Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hulk #8 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Hulk #8 about which I write the following sentences: "This is one of the most difficult comics to rate on the five-star scale. On the one hand, the artwork by Art Adams and Frank Cho is beautiful, and Jeph Loeb gives each artist a story which perfectly suits their style. So, the look of the comic is five-star, definitely. And by the standards of the quintessential 'Hulk' comic, issue #8 ranks pretty high. It's swiftly-paced, bombastic fun, perfect for a comic about a giant monster smashing stuff. But a sophisticated look at the Hulk mythos, it is not. Nor does it seem intended to be. It's a simple romp of a Hulk tale -- two different Hulk tales, actually -- and that's all it is. It's not going to change the world, or reinvent graphic narrative, or challenge anyone's assumptions about the character or the genre. It's a lot of punching and smashing, drawn with meticulous beauty."

Read the entire review HERE.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #4 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Secret Invasion: Inhumans #4 about which I write the following sentences: "Removing Black Bolt from the story, and having him strapped up to a Skrull contraption for most of the four issues, is kind of a genius way to explore the family dynamic within the Inhumans. I think one of the problems with the Inhumans, as a concept, is that Black Bolt's presence in any Inhumans story tends to be a life-sucking void. Black Bolt is a great character -- a great visual presence -- but since he cannot speak, we usually get scenes where the rest of the Inhumans defer to Black Bolt, and then…silence. By removing Black Bolt from the center of attention, the Inhumans all become more inherently interesting, and Pokaski gives Medusa some amazingly powerful scenes in this issue."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Batman #681 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Sick of talking about the end of "Batman R.I.P" yet?

Chad Nevett and I discuss the issue, its implications for the future of the Bat-franchise, and/or whether or not we "get it" in the newest installment of the internet's best place for comic book dialogue: The Splash Page.

Or, click here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

When Words Collide: Killer Serials

In this week's installment of "When Words Collide," I grapple with the concept of the serialized comic and explain why I prefer my monthly doses of comic book goodness to the trendy trade-waiting that the kids are all into.

The column was inspired by the two pronged assault of Morrison's Batman, which clearly has benefited from serialization (as it's grown larger in our minds because of the between-issues speculation), and Andrew Wales, fellow educator and man-of-serialization-preference-too.

I wrote the column a few days before Batman #681 hit the stands, so I foolishly included this line: "And I'm sure the conclusion to 'Batman R.I.P.' (scheduled for release the day this column will run) will hermetically seal Morrison's run all the more tightly." Little did I know that Morrison would give us even more to speculate about in the "conclusion"!

And, oh yeah, I really like Ghost Rider in my monthly doses too, and I really didn't want to put another image of Morrison's Batman on my blog (especially with "The Splash Page" soon to run and all). So, GHOST RIDER!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Batman #681 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Batman #681 about which I write the following sentences: "Is this issue a satisfying conclusion to 'Batman R.I.P.'? Yes, as the events of recent issues are explained and put into context more explicitly. But yet we're left with plenty of unanswered questions about the larger picture, and the final few sequences seem too abrupt, as if we're flashing toward too many previews of things to come even as some of the dangling threads have been left unresolved."

Read the entire review HERE.

Note: I stand by this spoiler-free review, even though I do say that the "true identity of Dr. Hurt" is revealed. I'm not sure I would say that anymore, because the more I've thought about it, the more I realize how ambiguous the reveal is. When I read it (twice) right before writing my review, it seemed pretty clear that Hurt was being revealed as the Devil. But as you can see even in the review, I conceded that we were left with many unanswered questions.

I do think Batman #681 is a three-and-a-half-star book, since it does plenty of things really well (basically all of the Joker stuff until his ambulance-fall-off-the bridge, the Club of Heroes arrival, the super-plans of the Batman, the flashback with the poison, the betting on Batman, the Zur En Arrh/Zorro in Arkham bit) and other things not so well (the rushed fragments of ending, the lack of a resolution or full explanation, some of the artwork). Still, as I mentioned in a comment on my annotations, I think Batman has been "by far" the best Marvel or DC ongoing series over the past six months. There's more to discuss in any single issue of this series than in a year's worth of other mainstream comics. And anything that provokes thought and discussion is better than something that doesn't as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Batman R.I.P." Part VI: Batman #681 Annotations

I've been annotating "Batman R.I.P." and discussing Morrison's Batman run nearly issue-by-issue since his "Clown at Midnight" story. Click HERE for all my relevant Morrison Batman posts, and comment below to tell me everything I missed. (Also, this issue seemed even more straightforward than the last issue, but I guess I might as well comment on this one just for the sake of symmetry.)

Batman #681: The Annotations

Cover: Doesn't this Alex Ross cover look like a Matt Wagner composition? It does to me, although I can't come up with a specific reference. Can you?

Page 1: This is the last entry from the Black Casebook, and not only does Batman write about himself in the third person, but he underlines his own name. Thus, he reinforces the notion that Batman is just a persona, perhaps one of many inside the mind of Bruce Wayne.

Pages 2-3: The old hero-buried-alive trope. "Batman thinks of everything," becomes a recurring pattern as we learn more and more about the foresight Batman has -- he plans for eventualities that would never occur to your average fly-by-night superhero.

