Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Day Hiatus

Well, with my wife and I heading out for Turkey Day tomorrow in the (very) early morning, this will be the last chance I get to update before next week.  And, just to make it even more fun, next week I am going to be in beautiful downtown San Jose, CA for a business trip.  I'm bringing along a few trades (including JSA v.10: Black Vengeance, Rann-Thanagar War, and probably Essential Iron Man v.3), so if I get a chance at the hotel I might be able to update some.  If nothing else I'll get the chance to read some new (to me!) comics.  So there may be updates, even if they are sporadic.  

Anyway, have a happy and safe holiday (those celebrating) and I will see you guys later!

What Looks Good?

Well, this is going up early for the holiday.  So if you get some time on Turkey Day Eve, you might be able to find a few Four Color delights to gorge yourself on.

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom -- While I have enjoyed the first two of these, I am not sad to see their incredibly long titles finish.

Showcase Presents: Sgt. Rock v.2 -- More phonebook comics I will be behind on!

Unknown Soldier #2 -- What is the connection between the pacifist doctor and the faceless soldier?

The War That Time Forgot #7 -- It's got soldiers and it's got dinosaurs!  What more do you need to know?

Guardians Of The Galaxy #7 -- Well, the team stayed together for six issues... that's something, right?  Definitely going to try to get the Valentino cover.

Nova #19 -- Is the Nova Corps back?  And if so, is that a good thing or not?

Futurama Comics #40 -- The further adventures of everyone's favorite time-displaced moron, booze-swilling robot, and one-eyed space pilot babe.

glamourpuss #4 -- Luckily I was able to get #3 before this one was released.

So, what looks good to YOU?

Characters I Like: Havok

I was perusing Amazon.com earlier, beefing up my "Wish List" for the upcoming holidays.  And, unsurprisingly, I have more than a few Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase Presents volumes in there.  One volume I stumbled across was Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3, complete with this cover, and I was immediately reminded of a Character I Like -- Havok, the X-Men's favorite younger brother!

I was first introduced to Alex Summers in an old issue of Classic X-Men, although I surely cannot remember which one.  (I want to say the team was on Muir Island fighting Proteus, maybe?)  His "man of the atom" costume appealed to me for some reason, and the revelation that he, like myself, was a younger brother really sealed the deal.  His powers being visually interesting didn't hurt, and neither did his molto cool codename.  He was not nearly as popular as Nightcrawler (for my money the greatest X-Man ever, of course!), but he was always a strong second in my mind, looking at the overall X-picture.

Right around this time (the early 90s, natch) was when the X-books were "relaunched" with their new formats, including X-Factor getting it's new lineup, including Havok as the leader and main focus.  Of course, this was a no-brainer for me, as X-Factor quickly became my favorite comic book series.  Havok was way cooler than his stodgy older brother Cyclops by that point, plus he had a killer new costume, a super-babe for a girlfriend, and an all-around more entertaining team to command.  Everything was doing great in the Havok department.

Eventually, I fell out of the X-books habit, with X-Factor being the last one to go.  I still really dug Havok, but the stories at that point (the Phalanx Covenant being a major offender) were just not interesting any more and I moved onto other things.  I'd peak in on the title now and again, including picking up #124, the final issue, which pushed Havok into the alternate dimension world of Mutant X -- a title which I have always wanted to hunt down but cannot find, oddly.  Then once he came back to the X-Men proper, I'd check him out from time to time, including fighting against the Shi'ar in that big epic space opera from a few years back.

Havok is one of those second-tier characters who is just pretty solidly created and can play a lot of roles.  This is an archetype I tend to like, as it demonstrates a versatility and well roundedness which I think a lot of characters (even substantially more popular ones) lack.  Alex represents the best type of X-Men character to me, in that they are portrayed as relatively "normal" folks who happen to have mutant powers -- something which I strongly feel is necessary to get the whole "hated and persecuted" aspect down.  Alex Summers was a pretty well-adjusted guy considering his traumatic history and the fact that he could shoot plasma energy from his hands.

Add to this trait the idea of the "younger brother makes good," and it becomes pretty clear where my interest comes from.  Growing up in my brother's shadow, much like Havok did (from a metatextual perspective), I latched onto that as someone to emulate, who could make a name for himself as someone other than such-and-such's brother.  And when you are a kid, reading comic books and having big dreams, this is important, and not to be dismissed.  Yeah, he's fictional, but in the world of a pre-teen (what we'd now call a "tween") dominated by the praise and attention heaped upon your older, smarter, more successful sibling, even a fictional hero to look up to not trivial.  

This is Havok, and he is a character I like.

(Be sure to check out UncannyX-Men.net's very awesome Spotlight on Havok, where I got the picture from!)  

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I Read This Week

Batman And The Outsiders #13 -- With the Batman seemingly gone, Gotham City has become even more dangerous than normal, with Intergang staking claim to the city.  Batgirl knows she cannot replace the Dark Knight, but she has a plan which may just be able to... assuming she can survive a run in with the new Vigilante and avoid one with Nightwing!  Not really an Outsiders story per se (The title block identifies this as a "Batman R.I.P. Story featuring Batgirl"), but this is an enjoyable action-tale, a followup or sorts to Tieri's Gotham Underground series.  I don't know much about Batgirl (pretty much just what I have seen in this title) but I like how Tieri handles her, along with Spoiler, Man-bat and the new Vigilante, who's series I am not strongly considering buying.  Not sure where all this is going to go once the Outsiders take over their title again, but it's good stuff I think.

Flash #246 -- Linda West lies on her deathbed, and there's nothing Wally can do about it.  But that doesn't mean the Fastest Man Alive, even with his reduced top speed, isn't going to fight like hell!   This issue is a nice capstone sort for those of us who have been reading the title for a long time, as I was pleasantly reminded of a lot of great Wally-Linda moments from years past, including their bizarre first wedding when Linda just kinda vanished.  Alan Burnett and Carlo Barberi make for a good team with the character, handling both the main cast as well as the guest stars (including Red Arrow, Lian, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Batman) admirably.  It's too bad that the next issue is the final one (again)!

