthologies makes it seem like Marvel was phoning in their Wierd stuff from this era, but of course that is not true; all the Weird talent was working on the Horror books like Werewolf By Night and Tomb Of Dracula. Also of note is a subscription coupon inside, which details just how many titles Marvel offered in 1975: 59 normal comics, plus Giant-Sizes and magazines. Yikes!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Luke Cage & Iron Fist Fantasy Series

Inspired by Frank's little "fantasy booking" of the DCU, I've decided to share a similar project I undertook (admittedly on a smaller scale) a few years back.  In the midst of "Avengers: Disassembled," I accepted a challenge on a Heroes For Hire message board to create a new HFH series.  I took this literally, and wrote the following plots/summaries for the never-gonna-happen Luke Cage & Iron Fist series, which was rendered moot when Cage became a member of the New Avengers, and later Fist got his own title.  Anyway, this is the first half of the two years worth of plots.  If you guys like this part, I will post the second half.  Enjoy!  

#1 "The Boys Are Back In Town!" -- The setting: Modern day MArvel Universe. Cage is working a case in Midtown, his old stomping grounds, when he runs into DW Griffith. Turns out that DW was willed the Gen Theatre after his uncle's passing, and DW sold the theatre to a big developer firm (it IS in Times Square) and made some big bucks! Luke and DW reminisce for a while, until the conversation turns to Danny. Luke laments than he hasn't seen his old partner since he moved out west...

Cut to Iron Fist busting into a Denver warehouse which is being used as a chopshop! Danny busts up the operation, but finds out that it is just one of many satelite operations controlled out of New York. 'Looks like I'm heading back home...' Danny thinks to himself, as he begins the cross country trek back to the East Coast.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, Luke is closing in on his prey: a flunky for a up and coming drug czar who has been making his presence known as of late. After Luke makes short work of the flunky's securty and makes some thinly-veiled threats, the flunky gives up that his Boss is not just in drugs, but has his fingers in all sorts of pies at once, effectively linking him to everything from numbers rackets to protection. With Jessica working on the "official" end of the investigation, Luke tracks down the supposed whereabouts of the "Street Lord," only to run face first into... Iron Fist!

The man who Cage was after is the same man Fist is looking for. Happy to see each other, the two men exchange information and agree to join forces to take down this guy. Cage and Fist make their way into the swank midtown office of their target, busting their way through heavily armed guards and into the armored (!!!) office of their employer, who is sitting with his back to the boys in his office chair at his desk.

"Alright, we've taken down all your goons, punk..."

"...So we suggest you show yourself!"

The man obliges, turning slowly, saying, "Now now gentlemen. Let's do try to be civil. This is my place of business." And as he turns he reveals himself to be... POWER MASTER?!!

Cage and Danny stare in shock. "No way... you're dead!" "Oh yes. Such a nuisance, that." And with that, the fight is on! A knock down, drag out brawl ensues, but in the end Power Master escapes. Luke and Danny go to Luke's place in Harlem to clean themselves up and sort things out, and end up talking about the old days and the old business. Luke gets a devilish grin, to which Danny can only look on in puzzlement as Luke grabs his cell phone, and makes a call to DW Griffith...

#2 "His Mother's Keeper" -- The first new case the Heroes For Hire take is an unusual one -- hired by a pimp to protect his ladies from a killer stalking the streets of Manhattan killing prostitutes. Faced with the life these women lead, Danny is shocked and appaled, while Cage puts on his best "not my problem" face. When they track down the maniac, he turns out to be the mentally unhinged son of a prostitute, taking vicarious revenge on his mother.

#3 "Midtown Mayhem pt.1" -- After several small businesses run by Palestini-Americans are bombed, a group of store owners get money together to hire Cage and Iron Fist to find the culprit. Without any real leads, the Heroes set a trap for the bomber, hoping to flush him out. When they find him, however, they are shocked to discover that the man is like a walking anti-tank squad! Enter: WRECKAGE!

