Saturday, May 31, 2008

Final Crisis #1 Hits THE SLASH PAGE

Last summer I expressed my annoyance at the announcement of Jim Starlin's The Death of the New Gods. I said to Chris Marshall, of Collected Comics Libarary fame, that the only good that could possibly come of Starlin's series was a chance for Grant Morrison to revamp the New Gods in whatever crossover series he reportedly was working on. This was well before any Final Crisis details were announced--even the title was still a secret back then. But I hoped he would somehow resurrect the New Gods in the major 2008 event. Now, here we are, Chad Nevett and I, looking at the first issue of Final Crisis. Does it live up to my expectations? Does Chad's roommate love it as much as he does? Are you an idiot if you don't read it yourself?

All these questions and more may or may not be indirectly discussed in the newest installment of the internet's longest-running Chad and Tim discussion column: The Splash Page.

So go forth. Read our commentary. Click here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Batman #677 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Batman #677, about which I write the following sentences: "Morrison's 'Batman' has re-engaged my interest in the Batman mythos, and I'm eager to see how he's going to tie the Black Glove reveal into the 'death' of Batman. Because even though I've been 'sure' of the Black Glove's identity about half a dozen times, I really don't know what Morrison has planned."

Read the entire review HERE.

Final Crisis #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Final Crisis #1, about which I write the following sentences: "This isn't just a giant team-up series. It's not a billion heroes from the DC Universe getting together to punch some shadowy bad guys or stop an alien invasion. This is the story of a planet, a universe, coming apart at the seams. It may not really be the "final" crisis, but the first issue makes it feel like it could be."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: The Concept

In 1998, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, and Tom Peyer pitched something called "Superman 2000: A plan to revitalize the Superman franchise for the newmillenium." The pitch was rejected, for mysterious reasons, although Mark Waid discussed why he was forbidden from writing Superman in a 9/29/2000 interview with Warren Ellis:
WARREN ELLIS: I've been given to understand that when you and Morrison were turned down in your bid to take over SUPERMAN, you were informed that, in fact, you would NEVER be allowed to write the Superman books. What did that mean to you personally? What is the condition of your relationship with DC and Paul Levitz following it?

MARK WAID: What did that mean to me personally? You cannot IMAGINE the frustration. No, I mean it. You think you can, but you can't. The one job I'd been working towards my entire life--and I'd just been told point-blank that not only could I never have it, but I couldn't have it for any reasons that were just or made any logical sense--at least in part because someone at DC had point-blank asked me for a proposal and then failed to speak up when another someone decided I was simply crusading for a job that wasn't available, violating the freelance code, and acting in bad (and punishable) faith. Doesn't matter that that wasn't true; since when do truth and politics go hand in hand? Welcome to the real world.

Presumably the zeal with which Waid and the others pursued the job of revamping Superman caused such friction that the proposal was summarily rejected, even though it was filled with great ideas (some of which Morrison has since used or altered for his current All-Star Superman series). But as Waid points out in the interview, this was a pitch that was requested by DC editorial, and not just an example of freelance gunslinging.

According to the pitch, the proposed revamp was intended to, "honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel. The 'cosmic reset' notion has been replaced by a policy of 'include and transcend' with regard to past continuity." "Include and transcend" has been a hallmark of Morrison's approach to superhero work--just look at his current Batman run where all of Batman's past adventures are considered part of the character's psychic background--and it's almost exactly what he's doing in All-Star Superman right now. If accepted, the "Superman 2000" idea would have been an all-inclusive continuity embrace, instead of a traditional "white-event" reboot (as we've seen repeatedly in The Legion of Super-Heroes--although perhaps Geoff Johns's "Legion of Three Worlds" is an example of the "include and transcend" philosophy, or at least the "include" part. Whatever the reason, the Morrison/Waid/Millar/Peyer Superman was never meant to be, and it's too bad, because it could have possibly made the mainstream Superman titles more interesting and important than they had been in years.

Here's a small example of the type of approach the "Superman 2000" team would have used, taken from the section of the pitch labeled "The Concept":
The key to the initial concept lies in a radical but organic reversal of the currently accepted logic of the Superman/Clark dynamic.

In our interpretation, Clark Kent isn’t what Superman really IS, Clark is what Superman WAS--until he reached his teenage years and began to realize what all those years of soaking up the Kansas sun had done to his alien cells. Superman’s story here is seen as the tale of a Midwest farmer’s son who BECAME AN ALIEN shortly after puberty. Suddenly young Clark doesn’t just know his Ma and Pa through sight, touch, sound--he knows the exact timbre of their pulse rates, he can look at their DNA and recognize their distinctive electrical fields and hear the neural crackle and release of chemicals which tell him they’ve changed their minds about something.

And he can do all this, he can scan the entire environment in an INSTANT, with levels of perception we can only imagine.

That’s gonna turn anyone’s head around a little.

This is someone who by any stretch of the imagination is no longer just human--except for the part of him, the ethical, humanitarian base nurtured by the Kents, which forms the unshakable foundation for everything Superman is BUT WHO IS WHAT SUPERMAN CAN NO LONGER BE. Or, in other words not our own, "...who, DISGUISED as Clark Kent, fights a never-ending battle..."

As originally conceived by Siegel and Shuster, Clark becomes a cherished, poignant masquerade: mild-mannered, thoughtful, humane Clark. When Superman is being human, Clark is his template but this is a being no longer confined by gravity or pain or mortality and his experiences as Superman are experiences on a level of existence we can only hope to imagine.

So, in order to accomplish the transition to this new take on Superman more easily, our rationale is this: it’s been established that Superman’s powers are a result of solar energy saturating his cellular batteries. It’s even been suggested that his powers will increase through time as he absorbs more of our sun’s radiation.