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Magog -- Two quotes essentially describe this one-shot.  The first, from the comic itself: "Honor and loyalty shine bright in this weary world."  The second, is from Melville: "He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."  Lance Corporal David Reid, aka Magog, is called away from his Justice Society duties to respond to a distress call from his old special-ops unit, and what he finds will change him pretty irrevocably.  Tomasi has a good handle on Magog and the other younger JSAers, and this one-shot deals more closely with "In The Name Of Gog" than the Superman one did previously.  The Starman backup from Johns and Kollins is pretty neat.  I don't know much about the Legion of Superheroes so I don't know if it is accurate or "right" or whatnot, but I do like Scott Kollins so that's a success right there.  If you are enjying JSoA then definitely buy this one.

Tiny Titans #10 -- Supergirl and Batgirl are the only Tiny Titans around, so they decide to have a tea party!  But will they be able to find a spot that doesn't have nasty crocodile men or a strange backwards weirdos?  And what about the empty, grumbling tummies of Streaky and Ace?!  Adorable as usual, this one will probably go over well with the daughters and nieces out there, given the two stars.  

Iron Man #35 -- War Machine wakes up in a very inenviable position: strapped down to an operating table on a Skrull warship!  But he's Jim Rhodes, he's been through worse.  The prologue to the new War Machine ongoing title finishes up here in typically (and utterly appropriately) explosive fashion here, setting up the status quo very nicely.  Gage writes a nice "tough guy" Rhodey, while Sean Chen is one of the premier Shellhead artists of my lifetime, so the comic looks great, too.  Chen's renderings of both the War Machine and Crimson Dynamo armors are fantastic.  My only complaint is that this is the final issue of volume 4 of Iron Man, and Iron Man isn't in it!  What the heck?!  That is just beyond stupid.  But, taken on it's own merits, this is an a very cool comic and has been an excellent story arc.

Halloween: The First Death of Laurie Strode #2 -- Laurie Strode is still haunted by the memories of her brother, Michael Myers, and his rampage across Haddonfield which left almost all of her friends dead.  Nothing can bury the viscious memories in her head, and things are only going to get worse when it seems that it's starting all over again.  Scribe Stef Hutchinson does a good job of emulating the tone of the first two Halloween films, really selling this series as being a legitimate part of the story.  And Jeff Zornow' art, especially the color palette which I absolutely adore, is a visual treat for fans of the franchise.  The first page nightmare sequence is amazing.  Definitely looking forward to the finale of this one!  One note worth mentioning: although I doubt many would be buying a Halloween comic for their kids, this issue does have some nasty gore as well as quite a lot of sex and drug use.  I only mention this because there is no Mature Readers tag that I could find, so this is just a "heads up."

The Pick Of The Pile is a tough one.  A lot of really good comic books this week.  But I have to give the nod to Halloween, which really hit the spot when I read it.  Everything comes together nicely in it and it really syncs up with what I am looking for as a psuedo-sequel to Halloween II.

So, what did YOU read this week?  

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Rick offers some color guidance with this Avengers letterhead.

Adama has a new plaything in the form of the Arrowcycle!

Lilbones takes a look at the second awesome episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold.

rob! shines a spotlight on Aquaman taking on the Atom's schtick.

Frank examines the first real "mainstream" appearance of the Martian Manhunter, along with the rest of the Justice League of America.

Did you know that the female Red Guardian was on the Defenders?  Neither did I, but now I do, thanks to james.

And finally, take a few minutes and check out Comicssouth.com, the newest place in the comic book digital world for Southern fans, creators, and whatnot to hang out!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Space Western Comics #42 -- Oh my, the thoughts that run through my head when I think about the fact that not only was there a Space Western Comics, but that it was still being published at #42.  (In the interest of fairness, this was a six issue stint in the middle of the numbering of Cowboy Western Comics.)

I. "Spurs Jackson And His Space Vigilantes Meet The Sun Masters" -- Above Spurs Jackson's Arizona ranch suddenly appear multi-colored discs which explode as they approach the suface of the Earth.  So Jackson does what any good cowpuncher would do -- he checks out a rocketship and blasts off to investigate.  They find a giant flying saucer and meet Aku, chief of the Sun People, who sent the discs to get Earth's attention.  The Sun People want to land on Earth, and offer their secrets for harnessing the power of the sun as a sign of good will.  The Sun People land in the desert and set up camp, and begin performing mysterious experiments which Jackson is not allowed to see, including creating the solar energy by-product called solarine, which is a concentrated energy source.  Spurs grows suspicious, and a distant supernova is his clue: seems the Sun People fled from the solar system with the going-nova sun, and now plan to harvest our solar energy to increase the temperature of Earth to make it suitable for them to live on!  Spurs rescues the humans off their compound using his six guns, then drops a 1000 pounder bomb on their saucer, blowing it sky high.

II.  "The Return Of The Aztecs" -- Strong Bow attends a ceremony in the desert with his tribe to rituallistically prevent the Aztecs who visited his ancestors from returning.  During the big arrow shoot in the ceremony, the tribesmen manage to hit a descending space ship containing, that's right, the descendants of the Aztecs, returned from the fabled planet Vulcan, closest to the sun!  Spurs Jackson contacts the Army, who supplies him with flame-throwing tanks for his troubles.  Unfortunately, the Aztecs are now immune to fire thanks to their Vulcan home, as well as making them extremely warm-blooded.  Some quick thinking by Strong Bow lures the Aztecs into an ice cave where they are frozen stiff -- as well as giving his tribe a tourist attraction.

III. "The Space Bronco" -- (Text Story) A mix up between a planetarium and the Planet Arium leads to all sorts of confusion.

IV. "The Outlaws of Mars" -- Spurs Jackson and his Vigilantes investigate why Mars begins glowing brighter and brighter.  There they run into Queen Thula, whom they have met on the Martian surface before.  Mars is losing it's atmosphere, and that is causing the red hills to appear more vibrant in color. Jackson figures that the chief scientist is lying when he discovers that the Martian surface has no iron in it, ans is just red clay, and finds that the air is being drawn from the surface to the moon Phobos.  Rocketing to the moon, they discover that the scientist is in league with the warlord Zakol, and plan to blow up the capital and take control of the planet.  Jackson and his men trick the outlaws into restoring Mars' atmosphere and then blow up their ship.