#4 "Midtown Mayhem pt.2" -- Wreckage is revealed to be a former Army anti-armor specialist who, after the Gulf War, settled down with his Israeli wife. But when she was killed by a suicide bomb while she was visiting family, he snaped, and decided to bring his brand of "justice" to all those he blames for her death! Cage and Iron Fist are game, but can they stop Wreckage and his arsenal of explosives before any other innocent people are killed?

#5 "Road Trip!" -- Picking up a bounty for an escaped convict, Luke and Danny hit the road down South to make what they think will be some easy money. But nothing is ever easy for the Heroes For Hire, as they run into everything from road hazards to crazy chilli cooks to crocodiles! Will the boys survive their stint in Dixie -- and will Dixie survive their visit?

#6 "High Rollin'" -- The Heroes are hired by a multi-millionaire real estate developer who has had some strange goings-on taking place at his new, state of the art hotel in Midtown. Electrical systems seem to short out for no reason, and workers are nearly killed in an elevator accident -- saved only by the timely intervention of Luke and Danny. Who is behind these acts of sabotage? Would you believe... The Ghost?!

#7 "He Doth Stride Across The Earth..." -- Tracking down a lead on Power Master's syndicate, the smash front after front until they arrive at the Syndicate's nerve center. The Power Master himself is on hand, but informs the boys that he won't dirty his hands with their blood, leaving that to his "associate" Caesar! Cage and Iron Fist are in for a rude awakening, though, as Caesar is not only as fast and agile as Iron Fist, but as tough and invulnerable as Cage! In the end, Caesar and the Heroes fight to a standstill, and Caesar escapes. When Cage and Iron Fist reinvestigate the area, the nerve center is gone without a trace.

#8 "Close To Home" -- Cage agrees to take a case brought in by a little girl -- for a nickel. The girl is afraid for her mother, who is dating a man who can be as sweet as a puppy one minute, and a brutal sadist the next. Danny warns Luke that this is a matter best left up to the police, but Luke refuses to listen, hiding the girl and her mother in his apartment and going after the guy himself. What Luke doesn't know is that the guy's name is Calvin Zabo -- AKA Mister Hyde!

#9 "Due Process" -- Hired by a grieving widow to bring her husband's killer to justice, Luke and Danny head to some seedy neighborhoods to track down the young man she thinks is responsible. One problem: He's innocent! So says Daredevil, who listened to the kid's heartbeat and knows he is not lying when he said he didn't commit the crime. And he's not about to let them take the kid away without a fight!

#10 "Street Justice -- Its street level action as the Heroes For Hire and Daredevil bust heads and take names in their search to find the perpetrator of the cold blooded shooting they were hired to investigate last issue. Once they find the shooter though, will Daredevil's insistance on letting the law take its normal path be enough to counter Luke's desire to turn the guy's face into hamburger?

#11 "The Razor's Edge" -- While Luke and Jessica take a much needed long weekend in the country, Danny tries to take it easy as well. But his plans are dashed as he is attacked, seemingly out of the blue, by Scimitar! The two clash time and again, culminating in a brawl around, on, and in the NY Public Library. Who is behind this attempt on Danny's life? And more importantly, will he survive?

#12 "S.M.I.L.E. Time" -- Double Sized Issue. The Heroes For Hire arrive at their office one afternoon only to find the unpredictable Gordy sitting inside, waiting for them. Seems that S.M.I.L.E. has a use for them, as Gordy explains that the largest European arms dealer is in New York -- and packing some serious hardware for the highest bidder. Luke and Danny infiltrate the auction site, and find every conceivable sort of scum, villian, and generally not-so-nice type trying to get ahold of the weapons!

Yeah, I don't think anyone would actually buy this series, but hey.  You never know, right?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What Looks Good?

Hope you got all your comics from last week read (I'm looking at you, Lilbones!), because it's that time of week once again!