And that’s just what happens.

As part of his alien maturation process, Superman crosses a second, critical threshold of solar radiation absorption and suddenly wakes up three times more powerful and three times smarter.

This changes everything.

Not a radical change of the status quo, but an interesting enough approach, isn't it? It wasn't just about making Superman more powerful, it was about making Superman more aware. Transcendent.

UPDATE: Chad Nevett just posted a different bit from the "Superman 2000" pitch over on his blog. Read what he has to say about a Vegetarian Superman HERE.

Recent Comics I Have Read Part II: More Quick Reviews

Here's where I talk about some other comics I read over the past two weeks. Because I like comics, and so do you.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #21: "Sightings"! That's DC's way of saying, "we're sorry about making everything tie into Countdown, because that was a really crappy story, wasn't it? To make it up to you, we'll just kind of sort of vaguely let you know that you may or may not want to buy this here comic because it might possibly relate to our big Final Crisis event, or whatever. We're totally cool either way. But if you're into it, you might want to check it out. No pressure. Seriously. But, it is kind of important, actually." Luckily, DC, I'm really into you, and you had me at "Crisis." But, is this comic worth your $2.99? Yes it is, because it has many panels featuring a guy who can shoot flames from his nipples AND has a moustache. ***1/2

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #15: The debut of Big Gog. I'm often a Geoff Johns apologist/supporter/activist, but I think this series is his weakest work in years. He doesn't seem able to do anything with his gigantic cast (oh shit, that doesn't bode well for Legion of Three Worlds, does it?), and it's just a lot of continuity wankery and legacy characters that just sit around and I want it to be better than it is. Please, Geoff Johns, save this series by pruning it down, and amping up the conflict. Big Gog is perhaps a start in the right direction, since he's, you know, bigger than the old, regular-sized Gog. **

NEWUNIVERSAL SHOCKFRONT #1: Warren Ellis has made the New Universe interesting, but he still hasn't really kicked off any sort of plot yet. The first series was all set-up, and here we are again, setting things up. The dominoes are in position, Warren. Kick em hard. Starting, now! Really, anytime you're ready. Go! (Warren? Hello?) **1/2

SECRET INVASION FANTASTIC FOUR #1: I liked Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's characterizations in the Marvel Knight's 4 series, but the premise of that book was so ridiculous--the broke FF get "regular" jobs to pay the bills? Um, they're kind of a big deal--that I couldn't really enjoy what he was doing with the characters themselves. So I'm glad to see him doing something that's based on superheroic hinjinx. Plus, I like Secret Invasion a lot so far, and if you don't like it then you are too jaded to enjoy anything. So too bad for you. As for this actual comic, it's okay. Barry Kitson's Sue Storm is nice. **1/2

SOLEIL SKY DOLL #1: I didn't buy this, because I've already read the whole series when it was reprinted in Heavy Metal a few years ago. By the way, it's not actually very good. It's a typical sleazy religious satire with a lot of sex--pretty much what you'd expect from Heavy Metal. I like the art, but the story has thinly-veiled allegory and plenty of low humor. I don't recommend buying the single issues, but it might be worth a look if the collected edition is under $10. Which it won't be. *1/2

SUPERMAN BATMAN #48: Shane Davis is by far the best of the Jim Lee clones DC is so fond of. He should be doing Morrison's Batman. That would be a nice fit for his style. (Then Geoff Klock would get even more fodder for his Miller/Morrison one-upmanship theory.) Meanwhile, this current story arc, which began approximately twelve years ago by my recollection, is all about Superman gathering all the kryptonite on the planet, blah, blah, and then in this issue: Kryptonite Doomsday! Except, it's actually a simple-minded American soldier transformed into an exact replica of Doomsday, but with KRYPTONITE KNUCKLES. What bad luck for Superman! Even though Supes can't weaken the KRYPTONITE FISTS, he can weaken the human heart. With love. God bless you, Superman (and Batman). **1/2

THUNDERBOLTS #120: What kind of schedule is this series on? I don't remember the last Warren Ellis-written issue of this comic, but this one was a doozy. Green Goblin is crazy, did you know that? He has a bit of a history, and he probably wasn't the best choice for a governmental official. I hate, hate, hate the Tommy Lee Jones look of Norman Osborn (especially since Dum Dum Dugan is ALSO Tommy Lee Jones over in the Iron Man comic). But Warren Ellis writes the greatest crazy-person dialogue maybe ever, and when I go back an reread his run on this series--which will probably never happen, let's face it--I'll surely find that he's been telling a Norman Osborn story all along. ***1/2

TINY TITANS #4: Disco Nightwing premieres. My kids loved this issue, even though they know nothing about Nightwing's original costume or disco. Also in this issue: The Little Tiny Titans: Miss Martian, Jericho, Wildebeest, and Kid Devil. They are cute and precocious. Art Baltazar remains one of my favorite cartoonists, and this series is for everyone who has the heart and mind of a small child. Therefore, I adore it. It's better than a KRYPTONITE PUNCH to the face. ***1/2

TWELVE #5: I'm only buying this for the Chris Weston art, really--and the concept, since I'm a sucker for obscure old heroes (although not so much of a sucker as to find Dynamite's Superpowers enjoyable). Maybe the whole thing will add up to a good story, but right now I'm just looking at all the detail in each panel and thinking: how does he draw comics as quickly as he does? He is good at making lots of little lines. ***