V. "An Amazing Space Journey" -- A Londoner ends up in Canada after getting abducted by some easily distracted aliens.

VI. "Hank Roper and The Riddle of Skull Valley" -- Hank is driving through Skull Valley while on manuevers with the Sheriff and spots a giant black UFO.  The UFO pulls them out into space and deposits them on a mysterious black planet.  They meet pale-skinned Anzo, Master of the Black World Nix, who claims them as Earth specimens.  Hank tricks Anzo into grabbing more specimens -- miltary ones!  The armor makes quick work of the Nixian ships, while the muzzle-blasts and weak gravity conspire, knocking Nix off it's orbit, leading it to crashland back in Skull Valley.

Overall Weird Factor: 5 (out of 5).

Oooooh... kay.  This bizarre Charlton from 1952 is a true relic to weirdness.  It's really trying to push Spurs Jackson and his strangely non-plussed team of Vigilantes, complete with bizarre science and typical atom-age style sci-fi.  It's not a bad concept as such, but it seems as if cowpokes and cattlemen -- even modern ones -- might be a little surprised to find themselves rocketing off to Mars or dfighting interterrestial Aztec warriors.  The stories all jump around a lot, as if they were pared down from full-length features instead of written as shorts.  Strange all around, which is why I must find more of this short-lived run.    

Thursday, November 20, 2008

DC Sampler #2: Vigilante

Inspired by Frank's posting of the preview pages of the Detroit version of the Justice League of America over on Justice League Detroit, and in honor of the appearance of the new Vigilante this week in Batman and the Outsiders #13, here is the two page preview of the 80s Vigilante series, from the DC Sampler #2

I got this courtesy of tonyznet.com, where you can see the rest of it.  I'll get around to posting some of the others I like at some point, including the pages for Grell's The Warlord, and of course the old school Barr (That magnificent bastard) and Aparo Batman and the Outsiders!  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Looks Good?

It's that time of the year, where the marketers start to demand that we go out and do the holiday shopping.  Why not rebel by taking capitalism inyo your hands and spend it your way?

Batman And The Outsiders #13 -- Who is the Black Glove?!  I doubt we'll find out here, but dang it, I want to know!

Flash #246 -- Wally's race is almost over, but what will happen to his family as he approaches the finish line?

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Magog -- When Geoff Johns introduced us to Lance Corporal David Reid, most of the blogosphere moaned about another legacy character being added to the case of JSoA.  Now they are moaning about Magog being back.  Make up your minds!

Tiny Titans #10 -- Intense laundry-washing action!

Iron Man #35 -- The final issue of the series and Iron Man isn't even in it.  Yeah, I like War Machine, but this stinks.

Archer & Armstrong: First Impressions HC -- Meet Obadiah Archer.  Meet Armstrong.  Put them togetgher and you get pure gold.  

Yeti vs Vampire #1 -- Are yetis the new zombies?!

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

4 Color Cinema

Batman: The Brave And The Bold

With the massive, massive success of The Dark Knight, it's no surprise that Batman is one the lips and minds of people all over the country and all over the world.  And why not?  The Dark Knight was a mature, edgily engaging film which showcased the depth of darkness prevalant in the very concept of Batman.  But, as I said at the time, why won't somebody think of the children?!  

Kids like Batman.  I don't know what it is, but Batman is a character which attracts kids.  And now that Chris Nolan and company have produced one of the most adult-oriented Batman stories of all time in TDK, it's only appropriate that James Tucker and company over at Warners should produce one of the most kid-oriented Batman shows since Superfriends.  Batman: The Brave And The Bold is the answer for parents who's kids at Bat-crazed but clearly not old enough for the cinematic experience just yet.

The first episode, "Rise of the Blue Beetle," sets the tone for the series.  Before the opening credits, we get a mini team-up of The Dark Knight and the Emerald Archer, with Bats and Green Arrow escaping from a deathtrap they have been put in by the bizarrely (and yet, appropriately) Bavarian Clock King.  The action is fun and fast, as the two heroes use their brains and their gear to escape the trap and "clean the King's clock."  Then, Batman seeks out Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, for a simple space mission to see if the young hero has what it takes.  But there is a change of plans, and they are catipulted to the other side of the galaxy to save a race of ameoba folk from the space warlord Kanjar Ro!

The characters leap off the screen like a page of Dick Sprang art.  Bats wears his blue and grey uniform (as he should, dang it!), his jaw looks like it was chiseled from granite, and he gives wry little narration during the action, talking about how he and Green Arrow compete with each other or how technobabble is a fancy way of saying "I don't know."   The animation is bright and colorful, fitting right in with a lot of popular kids action cartoons on the airwaves these days.  And I for one absolutely think it's great.  B:TAS is a 500 pound gorilla, so why try and ape it?  (*rimshot*)  TB&TB goes in it's own direction and does it wonderfully.  The fact that the series is set up as a series of team-ups makes it even more fun.  If you get to jet off to outer space, or Gorilla City, or Atlantis each week, it seems like its hard to get too stale or repetative.  

Diedrich Bader, who is best known to me for playing Oswald on The Drew Carey Show, has a good tone as Batman.  He's not driven like Kevin Conroy or shadowy like Jeremy Sisto or mumbly like Christian Bale, but his voice seems right on target in the lighter adventure.  His comic timing helps too.  The show itself is fun and entertaining even for the adults in the audience, such as myself.

With the first episode, this series won me over.  I am now very eagerly awaiting the rest of them, with their bevy of promised or teased guest stars ranging from such DCU regulars as Aquaman and Red Tornado to such outlandish choices as Jonah Hex and Kamandi!  It looks like Warners has another winner on their hands, and hopefully the kids will flock to this like the rest of us flocked to The Dark Knight, or, more accurately, the way we all flocked to B:TAS some 16 (!!!) years ago.  