Also, there's an I Ching "Book of Changes" reference here which relates to the Denny O'Neal-created character (for the mod Wonder Woman era) who popped up in Morrison's "Batman" during the "Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul" crossover.

Page 4: My guess is that this flashback scene takes place sometime during the events of 52, after the Batman-cleanse of issue #30. Not the red and black coloring, which turns out to relate to a Joker-devised pattern (if he is to be believed later on), but also evokes the notion of the Devil as I've been saying for a while.

Page 5: I'm not sure what the "hole in [Bruce's] mind" refers to, exactly. Is it a reference to the Dr. Hurt sensory-deprivation experiments, when Hurt tampered with Batman's brain and inserted stuff that didn't belong? That's what I assume. [Although, Hurt refers himself as the "hole" in things. So there's that.]

But couldn't it also refer to some deeper, more primal psychic scar caused at the moment of Batman's origin?

I think it's too ambiguous to make a positive assertion, but it may not ultimately matter as the important part is the notion that Batman has planned way ahead, and created the Zur En Arrh Batman as an OS reboot for his brain.

Also, the monk apparently works for the Black Glove, or the Devil, or whoever you think is "the Master."

Pages 6-7: Robin vs. Pierrot Lunaire and the Swagman.

Dark Ranger, from the Club of Heroes, shows up. He says, "formerly the Scout," who I assume used to be the Ranger's sidekick, and since the original Dark Ranger died in the story arc running through Batman #667-669, the Scout must have taken his place. Note that this pattern, of the former sidekick taking on the mantle of the hero, is part of Club of Heroes history, as it happened with the Knight and now with Dark Ranger.

Will the same thing happen as a former sidekick (like, say, Nightwing) adopts the role of Batman? One assumes so.

Page 8:Do you think Tony Daniel drew this page and then thought, "geez, I guess I'd better Photoshop some kind of hideous, blurry buildings behind the characters now?" or do you think editorial called up Daniel and said, "geez, Tony, we like the poses here, but could you add something really distracting and out-of-place in the background? Cool. Thanks." Or maybe Guy Major did it.

Anyway, the Club of Heroes has shown up just in time to fight some low-level minions!

From left-to-right, top-to-bottom, we have the Squire, Little Raven (or Red Raven), Man-of-Bats, the Musketeer, the Knight, Dark Ranger, and the Gaucho.

Page 9: More red and black flashback action as we find out that Bruce Wayne has -- aha -- switched the poison goblets because he planned ahead! Or, as he calls it, "force of habit." Or maybe it's because of that Princess Bride marathon he has every year with his best pal Alfred.

Page 10: Dr. Hurt and the members of the Black Glove pay their respects to the buried Batman. Note that he has a purposefully shallow grave because Hurt's plan is to un-bury Batman just after brain-damage sets in. Why? Because.

Jezebel Jet, who has turned out to be EVIL Jezebel Jet, wants to disfigure him. Why? Because.

Pages 11: The Joker reveals that he's not a mere pawn of the Black Glove, as we all suspected, and then revels in actually betting on Batman to take these chumps down. That's the Joker for you -- when the chips are down, he's always going to bet on black.

Page 12: That bat-radia was more than just a crazyperson radio. It was a secret transmitter. Suckers!

And I wonder if Jet's line, "an old broken radio he found in a derelict's abandoned shopping cart," is verification that Honor Jackson was merely a figment of Bruce Wayne's mind (like Bat-Mite). I say, yes.

Page 13: Back at Arkham, Le Bossu (now with a broken nose and/or disfigured face) prepares to lobotomize Dick Grayson as Scorpiana assists. But, silly Le Bossu, Dick Grayson was trained by BATMAN. He's not going to lie back and let you pound a spike into his frontal lobe without a fight.

Page 14: Flashback again. Bruce Wayne saves the life of the monk just so he can tell the bad guy that Batman is ready for him. Also, Bruce Wayne apparently "killed and ate the last traces of fear and doubt," which is nice. And here we were all worried, back when we read 52 #30, that he was going to stop being Batman or something. Ha, that would never happen. Never ever, ever ever.

Except maybe at the end of this issue, because he is dead.

Page 15: I like this silhouette of bustin-out Batman. Nicely done, Tony Daniel.

But when exactly did Batman write this Black Casebook entry? He dies at the end of the issue, and by "dies" I mean, we all know he's not really dead, but he's "dead" for now. But this Black Casebook entry describes everything up through the final confrontation between him and Hurt. So is this him writing about the visions of his future? Or is this him writing about his adventure after he "died"? I say it's a forgery, written by the Richard Gere character.

Page 16: Is Batman hunched a bit awkwardly? Does the shape of the figure and the basic musculature evoke Jim Lee? Is the image not quite as iconic as it should be?

Check. Check. And check.

Then it must be a Tony Daniel splash page!

Pages 17: The Joker takes credit for the red and black motif, referring to the 1980s phone-in death of Robin story. This page makes it seem as if Joker played a much more significant role as a puppet master -- perhaps something even the Black Glove members aren't aware of.

"Apophenia" is when you see symbols and patterns in random and meaningless data. Which is what critics accuse me of doing all the time. And readers accuse Morrison of doing all the time. And it's been part of the Joker's whole deal for the past several issues, implying that Batman sees patterns which aren't even there. Yet, Batman's pattern recognition has been pretty accurate, so what does that mean? It means the Joker is the crazy one.