WAR IS HELL: FIRST FLIGHT PHANTOM EAGLE #3: This is a bit lighter than Garth Ennis's usual wartime stuff, and it doesn't have the ridiculous excesses of his Preacher or The Boys, but it's a cynical little dagger of an "origin story." The stiff-upper-lip mentality and gung-ho heroics are mocked, and the protagonist keeps stumbling into good fortune, and it's all illustrated by the incomparable Howard Chaykin in what's probably his best Marvel work so far. It's almost as if Ennis and Chaykin collaborated on a revamp of a goofy, obscure character. Oh, wait, that's exactly what it is, and that's good time for me. ***1/2

WOLVERINE #65: Here's a little tidbit from the secret files of Jason Aaron: he wasn't allowed to have Wolverine use his claws in the scenes set in the past. Apparently, Marvel editorial has a "no-claws" policy for Wolverine flashbacks, except for "Origin," in which his claws appear. So the official stance is: claws at first, no claws for a couple hundred years, then claws again in the present. Does that affect this final part of "Get Mystique"? Nope, but I wanted to share the knowledge with the world. This comic has been good with Aaron and Ron Garney, and I'm glad to see that Aaron will get another shot at the character after Millar runs him through the futuristic wringer (will he have claws in the future? One assumes so). A good conclusion to a good story. ***1/2

WONDER WOMAN #20: This book is completely on track, finally. If you've been waiting for it to settle into a groove of goodness, I think now's the time to safely jump on. Gail Simone's version of Wonder Woman is 90% warrior, 10% "stranger in a strange land," and I think that formula works for the character. It's worth a read. ***

Wow, this expensive little one-shot was a waste of money. I bought it because Trevor Hairsine's art, which is quite nice (and somewhat rare, since he's super-slow), but what you get for your four bucks is the same old Colossus origin story we all know--he's from Russia and he turns into metal--and...that's it. No additional subtext, no new perspective on his early days. Just a slow-moving recap presented at the rapid pace of a Henry James novel. Here's my new rule for these kinds of stories: tell them from a fresh perspective, or don't tell them at all. Thanks. *1/2

This Thursday is the greatest day of comic book awesomery this year, though, so I'm sure at one of the cool comics this week is bound will wipe away all of my bad thoughts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recent Comics I Have Read Part I: Some Quick Reviews

Here is Part I of my two-part attempt to talk about comics I've read in the past two weeks that didn't warrant full CBR reviews. In other words, I could have gotten paid to do this in more detail, but you get the short, flimsy commentary for free:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #559-#560: Dan Slott has the perfect tone for Spider-Man, and although I still don't love the stories from Brand New Day, I enjoy them enough to keep buying this series. And, yes, I still love the swiftness of it all. An arc completed each month is just a brilliant move, and it keeps this series near the top of my stack every Wednesday. Also, on this recent arc, Marcos Martin does the art, and his version of Spider-Man and the New York skyline is possibly my favorite of all the Brand New Day artists so far, including Chris Bachalo. This is some pretty stuff, and it's silly as hell, but a lot of fun. Just like this series should be. ***1/2

AVENGERS INITIATIVE #13: I almost dropped this series after the first extended arc concluded in issue #12. This issue brings a new group of recruits to the training center, and I'm glad I bought it. I think Steve Uy's art borders on the mannequin-esque, and I'm not a fan of his layouts either, but Slott took this issue in a different direction than the previous 12 by focusing on one of the most pathetic and annoying superheroes ever. I kind of hate the art enough to make me stop buying this series, but I think I'll stick around for a few more issues to see what happens with the rest of the new recruits, most of whom are villains conscripted into service for the Initiative. **1/2

BLACK PANTHER #36: I'm just biding my time until Jason Aaron does his arc, and then I'm done with this disappointing series. *1/2

BOOSTER GOLD #9: Eh, I'm ambivalent about this comic. I love that this series has become a strange tour through alternate futures (or presents, or whatever), instead of just touring through DC's past, but I'm already sick of Maxwell Lord in all of his temporal incarnations. However, I like the evil time travellers, and I'm curious to see what Johns has in mind for them--these are the guys who premiered back in the "Lightning Saga" last summer, and if you've wondered why that subplot never payed off, well, it's because those guys are appearing here. I can't imagine that was the original plan. "Hey," thought Geoff Johns, "I'll set up some cool villains in the midst of a huge Legion/JLA/JSA crossover and then not use them for a year until I throw them into a Booster Gold story." But, that's what has happened. **1/2

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #13: I'm trying to remember what happened in this issue, and I can't. I know Jay Garrick was involved. I'm loving the Jerry Ordway art, I know that--even more that Perez's work (weird, I know, but Ordway grounds things physically so very well)--but I can't remember a single event or line of dialogue from this story. That tells me I'm reading too many comics, but it also tells me that this series is missing something if it's that forgettable. Sure, I'll blame Waid for my poor reading skills. *** (for the art)

CAPTAIN AMERICA #38: Ah, the Cold War Captain America. Nice. What a perfect foil for Bucky (aka the Winter Soldier aka Captain America with the gun). Ed Brubaker is still telling the story he began back in issue #1 and he's one of the few writers using the serialized nature of mainstream comics to his advantage. This series will probably be a great read when it's all collected, but it's fun to read in small doses too. I like this book a lot. ****

CATWOMAN #79: I'd love to see the Lopez brothers take over the art on a big, important book. These guys have produced years and years of top-notch work on Catwoman and I'd buy their version of the Justice League or Superman. They are somewhere in the middle between Kevin Maguire and Cameron Stewart. Good stuff, consistently, with personality. This series has been good ever since Pfeifer has taken over, and I hope he gets a shot at a big book too. Amazons Attack was an aberration. He knows how to writer, and I'll buy anything he works on next. Oh, yeah, this issue was good. ***

DC SPECIAL CYBORG #1 (OF 5): Did anyone buy this? I like Mark Sable's work. His Grounded book was fantastic--everything the X-Men could be if handled by someone interested in characterization. I'm rooting for him to get more mainstream work, and he has a Two Face: Year One series coming out soon that I'll check out. But Ken Lashley drew this Cyborg book, and I think he's one of the weakest artists working at DC today. So I skipped this. Did I miss anything?