Monday, November 17, 2008

What I Read This Week

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Superman -- Taken from his own world against his will, the Superman of Earth-22 is a stranger in a strangely familiar land, wheew the parallels to his world are all too plain.  But does he have the power to save this world, or will it too slip through his fingers into anarchy and despair like the last two planets he was a resident of?  Alex Ross both writes and handles the art on this one-shot special, which ties into the main In The Name of Gog storyline as well (apparently) as the other two JSA specials coming out this month.  Ross really seems to have a soft spot for this Superman, and I guess that makes sense considering what Kingdom Come has meant for his career.  The script is pretty straightforward albeit with some awkward bits of dialogue here and there.  But generally speaking this is a nice sort of spirtual successor to Kingdom Come, and allows Ross to expand somewhat on Superman's mental state towards the end of that story.  The scenes with Lois Lane alone are almost worth the cost of admission.  If you are reading Justice Society or are a fan of Kingdom Come then this one is wroth picking up.  

glamourpuss #3 -- Finally!  Took a special order but I got it!  And it was worth it, as Sim ratchets up both the historical speculation about the relationship between Alex Raymond and Milt Coniff, as well as their contemporary Rube Goldberg, as well as the biting fashion satire which is dead-on and hilarious.  Skanko's guide to Bikini Clubbing (as a way to get hot guys interested in you after you have given them an STD) is so bizarre as to make a thing of pure beauty.

The Pick Of The Pile is glamourpuss, which makes me think as well as makes me laugh, a rare combination.  The JSA book was good too, but somewhat peripheral (as of right now) to the bigger Gog storyline.

So what did YOU read this week?

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend (late)

Sorry these are late again.  But hey, better late than never, right?

As usual, up first is a letterhead via Rick, in this case Tomb of Dracula.

G Kendall takes a look at two Amalgam books -- Legends of the Dark Claw and Amazon.  I liked Iron Lantern, myself.

From Speed Force: Flash #246 gets a new cover.

rob! shows off some sweet Aquaman footwear.

Frank brings us some JLA Secret Origins.

BONUS GAME!  The DC Sampler part duex!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Weird Terror #10 -- As a general rule, if your font is bleeding, your comic book will get my vote.

I.  "The Man-Ape" -- A scientist kills his assistant, passing it off as an accident, and successfully puts his brain to the body of a gorilla.  The gorilla-man doesn't take kindly to this, killing the scientist, kidnapping the lovely (natch) female assistant, and heading off into the jungle.  The third assistant (!) hooks up with a local native boy and heads into the jungle, where the man-ape has shot and killed the alpha male of the local gorilla troop and assumed command.  The assistant shocks the other gorillas with dynamite, then shoots the man-ape dead, taking the secret of ape-human brain transplants to the grave.

II. "Nothing But The Best" -- (Text Story) Mr. Klipp, discovering he can read minds, soon becomes a local tyrant and real estate tycoon.  But one should never put too much faith in one's perceptions, as Klipp is shot dead by a young man, fighting to keep his mother's house from being foreclosed, who "thought" he had taken all the bullets out.

III. "couple of fishes" -- (Text Story) Two random drunks in a random bar both turn out to be spies sent from an undersea kingdom, but they decide they like the surface world better and head out to inform the President of the pending invasion.

IV. "The Deep River" -- Abel picks up his cousin Ansul from the hospital, where he is practically an invalid.  Abel nurses his cousin back to health, reminding him of the well they dug on the farm which lead to a deep underground river, and how Abel's wife Addie had to carry the water all the way back to the house.  Abel then reminds his cousin of how he found him and his wife kissing, so he whacked him on the head with a shovel and murdered and dumped her in the river -- now, Abel intends to finish the job.  Only Ansul gets the upper hand and kills his cousin first, dumping Abel's body in the river.  As Ansul confesses, and the police muse that the bodies will never be found, Ansul himself falls into the river, to join the others.

V. "Death Kiss" -- The quirky Dr. Skeeter is unlucky in love, so he builds a fem-bot with a kiss that can kill!  Sending her out to the taverns where he was humiliated, Rita chokes the life out of all of her paramours, but she only wants her "love daddy."  Dr. Skeeter clanks her over the head and thinks he has done her in, but Rita still wants some "alone time" with the doctor, giving him the kiss of a lifetime, so to speak.

VI. "Witch Girl" -- Four sisters (sensible Mary, vain Pearl, curvaceous Ruby, and clearly evil Elvira) inherit an old house and are met by young, good looking attorney John Bell, who is going to stay overnight in the house with them.  As each sister eyes the young hunk, Elvira finds a hidden room which was the haven of a witch.  Using the spellbook she finds, Elvira turns Pearl's prized face into that of an old hag, causing her to leap to her death.  Next, Elvira sends a legion of pests after Ruby, eating her alive.  Only when Elvira casts a spell on Mary, giving her a terrible headache, does John make the connection.  The interlopers bursting into the witch's den, Elvira commands the flames to kill them, but she doesn't pick her words quite right and is consumed by her own spell.

Overall Weird Factor:  4 (out of 5).

It was a surprise to see not only Ross Andru  but also Don Heck working on this thoroughly strange comic.  Heck's work is typical Heck, while Andru's looks quite nice on feature number four, with lots of strange color choices accentuating the flashback-laden story.  This is one weird comic that runs the gamut, with a man-ape, a killer robot, a murder mystery, withcraft, and drunks all in one issue.  Add to that is one  of the ads, a weight loss pill advertisement which shouts "FAT FOLKS!" in big red letters at the top!  Weird Terror ran for 13 issues (appropriately enough) between 1952 and 1954 before it slipped off it's mortal coil.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fair Trade: 300

One of the more unusual developments which I have seen with the rise of comic book movies in the last decade or so is the assumption amongst "norms" that as a comic book fan, you are not only aware of every property which is 4 Color, but also that you are in fact quite knowledgable about it.  Folks see that "based on the graphic novel" tag on a trailer and then go to their local nerd-resource for the info.  (This query usually includes the "they're called 'graphic novels,' right?" question, to my eternal frustration.  Does anyone who actually reads and collects comics call them "graphic novels" with the exception of actual OGNs?  I dig it when Hollywood creates a stereotype!)  It got to the point in 2007 that my wife's co-workers were asking her about the Silver Surfer because they assumed that, being married to me, she must know this stuff.  (To my non-comic book reading wife's great credit, she retained enough of my ramblings over the years to give a solid description of the Surfer.)  I am currently facing assumptions of this nature with Watchmen (as I am sure a lot of those reading this are as well), and I can fake it well enough for that.  And while I have not had the chance to read that one yet, another such occurance happened with the comic we're looking at today, Frank Miller's 300.