And here the Joker explicitly calls Dr. Hurt the "devil," and says the the Joker trumps him.

What is beyond Good and Evil? The Joker.

Page 18: Tony Daniel reaches into his bag of tricks and pulls out another Batman pose much like the one a couple of pages ago, except with less shadow!

Jezebel Jet says, "I though I smelled dirt," but, amazingly, Batman has no trace of dirt on him at all. Must be that teflon fabric he started using in preparation for the burial alive he knew was coming.

All of which begs the question: if Batman has such foresight, why does he wait until things look to be at their worst before he reveals his plan? Why not just nip it in the bud like two years ago? I guess Batman likes dramatic tension as much as the next guy.

Pages 19: Batman reveals that he did fall for bad girl Jezebel Jet, but he suspected she was part of the trap from the "second after" he realized he had feelings for her. He's been acting the part of the love interest all along. Sure he has. This was ALL part of his plan.

Page 20: Batman knows everything about Jet's history all of a sudden, which is nice. And he gives props to Alfred for passing along some acting skills to young Master Wayne.

If the Black Glove was around 20 years ago, what does that mean? Does that tell us anything we didn't already know? I don't think so. (Other than the notion that the Black Glove is an organization that wasn't created just to mess with Batman.)

Page 21: Nightwing to the rescue, to which Batman says, "I heart you Dick Grayson with all my hearty heart."

Also, in his Black Casebook entry, he reveals that he couldn't nip the plan in the bud, because he didn't know which bud would blossom into EVIL. A flowering evil of flowery flora. I'm pushing this metaphor too far, and I will stop.

Pages 22: Apparently Robin saved the city while Batman dealt with his own issues.

I don't know how he saved the city, besides punching a few costumed bad guys with the help of Batmen International, but the Squire says he did, so he did.

Robin pulls a wicked sweet wheelie as he races off to Batman's aid. Showboat.

Page 23:
The final fate of Joker and an appearance by Damian and Alfred, all in a one-page scene. Talk about compression!

Is there a pattern to the fact that Damian is the one who sends the Joker over the bridge, or is it all randomness? Depends on whether you're Batman or the Joker, I guess.

Page 24: Exposition time. Note that between last issue and this one, Hurt and his cronies must have undressed Batman (who was wearing his purple, red, and yellow Zur En Arrh costume) and then dressed him in his more traditional costume. Then, on this page, he says he wants Batman to "put away the costume." Make up your mind, Dr. Hurt!

Hurt also gives Bats a verbal smackdown for being a trust fund orphan who "vents his rage and frustration on the poor," which is something I've heard Morrison say when he talks about the Marxist aspects of the Batman mythos.

Page 25: Dr. Hurt IS Thomas Wayne.

No, he's not.

He's Mangrove Pierce.

Um, no.

Okay, then he's "the hole in things."

Oh, "the hole." That wasn't on my list of suspects.

But you've gotta interpret "the hole in things...the enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning" to be the Devil, right?

Right? Just like I mentioned a few months ago.

Page 26: Hurt, or the Devil, or the metaphorical Devil, or whatever, offers Batman a Faustian Bargain: dedicate his life to the corruption of virtue and save the reputation of everyone he ever loved. "Nah," says Batman, before a 39-degree Lightning Dive! (Which he totally must have practiced for just such an eventuality. The old Satan in a helicopter scenario.)

Page 27:
The third evil Batman pilots the chopper, and if Hurt is the Devil for real, he doesn't show it by using his Devil powers in this scene. He just kind of whines about everything.

"The Black Glove always wins," Hurt says, as Batman's black gloved-fist makes the helicopter go all explodey.

Page 28:
Robin shows up a little too late (maybe if he wasn't hot-doggin' all the way here...)

Then Robin sums up the entire Morrison run in three word balloons, except he left out all the good bits.

Talia shows up, with her League of Assassins and their injections of -- one assumes -- Man-Bat formula.

Page 29:
It's a good thing Batman took off his cape and cowl before jumping onto the helicopter. Otherwise, Nightwing wouldn't have had anything cool to hold as he watched the flames from the rooftop. One wonders if he -- recognizing the symbolic importance of the moment -- would have swung by the Batcave, picked up a spare cape and cowl and come out to this spot to do the pose anyway. I can picture Dick Grayson doing that.

Obviously, this implies that Nightwing will become the next Batman until the real Batman inevitably returns (probably after a little bit of negotiation with the Devil -- maybe Batman will ride out of Hell on a flaming motorcycle! Cool idea, eh? What's Mark Texiera drawing next year?)

Page 30:
This page doesn't show Jezebel Jet die at the hands of Talia's Ninja Manbats, but I'm pretty sure they didn't fly by just to hang out. Still, I'm sure Jet will appear again sometime in the next ten years. Count on it.

Page 31:
Six months later, and no sight of Batman. That Battle for the Cowl thing must have kept him out of the limelight.

Le Bossu's "Even Batman and Robin are dead!" line on this page is answered way back in issue #676, as that Batman and Robin (who I guessed at the time -- and I stand by it -- to be Dick Grayson and Damian) shout "Batman and Robin will never die!"