FLASH #240: Tom Peyer seems like a nice guy. I've liked some of his work in the 1990s. I don't like his Flash at all. He makes Gorilla Grodd seem dull, even. This series is probably just treading water until it gets relaunched as a Barry Allen series with...I'm guessing Geoff Johns and...Ethan Van Sciver? Nah, he's too slow for a monthly. Hmm, maybe Carlos Pecheco? Yeah, Johns and Pacheco. Flash, 2009. *

GHOST RIDER #23: Danny Ketch is back! I don't know if that's important, because all I know is that he used to be Ghost Rider and he has some kind of futuristic skull bike to battle Johnny Blaze's classic chopper. Is Jason Aaron a great writer? Yes, he is. Is this a cool horror-action book? Yup. You should buy it. It's the greatest angel-of-vengeance on a motorcycle vs. cannibals and naughty nurses and God's secret black ops division comic ever. ****

GREEN ARROW BLACK CANARY #8: Cliff Chiang, we miss you. Mike Norton is an excellent artist, though, and I'll probably keep buying this because I'm enjoying the romp around the globe plotline. It's on the verge of getting cut, but I'll stick around at least until issue #10. Judd Winick, you have two issues to make greatness happen. **1/2

GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #1: This is a pretty cool collection of Marvel's strange space characters, and I'd like the book a lot more if everyone didn't talk like they were on a sitcom with a laugh track. (None of the characters talked this way in any of the Annihilation series, but now they're all Charlie Sheen all of a sudden.) **1/2

IRON MAN DIRECTOR OF SHIELD #29: I have only read a couple of issues of this series because (a) Iron Man seemed like a simplistic character, and (b) he's kind of a dick, and not in good way, and (c) the story arcs seemed draaaaaggged out forever. But I, like many Americans, watched the Iron Man movie and all of a sudden wanted to buy new bed sheets with the armored Avenger splashed all over them. Since my wife wouldn't have any of it--she must be waiting for the Speed Racer linens to go on clearance--I've been picking up Iron Man comics instead. I hated the Favreau thing, loved the Fraction thing, and since this sucker was on the shelf this week, I bought it. It's okay. Too much chit chat about tactics and stuff I don't care about, and not much story, but it scratched my Iron Man itch for the week. My son, also with the same itch, wanted me to read this to him at bedtime. I did. It's not a fun comic to read aloud. Imagine reading an operator's manual aloud, but with a few more explosions. **1/2

Monday, May 26, 2008

My Daughter, a Four-Year-Old Indiana Jones Expert

My daughter really likes the first three Indiana Jones movies, and she talks about them all the time. Here's her summary of all three original movies, in less than four minutes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Morrison on R.I.P. and Beyond

IGN posted a pretty extensive interview with Grant Morrison the other day, and it's full of great nuggets like:
Morrison: The scripts are very detailed, as are the descriptions. But things go wrong. Like in the first issue of Batman RIP, the Joker wasn't supposed to have any blood on him at the end, because he's in an asylum cell having just had a fantasy that he projected on a Rorschach blot card. And the colorist didn't quite get it, so there's blood all over the place, [laughs] and a lot of people didn't understand that scene. Which is quite a simple scene, but a scene that people went online trying to explain in some of the most outlandish ways. But it was a coloring error. There shouldn't have been blood. It should have just been the Joker having a fantasy. The doctor shows the card to Joker, the Joker's sitting in his cell and he suddenly realizes that something interesting is up.
That coloring error completely changes the meaning of the scene, obviously. I interpreted it to mean that Joker killed the doctor (because what else could have possibly caused the blood), but apparently not. This color mistake points out the problems with authorial intent. When the writer is not the artist, the meaning of a work changes, and which is the "correct" meaning: the intended one never printed or the interpretation of the printed story?

Here's what Morrison goes on to say about the Black Glove:
There's a kind of pyramid of influence. At the bottom you have the Club of Villains who are working with the Black Glove. Then you have the Black Glove organization, which is a group of very wealthy people who we meet in the upcoming issue. And then above that you have the identity of the Black Glove, who is a person.
That explains the confusion about whether or not the Black Glove is an organization. Pretty much matches what I suspected.

When asked where fans should go back to his previous issues and look for clues, Morrison says,
Oh God – you've got to look at a few of them. I think you should definitely look at the three-parter where Batman is in the chamber, the torture story. That one's got some major stuff in it. The Club of Heroes has a lot of stuff in it. Pretty much everything. [laughs] I want everyone to go back and buy all of them. It all ties in. The difficult thing has been to try and lay red herrings, because to me the answer is so obvious that hiding it has been the real challenge.
If the answer--and by answer, I assume he means the identity of the Black Glove--is obvious, maybe it is Alfred or Bruce Wayne himself. Or maybe not.

An interesting interview, no? He goes on to talk a bit about Final Crisis and his plans to stick with Batman for yet another long story after "Batman R.I.P." You can read the whole interview starting here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fantastic Four #557 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

I didn't feel like posting another image of Fantastic Four #557 here, since I just posted it along with a link to my CBR review. So here's FF #57 for your eye-pleasing delight. Giant Dr. Doom heads, surfing aliens, Wyatt Wingfoot?!? Now that's the Fantastic Four. So the question is: how good is this new Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch version? Why does Chad Nevett hate it so much? Why do I defend it? Does the final issue of the "Nu-World" story arc make any kind of sense? Are giant robots enough to make something friggin' awesome?