Justice Society of America #16 -- I can honestly say that I did not see the last issue ending the way it did.  But I would definitely like to see more of Citizen Steel doing the "unmoveable object" routine.

Tor #2 - I think DC should take more chances and publish off-beat stuff like this title.  The first issue was quite good, and really quite different from anything else I have read in a while.

The War That Time Forgot #2 -- See what I said for Tor.  I'd really like for DC to bring back just one War anthology title -- I'd write an 8-page WTTF back-up for a very reasonable rate!

Invincible Iron Man #2 -- Everybody's favorite cool exec with the heart of steel faces the threat of "Advanced Genocide Mechanics" and the son of Obadiah Stane.  Oooh my.

Nova #14 -- As a general rule, having the Silver Surfer show up as a guest star is a good thing.  That goes double for Galactus.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- "Steel, The Indestructible Man" #2

Steel faces the might of the Mineral Master, STEEL, THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN #2
My blog-pal Frank asked if I could take a look at Steel #2 after he looked at the first issue. Frank, ask and ye shall receive!

Our story opens with Hank Heywood, USMC, writing in his journal about reconciling with his pacifist girlfriend Gloria, daughter of Dr. Giles Gilbert, who helped Hank become Steel thanks to their "bio-retardent" formula. Gloria doesn't want to think about the war, pretty handily setting her up to get dumped at some point, I imagine. Anyway, Dr. Gilbert himself ponders how the vigilante Steel showed up right after he helped "fix" Hank... but how there just couldn't be a connection between the two events.

Meanwhile, everyone's second favorite Commander Steel nemesis who happens to be a Baron -- that is, Baron Death, out of costume -- and his henchman Bruno pay a visit to Dr. Moag, an America First member who was researching a strange device he happened to create which could transmute inorganic matter into animated, controllable golems. Thinking that selling this technology to the Germans -- oh, excuse me, the Prussians -- during wartime is a bold move for peace, Moag gives them a demonstration. But when Bruno tries to push the doctor away and steal the device, Moag is shoved into the beam (of course!), and trans-morgified into a blue-and-black skinned brute. Luckily, his clothes also morphed into a supervillian costume, as he quickly found that he could control and transmutate any item with any mineral content, and dubbed himself the Mineral Master.

Checking back in with Steel, Hank is performing a stunt to show off his usefulness to the Brass. (Huh?) Leaping from one plane, Steel body-glides down to a lower plane, almost losing it in a cross-wind but utilizing his iron-grip to grab the wing and make it. Once on land, we get to meet some more members of the supporting cast, including the doubting Senator Kulhammer, his daughter and obvious rival love interest Kathy, and her wormy newspaper-man beau Edward Runyon. The Senator blows the whole thing off, claiming it was a trick, while Kathy slips Steel a note documenting her interest. Steel is not left much time to ponder this, though, as Mineral Master hits the scene to destroy an airplane hangar. Ranting about how he would destroy the world's machines of war, he was confronted by Steel, who the Master called a "war hawk" in his rage. Battling on a rising ledge of stone, Steel eventually took a spill, but luckily the Senator's car broke his fall.

The Mineral Master would pop up the next day, taking over a radio station and broadcasting his ravings for all in the New York metropolitan area to hear. Hearing this from his desk at the base, Private Heywood snuck off, leaving his requisition forms behind, and ran from Long Island (although, I am not sure what USMC base is on Long Island) to Manhattan in 20 minutes. Busting in on the still-ranting Mineral Master, Steel rushed his foe, crashing through the wall and into the thin air of 40 stories up. The Master used his powers to transmute a handy save, while Steel, remembering how he gripped the plane's wing, digs his hands into the exterior wall and slows his fall. Unfazed, Mineral Master pulls a Green Arrow and busts out a trick arrow, transmuting a lamp post into a small ballista to attack The Indestructible Man. Steel redirects the projectile, only for Mineral Master to demonstrate his superiority by once again transmuting the arrow into twittering birdies. Showing surprising insight to a guy he had been in contact with for about 10 minutes all told, Steel deduces that the Mineral Master needs to be in contact with the Earth to be at full power; one heavy fist-fall later and Steel had hoisted the Master up above his head, pressing him straight up. For twelve hours, Steel presses Mineral Master high, until slowly his foe's powers fade, and he is unceremonously dumped on the street. Steel, exhasusted from his exertion, is left only to consider that love and being a soldier, indestructible or otherwise, just cannot mix.