I like how Morrison doesn't show that part again, but relies on the memories of the reader to connect the two pages -- separated by months and months of real time -- together.

Page 32: [Edited to add: Joe Chill pops up on this final page, foreshadowing the death scene to come. I presume his presence is merely ominous, but I think we can also assume that the Black Glove organization and/or the Devil was involved in Batman's origin. Or if we can't assume it, then we can guess at it.] We all know what happens to momma and poppa Wayne after that night at the movies, and the red and the black coloring ties it all back to the Joker and the Devil once again, but the cool part about this final page is when Thomas Wayne says, "they'd probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham." To which little Bruce says, "what?"

Then, in backwards lettering "Zur En Arrh." As in a slurring of "Zorro in Arkham." That's what this whole thing has been about -- the crazed Zorro, aka Batman, and his adventures into madness. I like how Morrison turns a 1950s nonsense phrase into something meaningful to the Batman character.

Batman is "dead." The Black Glove defeated -- sort of. Dr. Hurt is exploded. The Devil may or may not have even been part of this. The Joker's in a flying ambulance, headed for the river. Plot threads still dangle, and I wonder how many answers we'll get in the next couple of Morrison issues, which are all about Alfred looking back at Batman's life.

Or maybe anyone looking for a plot in the life of a character merely suffers from apophenia.

Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 about which I write the following sentences: "This is a PictureBox comic, after all -- home of Gary Panter art books and former Fort Thunder artists galore. So it doesn't look anything like your average issue of 'Ms. Marvel' or 'Nightwing.' It looks, on first glance, like an amateurish attempt at some kind of Tolkeinesque fantasy world, with tarantula men and elves, blue princesses and submarines. 'Powr Mastrs' openly rejects traditional comic book page layouts and storytelling techniques, striving for something more primal and confrontational. I don't think this is an ugly comic -- in fact, I think it's beautiful in its own way -- but it challenges the accepted notion of comic book beauty on every single page."

Read the entire review HERE.

Young X-Men #8 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Young X-Men #8 about which I write the following sentences: "But all of it adds up to exactly what I said in the opening: a perfectly fine comic. It's almost exactly what you'd expect a comic titled 'Young X-Men' to be. It's younger mutants acting like junior members of the X-Men. It even echoes some of the events in the 'Uncanny X-Men' series, as the former Young X-Man known as Ink -- who thought he was a mutant, but it turns out his tattoo artist was the one laying the super-powered ink on him -- runs into some trouble with the Hellfire Cult. The Hellfire Cult seems less frightening here though. This must be the junior varsity Hellfire Cult members. It wouldn't be fair, otherwise."

Read the entire review HERE.

Squadron Supreme 2 #5 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Squadron Supreme 2 #5 about which I write the following sentences: "Ten years ago, if you had heard that Howard Chaykin would return to comics in the first decade of the 21st century, and that he would not only end up drawing the Punisher, but he'd be writing a Marvel comic about a parallel universe, you'd probably think, 'I bet it will be great, with Chaykin's signature cynical wit.' Oh, how wrong you'd be."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Three Thoughts for Tuesday

1. The final page of Air #4 changes everything.
I'm a big supporter of G. Willow Wilson, and I think she's a refreshing new voice in comics (and, of course, I'm one of the mods on her discussion board), but I haven't been sold on Air after the first handful of issues. It's mostly M. K. Perker's art which really turns me off, but Wilson's strange characterizations -- her people don't act or react the way people normally would or should -- has baffled me. But the dreamlike aspect of the series has been growing stronger and stronger, and the final page of the newest issue puts everything in a strange and wonderful new context. It's definitely the best page Perker has drawn for the series so far, and now I'm looking forward to the next issue, definitely.

2. Joe Pokaski has come in as the writer of Ultimate Fantastic Four and, in a single issue (and an Ultimatum crossover issue, to boot) he's nailed the team better than anyone since Mark Millar.
Even Tyler Kirkham's artwork looks better (now that he actually has an inker), but Pokaski delivers a strong story in his opening salvo and he's great with pacing and dialogue. Forget the Mike Carey-written Ultimate FF of the past year or so -- this is now a comic worth reading again. Pokaski started with a bang on Secret Invasion: Inhumans, and it's nice to see him continue to produce quality work here. He is, by far, the best Heroes writer working in comics today.

3. I've always liked Amanda Conner's linework, but she's leveled-up in her work on Terra.
I can't believe how great Terra looks. It's a nice little series so far, decently written, but the art is fantastic. I think it's actually the best-looking comic of the last month. Amanda Conner has amped up her style, and it now looks to have echoes of Adam Hughes and Cameron Stewart or something. I know a veteran like Conner probably isn't aping other artists, but whatever she's done to her work has improved it dramatically. Maybe it's just because she's inking herself here, I don't know, but it looks gorgeous. I'd love to see her draw a regular DC title, though her upbeat style probably wouldn't fit the dreadful seriousness of most superhero comics these days. She's really, really good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Star Trek: The CW Generation

The other day, over at Geoff Klock's blog, I made a comment about the J. J. Abrams Star Trek trailer looking like something from a CW television show, and commenter Andy Bentley pointed me to this:

Pretty funny, no?