All of these questions and more, answered in the newest installment of THE SPLASH PAGE.

Sometimes people don't like clicking on the words, "The Splash Page." Maybe it's the ALL-CAPS scaring them away. If you're one of those people, you can read what Chad and I have to say about FF #557 by clicking here.

Incredible Hercules #117 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Incredible Hercules #117, about which I write the following sentences: "This is an excellent Marvel comic, full of wit and action, mythology and personality. I don't know what the sales figures on this comic look like, but I know that not enough people are reading it. But, really, it's more than worth your time."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Scalped #17 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Scalped #17, about which I write the following sentences: "It's that precision, those moments which seem both specific and universal, that help make this series so impressive. If it were a typical crime comic, it would start and stop with its central conceit: an undercover FBI agent working inside a corrupt reservation. But that's merely the skeleton of a fully fleshed out world in this series -- a world in which the 'evil' Red Crow sincerely mourns the loss of Bad Horse's mother, while the 'good' Agent Nitz literally pisses on her grave. A world in which one son is silently zipped up in a body bag while another silently weeps on his mother's front steps. These aren't high-concept characters on a collision course with destiny. They are children, men, and women trying to claw their way through a violent and uncertain future."

Read the entire review HERE.

Project: Kalki #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Project: Kalki #1, about which I write the following sentence: "This comic is filled with religious overtones about salvation, but it isn't burdened by them. It's a pulpy story of mysterious characters, secret science, and the end of the world."

Read the entire review HERE.

Casey Blue: Beyond Tomorrow #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Casey Blue: Beyond Tomorrow #1, about which I write the following sentence: "Even though 'Casey Blue: Beyond Tomorrow' #1 doesn't break any new stylistic ground, it uses the traditional Act I structure wisely, establishing the characters and setting before throwing in the shocking twist at the end."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Geeks With Issues #19: NYCC and Me

These guys do a cable access show in my hometown and even though I'd never met them before, they tracked me down at the New York Comic-Con for an interview. My bit comes in around the 20:30 mark, and you can see me talk about the Morrison and Legion books.

I don't know if you can hear me above all the crowd noise, but you can see me gesture a lot.

Also, this video is squished in the improper aspect ratio--I'm not even close to that skinny.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fantastic Four #557 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Fantastic Four #557, about which I write the following sentence: "Set aside the creepy sex and creepier politics, and you're left with a book that's actually pretty good."

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Batman R.I.P." Begins: Batman #676 Annotations

Because I didn't get into many specifics in my review of Batman #676, here are my annotations for the issue. And by "annotations," I mean "stuff I thought about as I read each page."

Cover: People are griping about this Alex Ross painting because it looks like Batman's body is made out of cloth. "Where's his body?" they whine. It's called symbolism, folks. Batman, shrouded in inky darkness, looking ghostly. The arc is called "Batman R.I.P," and if you can't connect the dots between that title and the cover image, then maybe comics aren't for you. They can get confusing with their fancy pictures.

Page 1: My guess is that this image shows the Dick Grayson/Damian team as Batman and Robin. The red skies and the lightning allude to Final Crisis, and this might very well be a page straight out of that series, something that we'll see in a few months real time. Morrison threw some important Batman stuff in DC Universe #0, so there's definitely a link between his work on the crossover and his work in this series.

Pages 2-3: I like how gothic this flashback looks, and how it isn't really a flashback but a jump back to present continuity. Present continuity that looks like 120 years ago. The hunchback, Le Bossu, smashes a Victor Hugo vibe into a Sherlock Holmes vibe (with the panel of the dead man). What's with the "12712" tag on the carriage? And are all the umbrella-holders significant? I have no idea. But the "we are operators at the highest level" line sounds like something Daniel Plainview might say during one of his rants. "I drink your Bat-shake. I drink it up."

Pages 4-5: The Club of Villains, from left to right: Charlie Caligula (nemesis of the Legionary), King Kraken (nemesis of Wingman), El Sombrero (nemesis of the the Gaucho), Pierrot Lunaire (nemesis of the Musketeer), Dr. Hurt (who appeared in Batman #156 and #673 as part of the sensory-deprivation experiment, now revealed to have ulterior motives), Scorpiana (nemesis of el Gaucho--he gets two nemeses!), and Springheeled Jack (nemesis of the Knight). Although this group may be collectively known as "The Black Glove," which is what this issue seems to imply, I still suspect that the Black Glove is someone behind the scenes, either Alfred, Thomas Wayne Jr., or a schizophrenic Bruce Wayne. By the way, in my original commentary on the "Club of Heroes" arc I applauded Morrison's imaginative use of quick backstory by mentioning all of these evil counterparts of the Batman of Many Nations. I said that these characters would probably never actually appear, but it was just Morrison's way of implying a deep mythology. How wrong I was! Those names were clues. Who would have known? Not me. I said, "I doubt they are clues." Silly. Everything has meaning. I should have known better.

Pages 6-7: The parallels to Batman's origins are clear in this sequence as a young boy and his parents are held hostage by a criminal. But this is no Joe Chill--this is a post-Batman maniac who calls himself the Green Vulture since costumed madmen are all the rage these days. The Green Vulture is s supervillain fanboy who wants to be locked up in Arkham. His presence in this issue contrasts nicely with the portrayal of the "Clown at Midnight" Joker at the end. There's something called "Ganser's Syndrome," by the way, which is what you call it when someone pretends to be crazy. The Green Vulture acts crazy, but he's trying too hard. It looks like a case of Ganser's Syndrome. The Joker, on the other hand: he's crazy.