This issue was my first proper introduction to Steel, and I just happened to find it in the 3/$1.00 bin at the Borderlands sale in 2007. Luckily, Dr. Gilbert helpfully retells the hero's origin for those of us who came in late. Anyway, it's pretty plain that this is a second issue; with the origin done and recapped, we get the introduction of a new villian, the ongoing machinations of the "big bad," a general idea of the series formula, and a few new supporting characters to round out the cast. Conway has a lot of enthusiasm for the character and the story, and doesn't play things too far from the norm for a patriotic-type character. This portrayl is aided by Don Heck's pencils, which give the story a vintage much more, how do you say, "classic" than the 1978 publishing date would typically suggest. The Captain America influence shines through all the way, but in a good way that is not too derivative, overall -- at least as non-derivative as these things can be given the ubiquitous nature of Cap.

Mineral Master is a pretty good villian, his goofball appearance not withstanding. The twisting of a pacifist into a lunatic is something of a novel change of pace from your typical Ratzi-goon types who normally get punched out by WW2 era heroes. His powers make him a formidable opponent, and his weakness would allow him to easily have returned had the series not gotten the axe. Interesting also is how Steel defeats him; it's commonplace in Superhero comics to showcase how physically strong your hero is, or his great durability, or agility, or intelligence. But it is a relatively rare case where you see his absolute endurance, as you do here. It is a cool switch-up which plays to further round out Steel's powers (and a bit of character as well) moreso than if he had simply punched Mineral Master into submission.

There's some awkwardly handled elements as well, unfortunately. The interplay between Gloria and Hank is stiff and blatant; it's obvious that they cannot be together because of her isolationist pacifism and his moral outrage. So the reader simply marks the time that they are together and moves on, since we know that he'll meet a girl better suited soon enough. And soon enough comes quickly indeed, as we are introduced to Kathy Kulhammer (in tow behind her milquetoast fiance) not even 10 pages later. Yeah, it's early on in what I am sure Conway thought would be a long running story, but the interplay is rough. Similarly, Dr. Gilbert's denial of Hank being Steel just sounds silly, although that storyline would at least turn itself around fairly quickly.

All in all, though, this issue was more than enough to make me a fan of the character and drive me to learn about the dubious legacy that he has had. Using this as a template to the series formula, I have no doubt that, as I said on Frank's Justice League Detroit blog, had the DC Implosion not gone down, that Steel, The Indestructible Man would have probably run for about 50 issues of hardcore, Nazi-busting action. Not the greatest run, but certainly respectable, especially given the relatively tough sell of WW2 era stories in general.

Commander Steel is waiting for the right concept for a revival. After his disaterous series of appearances in Justice League of America, he needs a new lease on life to redeem him. I think Frank has a point in the Commie-Smasher concept. But even if it's just the further adventures of the man busting up Fifth Columnists or smashing things up behind enemy lines, there's more Commander Steel stories to be told, and the concept is just sound enough to deserve it.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to work on my pitch.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What I Read This Week

Well, it seems that the links below didn't work as well as I thought via email, so hopefully these will work out better!