I wasn't being snarky when I said they looked like characters from the CW. They really do look more like teen prettyboys (and girls) than Starfleet officers.

Note: I am by no means a Star Trek fan or a Star Trek hater. I'm ambivalent about the whole thing. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ambush Bug: Year None #4

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ambush Bug: Year None #4 about which I write the following sentences: "Issue #4 isn't just a parody of '52' -- although it is that -- but it's a joke-filled attack on the DiDio reign, and/or the fan perception of it. Comic book fans are certainly not spared Giffen and Fleming's wrath, although it's certainly a blunt-edged wrath, kind of like getting punched in the face by a giant Ambush Bug-embroidered pillow. It's all in good fun, and because of Giffen's willingness to offend everyone, he gets away with it."

Read the entire review HERE.

Fantastic Four #561 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Fantastic Four #561 about which I write the following sentences: "Between 'Kick-Ass,' 'Marvel 1985,' 'Wolverine: Old Man Logan,' and this 'Fantastic Four' series, Mark Millar is producing some of the best work of his career. Critics have complained that his recent stuff is too-high concept, too pandering, or too much flash and not enough substance. But I think that's when Millar is at his best. He's not going to be the one to write the subtle, touching story full of thematic ambiguity. He's going to give you the summer blockbuster in the pages of a comic book, but with his own slightly-skewed twist. And though his 'Fantastic Four' run started off with some rocky, tonally uneven moments, this 'New Defenders' (Or 'Nu Defenders') arc has been quite good, and this issue is probably the best yet."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Interview?

It wasn't planned this way--as the two interviews were conducted weeks apart--but now you're just going to have to read another interview with me, this time conducted by CBR's Andy Khouri.

This one focuses solely on Teenagers from the Future and there's hardly any overlap with the one I linked to yesterday. In other words, you ain't off the hook just because you read that one.

So, if you are a Tim Callahan interview completist--and who isn't?--then hop on over to CBR and read all about Teenagers from the Future.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tim on Tim Interview Action

The generous and delightful Tim O'Shea sat down to interview me recently (and by "sat down," I mean e-mailed me some questions and I answered them), and he's posted the exchange at his blog, Talking with Tim.

It's like Frost/Nixon, but with more subtext.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Glimpse at What I've Been Writing

Art by Todd Casey, Simone Guglielmini, and Pat O'Donnell

When Words Collide: Twilight of the Space Gods

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is a continually under-appreciated artist. Sure, he has a "Modern Masters" book devoted to him, and all the cool kids have their complete run of "Atari Force" (of which he only drew the early issues anyway), but Garcia-Lopez deserves to be in museums. He deserves Wizard Top 10 status. He deserves to be tattooed on your forehead.

Or, if not that, then he at least deserves a reprinting of "Twilight," which has some of that fancy po-mo deconstruction by way of Howard Chaykin.

It's good. It's out of print. And I write about it in this week's "When Words Collide."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

James Robinson, Grant Morrison: ???

Two "Lying in the Gutters" things worth talking about, from this week's column:
I understand that James Robinson and Dan had a stand up argument that led to Robinson quitting the Superman books and the DCU in general.
Geoff Johns was HIGHLY supportive of Robinson at the Baltimore Con (and late at night afterwards), and I wonder how Johns will react to one of his teammates bolting just as the new Superman continuity is getting underway? Or maybe Johns himself wasn't happy with Robinson's work after all? Or maybe none of this is true and is pure speculation?

And a bigger bombshell from Rich:

A familiar source known collectively as "New York comics industry employees talking in bars" tells me that the last issue of "Final Crisis" is further delayed as it is suffering from serious rewrites. It appears that DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio was unhappy with the way the story concluded and the implications for the DC Universe for a while and had ordered changes from a, naturally, rather unhappy Grant Morrison. Considering this is the way he wrote the pitch for the book.

As a result, creative teams working on a number of spinoff and affected books have also had to stop work while the “Final Crisis” ending is reworked.

Expect more lateness, more annoyance and less likelihood of Grant Morrison doing DCU work in the near future.

Now, if this turns out to be true, and it sounds more than plausible, then this does not bode well for "Final Crisis," or the DCU, at all. If Morrison isn't allowed to nail the ending, then what's the point of everything he's established in the series so far? It's been a slow build toward something, and if he's not the one in charge of that something, it will certainly spell disaster.

Also, might this mean that "Batman R.I.P." will basically be Morrison's Batman swan song after all. He might not want to go back to the character if this kind of stuff is going down with "Final Crisis."

Rumors are rumors, obviously, but Rich seemed to nail the Shooter situation even though we didn't find that out until recently.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fantastic Four: True Story #4 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Fantastic Four: True Story #4, about which I write the following sentences: "Paul Cornell is one of the most inventive writers working in the superhero genre today, and if you missed this series in single issues, consider picking up the inevitable trade paperback collection. It may not look like one of the best Fantastic Four story you've seen in years, but it sure reads like one."

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Young Liars #9 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

You can't tell by this image, but the final cover of Young Liars #9 features a pull quote by none other than me. It's just one more step in my long walk toward unprecedented fame and fortune.

Sure, I'm not credited with the quote, but that doesn't mean I didn't write it. And sure, people probably aren't going to search for the relevant review and find out which brilliant CBR writer penned such an evocative and precise line of criticism, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't.