(Also, can I use any more parenthesis in this post?  Yeesh!)

Now, in the case of 300, faking it wasn't too hard, since I knew the story of the 300 Spartans already, and that's pretty much all you need to know.  But, for those who aren't in the know, 300 details the story of King Leonidas, king of Sparta in 480 BC.  Spreading into the Greek states is the ever growing Persian Empire, ruled by the great "god king" Xerxes.  The Persian forces, their rankes swelled by conquered slaves, strange beasts such as elephants, and the elite Immortals, have overrun any who have dared resist them.  But King Leonidas will not back down, as he mercilessly kills Xerxes' heralds, and then marches off with his 300 personal guard to Thermopylae, the "Hot Gates."  The terrain at Thermopylae will negate the Persians overwhelming numbers, and give the superior trained Spartans the advantage.  But can even the tightly-knit machine of the Spartan phalanx stand up to the overwhelming forces of the Persian Empire?

If you've seen the film version, 300 holds up quite nicely, in no small part because of director Zach Snyder's slavish devotion to Miller's visuals.  If you haven't seen it, well, you should probably be prepared for what may very well be the most entertainingly violent piece of anachronism ever commited to page.  Miller's structure (wherein the tale is being told by a storyteller) allows for hyperbole and exageration of a tall order; the battles on display approach fantastical despite their historic roots.  Miller's linework is reminiscent of his work on Sin City, only in color this time, thanks to Lynn Varley, with less shadows for the characters to hide in.  The characters themselves run the gamut, from the bulging Spartan soldiers to the strangely Asiatic Persian Immortals and the lanky, bejeweled divine emperor Xerxes.  

As befitting a comic book series which was adapted to film, every page is actually a two page spread, made even more emphatic in the oversized hardcover.  The result is a truly "widescreen" appearance, but the downside of this is that it makes 300 a very short read -- in fact, it'll take you a little longer to watch the film than to read the hardcover.  Admittedly, there's an extra subplot in the movie, but still, it's a rousing adventure but it doesn't last very long.  As noted, you also probably shouldn't use this as a source for your history report on the ancient Spartans, either, but this is a work of historical fiction, after all.

Fans of the film, or of Frank Miller in general, will definitely want to track down a copy and read this one.  Folks with a sharp eye and good memory will recognize all of the panels which Snyder used as his storyboards, and Miller's fanbase tends to eat up whatever he does, but this one is standout.  If you are not prone to liking Miller, I don't think 300 will change your mind as it still contains his usual excesses.  Similarly, if you like your history more, well, historical, then you should probably give this one a pass.  Still, this is a superior effort in a historical era not often represented in the 4 Color world, and most will themselves wrapped up in King Leonidas and his brave Spartans stand against the unending hordes of the Persians.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Looks Good?

As we start to move into the autumn, now is a good time to take a minute and see how pretty it is getting outside... on your way to you local comic book shop, of course.

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Superman -- The first of three specials which sets up the conclusion to "In The Name Of Gog."  After the short shrift given to the Gog storyline in the last issue, this should be a little more involved.

And... that's it?  Huh, maybe I will pick something up off the rack this week, like the Guardian Special, or maybe some IDW Star Trek titles, which I have been in the mood for.  We'll see.

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Critical Commentary: Invincible Iron Man #7

As you can probably judge from the title of this post, I received my copy of Invincible Iron Man #7 from Marvel yesterday, a couple of days later than I normally receive my subscription copies.  But that's alright, at least I have it in my possession.  I'd heard good things about this issue online, and a team-up with Spider-Man is usually fun, right?

Oh Sweet Christmas how wrong I was.

When the last issue of Iron Man v.4 (AKA Iron Man: Director of SHIELD) ships later this month, Shellhead will be back down again to one monthly ongoing.  And if we can expect more like this out of Fraction and (to a much lesser degree) Larroca, then it's about to a lean period for Iron Fans.

The plot for the issue is straight-forward enough.  Ben Urich wants to get a big scoop on the "superterror" attacks at Stark International by speaking to the people on the ground: the techs, the janitors, the administrators.  He brings along Peter Parker to get the shot which will accompany the article, since Urich thinks that since Pete used to work for Stark, he can get some favor with him.  From there it moves into Tony's mission to shut down the black market super-weapons ring he used to flush out Ezekial Stane in the opening arc.  Spidey, of course, tags along and helps out, despite Tony's protestations.

It's the details which unravel the whole thing.  First off, as Ben and Pete drive to Stark's facility on Long Island, we see a news van with it's station call numbers starting with a "K."  In Long Island.  I suppose they drove cross-country to get the story instead of picking up the national feed?  Later we see Iron Man moving debris in the attack site, only to have it topple and threaten some other workers, and Tony is paralyzed with indecision before Spidey saves the day.  Last week in Iron Man: The End, when faced with a similar but more complex situation, Tony managed to think it out and make the save.  But not here.  
After the ensuing argument, Spider-Man tags Shellhead with a Spider-tracer.  Nevermind that the armor didn't negate it outright, but where was Extremis to detect it?  When Iron Man tracks down the Terrible Tinkerer to a derelict motel in Jersey City, he simply walks up to the front door and knocks, which gives the Tinkerer time to activate his rocket-powered wheelchair (I can't believe I am typing this).  Of course, the wheelchair flies out of control and out the window, dumping the Tinkerer off.  And, wouldn't you know it, but Iron Man is just too slow to save the Tinkerer and stop the wheelchair from causing damage, so it's a good thing Spidey is there to save his butt.  Again.

When it's all said and done and the ring is broken, Tony and Spidey (who has not unmasked, remember, since he is unregistered, as Fraction has Tony harp on endlessly) discuss the night's activity, wherein Stark puts over Parker's Spider-tracer, calling more advanced than anything he has ever seen.  Spidey takes the opportunity to run down Stark in his head, saying how before the Civil War, Tony always was confident and cool, but now he's just a sad sack.  The story ends with Spidey getting a picture of Tony in his armor silhouetted against the rubble of SI.