Pages 8-9: Batmobile! We saw the early hints of this version way back in the "Batman and Son" arc. Here it is in all of its sexy glory. I don't know anything about cars, but I'm sure this Batmobile is inspired by some real vehicle. Except, you know, this one has Bat-hubcaps and can jump down a flight of stairs. The graffiti next to the stairs says "Todd's" (Jason Todd's?) and something else I can't quite make out (X8e?).

Pages 10-11: I think Geoff Klock pointed out the "CD changer" line on his blog, and he's right. The Batmobile shouldn't sport out-of-date technology. Batman should be years ahead of the stuff we've got. (Although, his Bat-computer is a beast of a machine, so maybe he likes old-school tech after all.) Homeless people love Batman, apparently. In Morrison's Gotham City, Batman is down with the people on the street. He knows pimps and hookers by name, as we've seen in previous issues, and here he hands out money to Woodrow, Tracy Morgan's SNL homeless guy. I like Robin's line to the Green Vulture: "You're on bad drugs in a Halloween suit with about a dozen cameras recording your complete loss of self-respect." Batman and Robin don't need to smack this guy around, because the DC Universe has YouTube to do the job for them.

Pages 12-13: Morrison's never been afraid to mix pop music, pop culture, and superheroics, and Alfred's line about "an 'American Idol' era of equal opportunity supercrime" is classic Morrison. Morrison from the Zenith days. But it's a good line, and since Morrison foreshadowed the reality TV craze a decade before it became a reality (in Doom Patrol with the Sunburst character), I think it's only fair that he gets to use the line even if the concept's a bit stale. It's also Alfred saying it, and not only might he be evil (if he's the Black Glove), but he's a old fogey like your grandpa. The kiss with Jezebel Jet would have been 78% cooler if Bruce had the cowl on, circa 1971 Neal Adams--the no shirt, just pants and cowl look--but it's still a very Neal Adamsish panel anyway. It's more Batman/Talia than Batman/Silver St. Cloud. Hey, maybe that's a clue! Maybe Jezebel Jet is the Black Glove! Nah, probably not. But you never know.

Pages 14-15: This is a ton of exposition, a good way not to scare off readers who jumped on board for the "Batman R.I.P." event. It gets everyone basically up to speed on the whole Nanda Parbat situation and the Damian problem. It also shows that Tim is still rational in an increasingly irrational world. Plus, Alfred's really into Batman. He understands the pressure Batman is under, trying to be the perfect everything. None of this points to Alfred being the Black Glove, and if anything it seems to show that Batman's fractured sense of self might be causing all the problems. But, whatever. It's a lot of talk for the new readers (and the readers who have trouble figuring out where Batman's body is on the cover).

Pages 16-17: Page 16 reads like a scene out of a Batman movie: "What happens when you've finally won? When they're avenged at last? How will you know?" That question , and the complete LACK of a response by Bruce Wayne, is the essence of this character. He cannot answer it, because he knows he can never win. He can never get his parents back. And on page 17, we're reminded that Batman is, in fact, a detective. He's connecting the dots, slowly. The fourth panel seems like a bit much as Bruce Wayne does a spit take when Jezebel reads the Black Glove invitation. A spit take? Hold it together, Bruce! Maybe now that Jezebel knows his true identity, he doesn't have to act tough anymore. But you've gotta play it cool around the ladies, Batman. Come on.

Pages 18-22: In the foreground of the Arkham establishing shot, we see tulips infested with centipedes. Morrison uses insects to signify the "other," the strangeness from outside, and here they provide a bit of uneasiness as we descend into the blood-drenched hallways. The "Clown at Midnight" Joker, seen only in Batman #663 and DC Universe #0, is now getting the spotlight. "The comedy's in the timing" says Joker, as we get black and white and red images of the murdered Tim Drake, Commissioner Gordon, and Dick Grayson. Although it's apparently all a hallucination as the blood on the floor connects to the rorschach inkbot. The entire sequence is fragmentary and it's difficult to discern reality from insanity. Apparently, Le Bossu arrives to offer Joker an invitation from the Black Glove, but we don't see that take place. Is it another hallucination? The Joker is covered in blood when the lights come back on, and we can only assume that the doctor administering the rorschach test is dead. But it's all implied. Fiendishly implied and the image of the Clown at Midnight licking his lips at the end, saying "another pretty flower" is far more disturbing than anything we saw in Batman #663. It's also the first time green is introduced into the color scheme of this sequence, which was all about red and black (even in the DC Universe #0 scene). Red and black. Red Hood and Black Glove. What's the connection?

Morrison Batman comics are good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Superman #676 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Superman #676, about which I write the following sentences: "It has that inconsequential feeling, and the story fails to offer much in the way of a new perspective on Superman. If anything, it not only reads like an old fill-in, it reads like old writing, full of clich├ęs and characters who declare everything out loud."

Read the entire review HERE.

Batman #676 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Batman #676, about which I write the following sentences: "Much of 'Batman' #676 is spent laying groundwork, and guiding the reader through what has already been implied in previous issues, but it is a good comic nonetheless, and it sets things up for what will be one of the most memorable Batman stories in history: 'Batman R.I.P.'"

Read the entire review HERE.

Grant Morrison: The Early Years Not Available Much Longer

I don't know if I'm supposed to officially announce this or not, but my first book, Grant Morrison: The Early Years, will soon be available through Diamond and ONLY through Diamond. After it goes through the whole Previews catalog this summer and ordering that month and into comic shops in November and all of that, it might be available again via other venues, but that won't be until late 2008, or early 2009. I'll have more details about ordering via Diamond once that gets ironed out, but if you've been waiting to buy my book, you only have a short time to order it through Amazon (just click on the picture of the book on the right of this blog), otherwise you'll have to wait and ask your local comic shop to get it from Diamond.