Let's face it. I'm a pretty big deal.

You know who else is a big deal: Chad Nevett. And when he and I get together to discuss Young Liars #9, it's like an epic battle of greats doing great things while wallowing in their greatness.

You should check out this week's Splash Page to see it all.

Or click away: HERE.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eternals Annual #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Eternals Annual #1, about which I write the following sentences: "Van Lente, aided by artist Pascal Alixe, provides more plot and characterization in his single story here than we've seen in the entire Neil Gaiman mini-series and the half-dozen ongoing 'Eternals' issue thus far. Van Lente uses captions to quickly establish who's who and the essence of their character (no small feat when you're dealing with a large cast like this), and then demonstrates the shifting alliances between the Eternals throughout their combat with the Young Gods."

Read the entire review HERE.

Black Terror #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Black Terror #1, about which I write the following sentences: "Black Terror' #1 is what happens when you take a silly public domain character and try to make him as 'cool' as possible. But just because you yell, 'this is serious!' over and over, that doesn't make it so. And it definitely doesn't make it any good."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1, about which I write the following sentences: "It's quite a powerful story, marred only by its incompleteness. It's part of a larger 'Kingdom Come'-inspired event that's running through a series of one-shots this season. So none of Superman's questions are really answered, but, then again, it's more about the questions than the answers anyway. And Ross handles Superman exceedingly well, providing a look at a powerful man whose burden is greater than anyone can ever know."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever, about which I write the following sentences: "This isn't a book built on a pervading logic, nor should it be. It's full of childish whimsy as the two kids, with costumes labeled 'Mo' and 'Jo' fight the supervillain Saw-Jaw whose sinister plan involves popping a gigantic hippopotamus parade balloon. The story is really a parable about the importance of teamwork, but as a parent, I appreciate that the lesson isn't so heavy-handed as to ruin a good story. The kids couldn't win without teamwork, but Lynch and Haspiel don't hit the reader of the head with the message any more than necessary. This is a book that revels in the silliness of kid superheroes fighting a lizard guy who's trying to pop a giant balloon, and it's all the better for it."

Read the entire review HERE.

Jack and the Box Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Jack and the Box, about which I write the following sentences: "Spiegelman has never been a great comic book stylist -- or if he has been, then his most successful style has been that of stark minimalism, at least visually. His roots in Underground comics might have given his earlier work a stronger sense of visual clutter, but even on the most densely-packed pages of 'Maus,' his simple, iconic characters and straightforward compositions unified the look. But even with all that in mind, 'Jack and the Box' is distilled simplification."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When Words Collide: Who is the Black Glove?

With only a couple of weeks left to go before the end of "Batman R.I.P." I had to weigh in on the various Black Glove theories, and that's exactly the kind of thing that's perfect for "When Words Collide."

So, check out my odds-making on the various suspects in "Who is the Black Glove?"

Then, go over to my WWC forum to add your own two cents.

And, if you're into it, you can go back and read all of my relevant Morrison Batman posts over the past couple of years.

After that you can, I don't know, do something more productive with your life. Or not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Teenagers from the Future in NOVEMBER Diamond Previews

Let your local comic shop know ASAP: you want your very own copy (or twelve) of Teenagers from the Future. Official order codey stuff: The 6"x9" softcover book runs 344 pages and carries a $26.95 cover price. The order code is NOV084474.

For more info on the contents (as if you don't already know), click HERE.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not Recommended: Tiny Life l(a

Writer Nick Jones sent me a copy of his self-published graphic novel Tiny Life: l(a, and I promised him that I'd review it here, if not at CBR. Well, there's just no way this book is professional enough to qualify for a CBR review, so I'll review it briefly right now.

In short, Tiny Life: l(a, which is -- according to Jones's introduction -- just the first book of a projected ten-book series, is a nearly total failure. As a concept, it's not without merits, and the core of the story seems to be about exploring the nature of identity when your dad turns out to be the Second Coming, but the art by Nicolas Colacitti and Nick Jones is abysmal, the storytelling is elliptical without being poetic, and the thematic concerns are so blatant that it's more like a series of diary entries than a narrative.

And, shockingly, embarrassingly, Jones has decided to use an incredibly difficult to decipher font to reveal some of the most central plot information, and he insists on building to a climax only to have information displayed in supposedly handwritten letters. I don't know the name of the font Jones uses for the "handwriting," but it completely ruins those sections of the story. And Jones decides to turn this book into an epistolary story the longer it goes on, forcing more and more letters and (thankfully, easier-to-read) journal pages on the reader. A single letter, revealing essential plot information, might have worked just fine in the context of this book, but the repeated use of the letters and journals turns the story into a parody of itself. I flipped each page wondering when another impossible to read letter might pop up and completely shut the story down.

This is clearly a very personal comic. Jones talks in his introduction about how long he's worked on this story, paring it down and then expanding it. Turning it into something much more than it was originally intended to be. But the finished product is fourth-rate undergrad nonsense, imbued with an ugly version of Chris Ware's sad loneliness, made explicit on the page with the constant narrative captions that tell us exactly how the stick-figured protagonist feels at every single moment.