I have to think pretty hard to remember an issue of an Iron Man ongoing that was not a tie-in to a major event storyline that is as bad as this mess.  Probably something back during the Grell run.  Which, I suppose, is appropriate, as one of the main complaints about Grell's run was how he depowered and devalued both Tony Stark and Iron Man, same as Fraction does here.  Stark comes off as a petty jerk, constantly reminded the "real" hero Spider-Man about how he is a criminal and he needs to register.  In times of crisis, he doesn't act but damns the situation that forces him to act.  Meanwhile, Spider-Man swings about having a jolly old time.  It's almost as if Fraction is audtioning for getting on the ASM writing team.

I can't say much about Sal Larroca that I haven't said before.  His human work, such as faces, can be a little weird to look at, but it's not bad, and his action work is quite nice.  I will give credit where credit is due and say that the art is perfectly fine on this title, even if it is a little different from what one might expect.

Much like the Thor cameo in "The Five Nightmares," this entire issue serves only one purpose: to remind readers who are new to Iron Man's adventures that he is a jackass, a snob, and an egotist who needs to be redeemed in order to be a hero again.  I'm not sure why exactly Marvel feels the need to mandate this, as we all saw in Iron Man that Tony Stark can and is a fun character who is not "broken" or "inhuman."  I can only hope that coming out of Secret Invasion and into Dark Reign or whatever the heck is next, that someone gets a lightbulb over their head and says, "Hey, maybe we should portray Iron Man as a hero again, ya know?"  Unfortunately I am not holding my breath.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend (Late)

Sorry this are late... you know how it goes when you have a weekend sometimes.

Rick gets us started as usual with this nifty Guardians Of The Galaxy letterhead.

I remember this Storm miniseries that G Kendall is blogging about, and even back then I wasn't sure why it existed.  Now it is even less clear.

Lilbones shows us horror straight from the Treehouse.

Scipio presents: The Vixen Effect, an effect which neither Luke Cage nor Black Lightning are effected by.

rob! shows off this very cool painting of Aquaman from the Vs card game.

james gets into the act with a look at the legendary Elf from the Defenders.

And finally, Frank shows us what the Justice League endorses as far as candy, apparently.

What I Read This Week

Kull #1 -- The barbarian king of Valusia has all but solidified his rule, but Count Areyas still stands against him.  Will Kull be able to breach the Iron Fortress, and if he does, what will his next move be to maintain control?  The new miniseries starring Howard's "other" barbarian hero gets off to a great start here, as
Arvid Nelson and Will Conrad weave an engrossing adaption of Howard's "The Shadow Kingdom," which is very demonstrative of the differences between the Atlantean and the Cimmerian.  I ended up with the Kubert alternate cover, which is also quite cool.  S&S fans will definitely want to check this one out.

House of Mystery #7 -- Fig, Harry, and Lady Anne begin to explore the dark and scary basement of the House, while the Poet entertains the guests at the pub with a tale about the never-ending battle between the cats and the birds in the eternal gardens.  The mystery deepens, as is appropriate, and the basement seems to have an odd effect on the residents of the House.  Just where this is heading (and what is lurking down there) is anyone's guess at this point.  The Poet's story was quite charming in a sort of C. S. Lewis kind of way.  

Justice Society of America #20  -- It's a reunion of sorts as the JSA meets the JSI, and New Earth and Earth-2 are introduced to each other proper.  It's a lot of explanation and hand-wringing, as we learn how the Earths of the new multiverse relate to one another and why exactly we have 2 Power Girls.  There's some good sequences (a section with Mr. Terrific meeting Earth-2 Paula Holt is really quite moving), but overall this feels more like a story which Johns "had to" tell in order to explain how things work more than anything else.  Pretty unmemorable, though the art from Eaglesham (New Earth) and Ordway (Earth-2) is top notch as usual.

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1 -- From the landing at Omaha Beach to preparing to move deeper into France, cartoonist Kilroy and top kick Sgt. Frank Rock run into each other, keeping up on each other as the Army moves deeper and deeper into the French countryside.  But this next manuver might very well be the last for all involved.  Bill Tucci's labor of love dedicated to the real Lost Battalion has been a long time coming, and is a very different animal than pretty much any Rock comic I have ever seen before.  For one thing, Tucci's look has a sort of Expressionist look to it, with deep colors and humanistic characters.  His Rock is not a square-jawed super-man (like the sketch Kilroy makes on the first page, obviously a Kubert Rock), but just a tough SOB who is going to do his job no matter what.  I'm not sold on the look just yet but the story and the detail have me, so I am on board here.

Storming Paradise #4 -- As 1945 gives way to 1946, the American advancement in Japan is slow going.  But while the Allied forces are bogged down moving from village to village filled with fanatical defenders, the remaining Axis powers have begun work on a weapon which will change the course of history.  This series is very thought provoking, but the way it goes about it is somewhat unusual, with Dixon and Guice focusing less on battles and brass and more on skirmishes and downtime; there's a sense of isolation and fear which I imagine is pretty accurate.  Features an appearance by a celebrity who already popped up in this series, which was a nice callback.

Invincible Iron Man #7 -- My Marvel subscription is acting up, it seems, as I did not get this yet.

Iron Man: The End -- Tony Stark, CEO and Chief Technologist of Stark Universal, is finally ready to unveil his greatest and last gift to humanity: Big Jump, a space elevator which will allow transportation to orbit at rougly 2% the current cost.  But even as Tony unveils his ultimate achievement, can he ever give up his earliest?  Or is he destined to wear the armor of Iron Man forever, wasting away after years of abuse inside the iron shell?  David Michelinie and Bob Layton, along with penciller Bernard Chang, tell a story which clearly draws a through-line from their time scripting the adventures of Shellhead, telling a story about control, heroism, and mortality.  A long time coming (I remember reading about the basics of this on Bob Layton's website at least a year ago), this does not disappoint, and any and all Iron Fans need to pick up this examination of Tony Stark as he comes to grips with not only the world but with himself.