Action Comics #865 -- After Lex Luthor and Brainiac, Superman's rogues gallery has traditionally not been the strongest.  A change to that staus quo starts here as Geoff Johns and Jesus Merino pull a "Rogue Profile" on Toyman.  Who is Winslow Schott?  Is he the gentle toymaker who was pushed into a life of crime?  Or the cold, monsterous child murderer?  Johns made these types of tales on of his trademarks on Flash, and it works equally well here, as we feel some sympathy for Toyman while at the same time not too much sympathy.  I really liked Merino's rendition of the grotesque "classic" Prankster as well.  About the only complaint I have from this issue is the cover by Kevin Maguire, which looks nothing like any version of the Toyman seen within.  Worth picking up if you like the classic Superman foes.

Justice League of America #21 -- I picked this one up on a recommendation from several people, including Lilbones.  And, I must admit, as a prelude to Final Crisis (see below), this is a pretty enjoyable comic book.  The talky bits with the "Big Three" were a little tedious, and somewhat hard to follow, but the balance of the issue, dealing with the Human Flame and Libra, were very well done; I'd have taken that part of the issue as a sort of Final Crisis #0.  McDuffie's script meanders a bit at first, but settles down in the second half, while Pacheo's style is well suited to the action elements.  Still not really an issue of Justice League, but otherwise worthwhile reading.

Final Crisis #1 -- Or, Grant Morrison and JG Jones Destroy The DC Universe.  Well, honestly it doesn't come to all that in the first issue, but as far as first issues of such things go, this one is quite good.  Beginning with Metron giving Anthro the gift of Knowledge (in the form of fire) and then following "Terrible" Dan Turpin hunting down some missing kids, and seguing into Libra demonstrating a sample of his power, I thought that this issue crammed a lot into it's page count and made me hungry for more.  And that's pretty much all I asked of it.  Two points.  First, the death which we have all known about for such a long time happened in such an unusual way that I was unsure what to feel about it, and still am.  I mean, I know it's comic book death, but the handling of it was a little... odd.  And secondly, DC is using the "low gloss" paper which has shown up on a few other projects I have seen from them lately, including House of Mystery.  This paper rocks!

Futurama Comics #37 -- Stuck on a farming plnet inhabited by giant robots called the (wait for it) Transfarmers, Fry and Leela, along with super-stud Zap Branigan, must find a way to escape or else end up as victims of a pest-control protocol.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, Bender has a few magnetic problems of his own.  Any comic which opens with a whole planet acting like Pac-Man, features a barn turning into a giant robot, and a plan by Zap Branigan to build an army though "making it" with the women is pure gold.  

Dead, She Said #1 -- Another pickup thanks to Lilbones' suggestion, this pairing of Steve Niles and Bernie Wightson seems pretty obvious after the fact.  Following gumeshoe Coogan, who seemingly had a very bad night, as he tries to find the guy who shot him, leads down a lot of weird alleys in the big city, as well as out in the coutry.  Some nice hard-boiled stuff, with big heaping helping of strange mystery on top of that.  So far, this one has a lot of potential for awesomeness.

The Pick Of The Pile is a tough call, mainly between Final Crisis and Dead, She Said.  I am going to give it to Final Crisis just because of the anticipation that I have had for it, which the issue itself did nothing to deflate.  Dead, She Said was quite cool as well, and a very welcome surprise since I knew nothing about it going in.

So what did YOU read this week?

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Well, sorry this is late, but the file got left at work on Friday, making it hard for me to post it. But I am trying out the post-by-mail feature of Blogger and see if that works! So if the links don't come out right, please forgive me and I'll fix them later on. EDIT:: I fixed the links.

Rick gets us started with the letterhead of one of my favorites, Weird War Tales.

The J'Onn J'Onzz Memorial Service.

BONUS GAME: Frank takes a look at the debut of Steel, who's life would only be slightly less painful than his grandson's.

Hey, lilbones... this fish is smiling at me!

Scipio has a really good point with this post.

And finally, rob! shows off an... Aquaman themepark ride?! Dude, that's awesome!