The final scene is stronger than the rest of the book, though, generating a deeply disturbing creepiness that could propel readers into the promised volume 2. But, really, the deficiencies of the rest of the book will probably keep many readers from even finishing volume 1, never mind seeking out the eventual second volume.

I'm sure this project means a lot to Nick Jones, and maybe with a vastly superior artist and a compact and more subtle narrative, he could have made the underlying concept work. But as it stands now, it's not something I would recommend to anyone.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Justice Society of America #20 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

I really like Geoff Johns. He's a long-term plotter who can nail the big moments, and he's the best of the "traditional" superhero writers working today.

Chad Nevett doesn't like Geoff Johns. Sure, he likes the guy, personally, after interviewing him a few years back, but Chad can't read a Geoff Johns comic. He's practically incapable of it. They make him sad for humanity.

So what happens when Tim and Chad throw down over the newest issue of Justice Society of America #20? Not much, really. They kind of agree, finding a safe middle ground to talk about everything Johns, continuity-porntastic, and the legacy of Kingdom Come.

It's probably the single most important piece of critical thought written about the twentieth issue of this incarnation of the Justice Society, and you can find it only at the internet's number one source for brilliant brilliance: The Splash Page.

Click HERE.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Adventure Comics Special Featuring the Guardian #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Adventure Comics Special Featuring the Guardian #1, about which I write the following sentences: "This issue has a #3 inside the S-shield on the cover, although it's actually a direct follow-up of the recent 'Jimmy Olsen Special,' which didn't have any kind of separate numbering on its cover. This issue expands upon a single, hinted-at scene from that earlier Special, and shows what happened when Olsen tracked down the Guardian and learned the secrets of Project Cadmus. The #3 comes in because what Olsen find out here must relate to the overall Johns/Robinson plot direction for the 'New Krypton' arc running through the main Superman titles this season. And though I won't spoil the big revelation that comes near the end of the issue -- even though it's exactly what Olsen talks about at the end of the 'Jimmy Olsen Special' too -- it spells bad news for a certain red, yellow, and blue Kryptonian hero."

Read the entire review HERE.

Daredevil and Captain America: Dead on Arrival #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Daredevil and Captain America: Dead on Arrival #1, about which I write the following sentences: "Certainly Larry Hama is responsible for the word choice here, and because it seems like his task was to take the translated script and wedge it into the already extant word balloons, he is sometimes forced into redundancy, as when Nick Fury -- in full-on Basil Exposition mode -- describes Death-Stalker's current status: 'Cold meat,' he says, 'Pushing up daisies. Deader than a doornail…' It's a bit much, isn’t it? Perhaps it's a faithful translation of Faraci's words, but it feels like filler. It feels like something had to be used to fill up those word balloons. And it doesn't make for a particularly pleasant reading experience, even though the rest of the issue is relatively less dialogue heavy."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fishtown Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Fishtown, about which I write the following sentences: "'Fishtown' tells the ripped-from-the-headlines story of the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager, told in an elliptical, non-linear fashion. It's not a mystery story, or a detective drama. We know who did it almost right away, although as the story unfolds we learn more about whom they did it to, if not why. But the why is the big question, as 'Fishtown' becomes a series of confessionals, flashbacks, and discussions that ultimately explore the nature of evil."

Read the entire review HERE.

(This book is so great, I tracked down the elusive Kevin Colden for a CBR interview -- look for it within the next week.)

Marvel Zombies 3 #2

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Marvel Zombies 3 #2, about which I write the following sentences: "With Van Lente at the helm, the Marvel Zombies franchise has transcended its status as a one-joke potential cash-grab and has become a natural successor to the brilliant but short-lived 'Nextwave.' Van Lente puts his own spin on it, of course, but his 'Marvel Zombies 3' is in that same winking, manic, completely-over-the-top mode. It's not all blood and jokes, either, with a real 'human' moment leading to the climax of this issue."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1, about which I write the following sentences: "While Kubert's Rock may be the fictional version within the reality of 'The Lost Battalion,' Tucci's Rock is the one who seems insubstantial and ill-defined. He pales next to the stark humanity and vibrant brush-strokes of Kubert's best work, and though part of the charm of this series is that we're seeing a very different take on a classic character, it's not an interesting take at all. Tucci's Rock is a limp, Hollywood movie version of a tough military guy, spouting cliches and taking us on a tour of Omaha beach as if we were on a middle school field trip."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

When Words Collide: Frank Miller's Sci-Fi Samurai Epic

Take a look at this page from Frank Miller's Ronin. What's not to like? Miller was doing things 25 years ago that no one had ever done in American comics before, and yet somehow Ronin has fallen into some kind of vaguely forgotten bottom drawer of significant comic book history.

It's really quite a book, and the Absolute Ronin edition taught me to look at it with fresh eyes.

So that's what I do in this week's "When Words Collide," and I also give you some more Miller musings from that classic issue of The Comics Journal I've referenced a few times here this week.