Venom: Dark Origin #4 -- The newly united Eddie and symbiote take some time to get to know one another, and then head out to track down the hated Parker.  We hit more established Venom continuity here, and Wells and Medina do an admirable job of adapting it, though Medina's Venom is clearly more radical a design than anything MacFarlane concocted.  I don't think anyone who is not already a Venom fan would enjoy this, but as I am a fan, this is a lot of fun to read.

Two-Face: Year One #2 -- How bad has the justice system gotten in Gotham City?  Bad enough that having your fate decided by the flip of a coin gives you a better shot at a a fair verdict than a trial by jury.  And bad enough that Two-Face is leading in the polls for the position of District Attorney!  With Gordon and Batman at odds with how to deal with their former friend, will Two-Face extert his own brand of justice over the city?  Or will the mob still control the courts?  Mark Sable and Jesus Saiz go all out here, as we get to see Two-Face's campaign volunteers at work (including Riddler, Scarface, and Joker, who threatens to blind a voter's child if they don't vote for Two-Face), and Gordon's team of "untouchable" cops bring law and order back to the city.  This won't go down as one of the greatest or most important Bat-stories of all time, but this fits in very nicely with the other stories from this era and is one of the better Batbooks I have ever read.

Final Crisis: Resist -- Or, Checkmate shows up in Final Crisis.  I picked this one up on a whim and while there is some neat stuff going on here, I could have passed on it as I don't read Checkmate.

The Pick Of The Pile is Iron Man: The End, which was simply too strong for this Iron Fan to overcome.  But had that title not come out this week it would have been a dogfight.

So what did YOU read this week?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Well, for one thing, Velcro's boots are clearly not Army issue.  WEIRD WAR TALES #112
Weird War Tales #112 -- There are seven things wrong with this cover. Can you name them?

I. "The Medusa Sting!" -- In Egypt, the Creature Commandos are on a mission to harass Rommel's Panzer lines in order to buy General Patton enough time to set up his counterattack. After downing a Luftwaffe fighter, the Commandos take refuge inside a pyramid, where they find a gorgon-headed mummified queen, the spitting image of Dr. Medusa. All of the Commandos save the doctor then drink of a potent wine, which shrinks them down to the size of dolls! Carrying them in her hair, but now seemingly useless at their size, Dr. Medusa makes the charge on a Panzer encampment on her own, but is helped by her pint-sized comrades who team up to fire a machine gun and help wipe out the camp, giving Patton the time he needs. The Commandos return to normal thanks to the venom of the snakes in Dr. Medusa's hair, who had bitten the team while the doctor carried them.

II. "The Head Of The Battalion" -- During the French revolution, an ambitious lieutenant has all of his superior officers added to the list of traitors who shall meet Madame Le Guillotine. Now the commander of the battalion, the lieutenant leads his men into battle, only to find himself along against an army of headless corpses -- along with the ghosts of the officers he murdered! Startling his horse, the ghosts lead the lieutenant into a trap, complete with a wire, which decapitates the lieutenant and reunites his spirit with his unhappy former comrades.

III. "Nine Lives Are Not Enough!" -- A GI liberating France in the later stages of WWII saves a black cat from the Nazis, and is rewarded by the cat's mysterious owner with nine lives. Now a reckless hero, the GI throws himself into every situation, dying each time but returning thanks to his gift. Rising to the rank of sergeant, the GI now has other men's lives in his hands. Saving one of his Privates by diving on a grenade, the GI uses his last life... only to be reborn as a black cat, given another chance for his sacrifice.

Overall Weird Rating: 4 (out of 5).

A good introduction to the Creature Commandos, who really are pretty similar to the Losers except that they are all monsters. Kanigher seems to enjoy writing them and that shows through. The other two segments are also well done, making this a strong issue all told, even if I was a little skeptical up front because of the Commandos, whom I had never read before. Adding to the Weird Factor is an ad for the Swamp Thing film, as well as a clasified ad in the block used to hawk comic book catalogs which appears to be hand written -- and very badly at that!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Looks Good?

Man, I'm groggy after all that political back-and-forth.  I think I'll go to the comic shop and decompress, as it were.

(Congratulations to Barack Obama.  I didn't vote for him, but he pulled it off.)

Kull #1 -- Well, I said I wanted to avoid politics and look what is first?  The King of Valusia makes his return to the 4 Color page!

House of Mystery #7 -- What terrors lie in the basement of the House?  And what twisted tale of love shall we hear?

Justice Society of America #20 -- The JSA is fracturing from within, as the Justice Society Infinity shows up on the scene to make things worse!

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1 -- I've been waiting for this one months on end!  Billy Tucci spinsa tale honoring the sacrifices and bravery of the real Lost Battalion in what promises to be a top flight series.

Storming Paradise #4 -- Speaking of War titles, I have missed this one and am eager to see the next part.

Invincible Iron Man #7 -- Guest starring Spider-Man!  Will Fraction job out Shellhead to appease the anti-Iron Man newbie readers this title is aimed at?  Wait and see!

Iron Man: The End -- Bob and Dave are back, to tell the final Iron Man story ever.  Given what I know about this story from what Bob has talked about on his blog, this should be mind-bendingly awesome.

Venom: Dark Origin #4 -- We saw the birth of Venom last time.  Now that the two are together, what evil will they cause first?

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Unbridled Capitalism: Greenville Comic Con

Celebrating Halloween weekend, this past Saturday a couple of friends (including Adama from Dispatches To The Arrowcave) and I heaed to the ultra-posh (yeah right) Super Lodge in Mauldin for the Greenville Comic Con!  It was... well, a little small.  But when admission is a buck you expect that.  Still, for a small con in a small hotel, they had plenty of good deals to be found, especially in the very prevalent 50-cent bins.  So how much damage did I do?  Let's find out!

Iron Man -- As I get closer to finishing up my collection, I end up finding less and less of what I need at the shows, because mostly I need books which are going to be pricier.  Anyway, I did manage to add two more issues -- #102 (Sweet!  Dreadknight!) and 114 -- to the collection.  This leaves me with 35 remaining comics to track down!  I also picked up What If? #8, which looks at if Iron Man had lost the Armor Wars, and Soviet Super Soldiers #1, which features IM baddies such as the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man.