Note: In other words, this is the last chance to get the first printing of the book. The Diamond version will be slightly different, with a revised cover design, a few minor rewordings, and a new appendix in which I discuss Morrison's first "Future Shocks" story. So it's up to you: get the original version now, or wait until late 2008 to get the slightly revised edition. Just so you know what's what.

Also, the Teenagers from the Future book is still in the pipeline, and we haven't finished the completely final version yet, so if you got one of the advance copies at NYCC you're lucky, because the rest of the world may not see it for a few months. That book may or may not end up with Diamond as well. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Casanova #14 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

I know, I know. You're probably sick of me talking about Casanova by this point. Blah blah Casanova is the best comic since ever blah blah Fraction writes real good blah blah. But, guess what? I don't care. Casanova is greater than your hate. Also, Chad Nevett and I are smart. So you should value our opinions above all others. And some people didn't get to read Casanova #14 this week, so this is just yet another way to taunt them.

Seriously, though, if you have a brain, and eyes, and a soul, and two bucks, you should buy Casanova #14, then go over and read the newest installment of The Splash Page.

Or, you can just click here by clicking HERE.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Captain Britain and MI:13 #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Captain Britain and MI: 13 #1, about which I write the following sentence: "'Captain Britain and MI:13' is a splendid new series, and the second issue can't come soon enough."

Read the entire review HERE.

Huntress: Year One #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Huntress: Year One #1, about which I write the following sentences: "The timeline in this first issue is a bit too fragmentary, and the pieces don't fit together as well as they might, but Madison seems to have an intelligent take on the Huntress. This is not a rote retelling of a familiar origin."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Metal Men #8 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Metal Men #8, about which I write the following sentence: "'Metal Men' #8 demonstrates the failure of this ambitious series, representing, as it does, all of Rouleau's excesses and his inability to create an effective climax and resolution."

Read the entire review HERE.

(I really liked the looks of this series, and I'm disappointed that it didn't amount to much in the end.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why Casanova Matters

Now that Casanova has reached the conclusion of its second album, I've spent some time rereading all fourteen issues. I'm more certain than ever that Casanova will be seen as one of the defining comics of this decade, if not the defining comic.

In celebration of this end-of-Casanova-for-now moment, I've written a lengthy essay on "Why Casanova Matters" for Comic Book Resources. The essay spoils the conclusion of the "Gula" arc, just to warn you. But if you've ever had any doubts about the greatness of Casanova, or you just want to see what I have to say about a comic that you already love, check out my exploration of the work HERE.

The War that Time Forgot #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The War that Time Forgot #1, about which I write the following sentence: " snatching characters from throughout the ages and slapping them in the midst of a crazy dinosaur battle, Bruce Jones has added some spice to Kanigher's old recipe."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Casanova #14 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: an advance, spoiler-free review of tomorrow's Casanova #14, about which I write the following sentences: "This is Fraction at his best, hitting the story beats fast and furious while layering in the emotional underpinning. This is what 'Casanova' is -- a serious comic that's never boring, a raging action epic that's about what it means to be alive. 'Casanova' embraces life, embraces the medium of comics, and challenges all other comics to be better than they are."

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, May 12, 2008

House of Mystery #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: House of Mystery #1, about which I write the following sentence: "While I liked the rest of the comic, this brief tale, called 'The Hollows' sold me on the potential greatness of this series. "

Read the entire review HERE.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #1, about which I write the following sentences: "...having the hot director from the hottest movie in America write a comic staring the character who will make him a superstar director? That is synergy. Too bad the comic isn't any good."

Read the entire review HERE.

Secret Invasion #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Secret Invasion #2, about which I write the following sentence: "Seeing Clint Barton pulling back the bowstring would be meaningless for a non-Marvel reader, but anyone who has longed for his return as Hawkeye would enjoy the moment immensely."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Why I Ranked Animal Man #1

Speaking of Cronin's Top 100 Runs list, I sent Brian a short explanation of why I ranked Morrison's Animal Man at #1. He didn't use it, so here it is for your explanatory pleasure:

Why did Grant Morrison's Animal Man get the #1 spot on my top runs list?

As a teenager, I enjoyed the off-beat (if Alan Moore-derived) first issue of Morrison's Animal Man so much that I wrote a fan letter to the editor. That letter, published in the magnificent "Coyote Gospel" issue, remains one of my more embarrassing moments in print (though not my last), and it will always have a place in my heart next to other awkward teenage decisions like "stone-washed jeans" and "pastel shirts."

But in Animal Man, Grant Morrison introduced me to a new way of telling comic book stories, and I can't distinguish between my love for metafictional playfulness and my appreciation for Morrison's attempt to bring it to mainstream comics. Was I predisposed to enjoy such narrative conceits, or did Animal Man teach me to enjoy them? I read the series at such a formative age, I'll never know the answer to that question.

Ultimately, Morrison's Animal Man remains my favorite run because it still resonates when I read it today. Buddy Baker's family is one of the most clearly-defined supporting casts in contemporary comics, and when they die, I feel a sense of loss, even though I know they will be magically restored at the whim of the creator. And when the Psycho-Pirate laments the loss of Silver Age wonder, I feel that too, even though I wasn't old enough to appreciate the Silver Age when it was alive.

I think it's Morrison's most perfect combination of heart and mind, and nothing has bumped it from the top spot in all the years since the final issue hit the stands.

And, I could have added: I love it so much I wrote a book about it.

Cronin's Top 100 Runs List Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Since Brian Cronin has now completely revealed the consensus Top 100 Favorite Runs of All Time list, Chad Nevett and I felt it was our duty to tell people how wrong they were about their favorite comics.

Actually, we mostly just act surprised to see Sandman take the #1 slot, even though I like the series quite a bit and Chad's too young to appreciate quality when he sees it.