Check out WWC: Frank Miller's Sci-Fi Samurai Epic. And let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Grant Morrison's FIRST Batman Story

Faithful reader Randy Homier sent me an e-mail saying how much he enjoyed reading the Morrison prose Superman story that I posted a while back, and he asked where he could find the Morrison prose Batman story from the UK 1986 Batman Annual. I thought I posted it back when I discussed Batman #663, but I guess I just put up a single page from the three-page story. Well, here's the whole thing, then, in all of it's Garry Leach-illustrated glory. (Click on each page to enlarge.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Frank Miller on "Wild Work"

More from The Comics Journal #101's 1985 interview with Frank Miller:

"I want to see wild work, even reckless work, cartoonists trying out new approaches that don't even look like they have a chance in hell of being successful. This atmosphere of caution is not only keeping the form stuck 20 years in the past, it's losing us nearly every reader who passes."

I was going to use this in my column this week, but it ended up not fitting in very smoothly. But, man, those words seem to apply to mainstream, direct-market comics today, don't they? Except for the notion that anyone "passes" by the comic rack. Nobody even sees comics anymore unless they go into shop specifically looking for them.

Of course, these days the argument is that the superhero market becomes smaller due to attrition, and "passes" could mean people dying off. But if the comic book market loses "nearly every" reader who "passes," does that mean that there are comics in the afterlife? Is that where "Brother Power" and "The Inferior Five" ended up?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Frank Miller on Superhero Comics and Their Readers

"I feel that pulp super-hero comics depend on a safer, less risky approach to the telling of a story. They're children's books for Christ's sake. Since what I want to do, and what must be done, is to explore the form, to play with different kinds of contents, I work primarily in different formats. What has to develop is a structure to the industry where the avant-garde of the talent is encouraged to do the more ambitious work, where the pulp super-hero comics and the buttheadedness of their readership no longer restrain bolder work, but rather are affected by it, synthesizing techniques that develop, and are steadily pulled forward from the storytelling methods of the '40s."
--Frank Miller
In my research for this week's "When Words Collide" column, I came across that excerpt from a 1985 interview with Miller, published in The Comics Journal #101. (That whole issue of TCJ is a fascinating time capsule of the time right before Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.)

Here are my questions:

1. Even though we talk about how different the comic book landscape looks now compared to 1985, have Miller's words become true?

2. Have the superhero comics truly synthesized the techniques of the "bolder" work done in the medium?

3. Is it the "buttheadedness" of the readers that continues to restrain the genre?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Boys #24 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

After twenty-four issues, I don't know what to make of The Boys. I keep reading it. I enjoy it each month, since it is a twisted look at the world of superheroes and all. But I don't really know the characters, even after two years in their company.

Except Wee Hughie. I know him. Not as well as Chad Nevett, who has Wee Hughie posters all over his bedroom, but few of us are that fanatical about anything.

So Chad and I have a little chat about the good, the bad, and the "eh" of The Boys #24 in this week's Splash Page.

Because that's how much we care about you.

Click HERE if you want.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Yeah, I know...

Apparently some readers are having trouble understanding a section of my Joker review. I address the overlap between the Azzarello/Bermejo graphic novel and the Christopher Nolan film in this paragraph:

Whether it's true or not, "Joker" feels like it was commissioned specifically as a tie-in to the biggest movie of the year. It's not an adaptation of "The Dark Knight," nor is it exactly a spin-off, but it's informed by that movie, even though -- given the lead time on projects like this -- it must have been written long before Azzarello saw the film in theaters. Yet there's a clear Heath Ledger influence here, and it seems as if Azzarello and Bermejo were working off early teaser trailer indications of the film, and then extrapolating from there. Their version of the Joker isn't the same as what we see in the movie, but it's certainly on the Ledger end of the spectrum. And I think that's a respectable choice, considering that Ledger has defined the character for our generation.

I'm getting angry e-mails demanding that I "check [my] facts" and telling me all about Bermejo developing the Joker look back in 2005. I understand all of that. Which is exactly why I included key words like "whether it's true or not," "feels," and "seems." I know they couldn't have seen the movie before they produced the graphic novel, and I even include the sentence saying, "it must have been written long before Azzarello saw the film in theaters."

So, please, relax. I didn't get any facts wrong. But I may have been a bit unclear.

Ledger's portrayal still informs the Joker of the graphic novel whether or not the creators saw his performance at any time during the project's development. His performance is the definitive Joker for this era, and with the Ichi the Killer look of both Ledger and the Bermejo version, it's impossible to separate them at this point. This graphic novel "feels" and "seems" related to the film version. That doesn't mean it was intended to be.

Joker Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: the Joker hardcover original graphic novel, about which I write the following sentences: "And Azzarello, notoriously uninterested in superheroes, brings in the street-level crime elements needed to make that kind of Joker work best. 'Joker' isn't hard-boiled in the Mickey Spillane-by-way-of-Frank Miller way that we saw in his 'Batman: Broken City' tale a few years back. Instead, it's like a Michael Mann film on paper, exploring the Joker's struggle to regain control of the Gotham underworld. Azzarello writes to Bermejo's strengths here, giving him a sleek but sullied world to illustrate, characters who slice a path through Gotham City like so many dirty razors."

Read the entire review HERE.

Superman #681 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Superman #681, about which I write the following sentences: "It's still the best issue of Robinson's run, though, bringing in a wide-array of characters and setting things up for the possibility of future excitement. And I won't give away the details of the final few pages, but when a gaggle of Kryptonians turn to look at a threat that makes Superman shake in his boots, it makes for an intriguing cliffhanger."

Read the entire review HERE.