Hawkman -- As I detailed over at Being Carter Hall, there was some Winged Wonder stuff to be found, including Hawkman v.2:no.1, the 1986 Hawkman Special, Action Comics #588 (featuring a crossover with Superman), Secret Origins #11 (with the origin of the Golden Age Hawkman), Showcase #101 (featuring the Hawks and Adam Strange), and the Rann-Thanagar War TPB.

Power Man and Iron Fist -- Sadly, just one issue this time out, #61.

Batman And The Outsiders -- This seems to be a title that when I find it I tend to find it in bunches.  I was able to find a good run of the original series and finish my collection, snagging #20, 22-27, 30 and 32.  Now I just need to (somehow) make more headway in the 90s series!

Arak, Son Of Thunder -- See what I said about finding Outsiders in bunches?  Same with this series.  For 50 cents apiece I found #4, 6, 8-9, 11, 13-14, 16, 19, 26, 29-30, 32, and 34-35.  I'm very close to completing what is, believe it or not, DC's second most successful S&S series.

Flash -- A pair of Barry Allen issues (#238 and 293) coupled with a few of Wally West: #7, 9, 51, and Annual 2.

Weird War Tales -- Another single issue, #112, featuring the Creature Commandos!

"Weird" Comics -- Some interesting stuff here, including a pair of issues of House of Mystery (#213, 216), and DC Comics Presents #53, which teams Superman up with the House of Mystery itself!

Random Stuff -- I did manage to find a few odds and ends.  First up is Mystery, Incorporated, AKA 1963 #1, the Silver Age homage by Alan Moore.  I had this whole series once but ended up having to sell it, so should be fun to read it again.  Next was Secret Origins #21, which pairs up Jonah Hex and Black Condor of all people.  I also picked up Claw The Unconquered #12, the final issue of the barbarian's first series, and Action Comics #592, which features the infamous story of Big Barda and Superman making a porno!  Finally, I also managed to find Justice League of America #260... that's right, where Steel gets blow'd up.

All in all it was a very worthwhile trip.  Lots of Outsiders and Arak, and some new Hawkman stuff is always welcome.  Sometimes the small cons are a waste, but this was a great way to spend a morning with friends and comics.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What I Read This Week

The War That Time Forgot #6 -- Things get weirder (if that's possible) as it becomes clear that something even more bizarre than soldiers from different eras of Earth's history are trapped on Dinosaur Island, as it we get our first glimpse at just who is pulling the strings!  Bruce Jones' story has a lot of different elements to it, like an ensemble television show, but it comes together pretty nicely, and pairs up nicely with penciller Al Barrionuevo's consistant linework.  This should be enjoyable for fans of DC "weird" stuff or the classic War characters.

Captain America Theater Of War: Operation Zero-Point -- In the midst of the European Theater, Captain America is ordered to extract a Polish scientist who is trying to defect to the US.  But to rescue this man, Cap will have to face down the Nazi's new squadron of flying saucers and a German commandant who is both machine and man!  The Knaufs and Breitweiser deliver one hell of a slam-bang one shot for the Captain, with double crosses, super-science, and good old fashion fisticuffs.  Breitweiser's art is insane, depicting everything with a harsh reality which is perfectly suited to this sort of story.  

Marvel Apes #4 -- Marty Blank, AKA The Gibbon, along with the other outcast apes, must stop Captain America and his vamprific Invaders from opening the portal to the mainstream Marvel Universe and feasting on an all-you-can-eat blood buffet!  All this plus the Watcher Watcher.  Kesel and Bachs' miniseries has been high on the silly, but high on the fun quotient, too.  The conclusion does not disappoint, plus sets up the opportunity for a followup as well as introducing a new hero to the Marvel Universe, whom I am sure we'll see more of soon enough.  The "blogosphere" may have decided that this series "sucks," but obviously your mileage will vary.  Worth picking up the trade if you missed it.

Captain Action #1 -- The new Captain Action, son of the original, must single-handledly take down the all powerful team of superheroes who claim to defend the planet, but are actually the vanguard of the insidious extraterrestrial Red Crawl.  As the proper launch to the new series, this is alright, although much too short, as there are backups for both Fant'mas and Mandrake the Magician to fill up space.  I think I will pass on this "modern" series, though if Moonstone puts out any more "classic" adventures like the novella First Mission, Last Day, then I will pick them up.

Project Superpowers #7 -- The Superpowers fight against the F-Troop while the Fighting Yank makes the sacrifice which will either redeem him for his actions or curse him for all eternity.  The first chapter of the new Superpowers universe wraps up in pretty satisfactory manner, closing out the main thrust of what was set up at the front end while still keeping some things mysterious (including just who is running things, and who the other Superpowers are).  A better issue than the last couple, but I think I am going to pass on the next wave of titles.

Nova #18 -- Deep under Project Pegasus, the seige by the Skrulls continues.  But Nova and Darkhawk get some unexpected backup in the form of... Wendell Vaughn, the original Quasar?!  If you had told me that an issue of Nova would have guest-starred Darkhawk and Quasar as well as being a tie-in to a big crossover event, I would have told you it was published in 1993.  But here we are, and even more amazingly, it's really good.  Just goes to show that sometimes doing action superheroics is just fine, thank you.

The Pick of the Pile was Captain America Theater Of War.  I definitely felt that this was worth the $3.99 price point, considering the length and quality of the story, plus the great if not "name" creative team.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween! And remember kids -- you earned that candy, don't let your parents steal it for themselves!

Rick shows us the letterhead to the Now Comics version of The Twilight Zone.

Rick also checks in with this very cool Carmine Infantino repro of the cover to The Brave And The Bold #70, featuring Batman and Hawkman.

Revel in the adorableness of The Lilbones clan on Halloween.

I really dig this model sheet of Aquaman by Alex Toth, as shown by rob! The link at the bottom of the entry also leads us to...

BONUS GAME! The Phantom Stranger!

And finally, with her increased profile lately, its appropriate that Frank gives us Vixen's profile.

Have fun folks and don't eat too much candy! (Is there such a thing?)