By the way, this image is from Kirby's Sandman which is much more visually interesting than the Dave McKean shelving covers. I mean, I liked the shelving and the oil paintings when I was 20, because I thought it helped make comics look "serious" and "important," but in retrospect, it's just a bunch of junk on some shelves and this bright yellow-and-red dream-punch by Kirby just blows it off the comic book stands.

So if you want to read Chad and I intelligently dissecting that Top 100 Runs list, and making fun of stuff that's on it, and telling you how everything would be better if people would only listen to us, read this week's installment of The Splash Page.

If, for some reason, you want to click here, well, click HERE.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Thomas Wayne, Jr.: The Black Glove?

I'm about 100% too busy to reread the entire Morrison Batman run and see if my Thomas Wayne, Jr. as Black Glove theory has any merit, and that theory was based entirely on a dream I can't even remember, but here are some of the relevant story pages from World's Finest #223.

Why is Batman protecting the mysterious "Boomerang Killer"? Because the "murdering madman" is his own brother. 35 years of Batman stories had been written before this World's Finest tale, and never had the other Wayne boy been mentioned, but as this next page indicates, Thomas Wayne, Jr. was indeed the son of Batman's parents:

The brain-damaged Thomas, institutionalized since he was a child. No wonder he might have some kind of relationship with the Red Hood/Joker.

"Those I killed, deserved to die," says Thomas. Perhaps he's not just referring to his actions as the "Boomerang Killer." Perhaps Thomas, three years older than Bruce, orchestrated his own parent's death and therefore spawned Batman.

Of course, in World's Finest #227, Thomas Wayne, Jr. appears to die, sacrificing himself to save his brother's life. But did he really die? Do characters in comics ever come back? Was the Thomas Wayne, Jr. Batman uncovered the "real" Thomas Wayne, Jr. or has he spent his life locked away in an institution.

Is Thomas Wayne, Jr. really the Black Glove?

That's what my subconscious tells me.

The Black Glove is...

Okay, I woke up this morning and the first thing that popped into my head was, "The Black Glove isn't Alfred--that's too obvious. The Black Glove is Thomas Wayne, Jr.!"

I wasn't even thinking at all about Morrison's Batman last night. I went to my son's school concert. I read a bunch of this week's comics. Wrote a review for CBR. Watched CSI with my wife.

But my subconscious must have been working it out, because I awoke knowing exactly who the Black Glove would turn out to be.

The forgotten brother of Bruce Wayne.

Tonight, I'll try to prove it.

To be continued...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Morrison's Batman

I took my kids to the park on Tuesday--the park right which happens to be right across the street from the local comic shop. So, how could I resist stopping there on the way home? (Especially because it's usually closed on Tuesday, but it was secretly open this week.) I don't really need any more comics, obviously, and I buy all of my stuff every Wednesday, but on impulse I picked up the Batman and Son hardcover. I've written a lot about Morrison's Batman run, but I haven't gone back to reread any of the issues. I've just been commenting upon them as they come out.

So here are my recent, not-in-any-particular-order, observations about Morrison's first story arc and the prose issue:

1) Andy Kubert's art is great in the first story arc. I didn't appreciate him at the time, but he stages some brilliant fight scenes with the Man-Bats. His Damian is kind of strange-looking, with too much muscle definition for a little kid, but his work is better than I remembered it being.

2) What is Talia up to? She seemed to have big plans in the first story arc, but she has just kind of lurked in the background ever since. Yet she clearly has a plan.

3) I've had debates with Thom Young (formerly of Silver Bullets, now with Comic Bulletin) about the quality of "The Clown at Midnight." He has massive problems with the narration, and I don't. Rereading the story, I still don't see what his concerns are (the narrator pretty clearly uses free indirect discourse to adopt a faux-first person POV at times, but that's a common technique in literary fiction) and it's pretty clear to me that the unnamed narrator is the Black Glove.

4) If the omniscient voice belongs to the Black Glove, and I think it does, then it's yet another indicator that Alfred is the Black Glove. Morrison goes out of his way to show that Alfred has relatively trashy taste in literature. Hence the overwrought narration of "The Clown at Midnight." It's Alfred's Batman fan-fic.

5) The red and black patterns, so emphatic in "The Clown at Midnight" and highlighted again in DC Universe #0, not only recall the colors of the playing card suits, but they also remind us that there's probably a link between the Joker (who was once known as the Red Hood) and the Black Glove. I don't know what that connection is, but I'm sure the Red Hood/Black Glove relationship means something.

Rereading these earlier issues made me rethink my recent discussion with Chad Nevett. I might have ranked Batman higher on the list of Morrison work. It still has a long way to go, but these early issues started strong.

(By the way, have you seen the new house ads for "Batman R.I.P."? It's crossing over into a bunch of titles--Detective, Nightwing, Robin--this summer. That makes me nervous. I was kind of hoping that Morrison could do his own thing, because if it turns out anything like that Ra's al Ghul crossover, it will be a disaster.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula #1, about which I write the following sentences: "the Miller/Mazzucchelli influence is unmistakable here as we get caption boxes full of internal monologue like 'I'll heal. I always do,' and 'His buddy reeks of cordite and gunpowder. My foot crushes his nose,' along with Chris Samnee's best Michael Lark-by-way-of-David Mazzucchelli artwork."

Read the entire review HERE.

Teen Titans #58 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Teen Titans #58, about which I write the following sentence: "since Sean McKeever has taken the reigns, 'Teen Titans' has rebounded to become one of DC's better team comics."

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Brief Reviews for 4/30/08 Comics

ACTION COMICS #864 An unadvertised Legion crossover (or at least I had no idea that it would be). Dan Prado's art looks like a Caliber comic circa 1993, and not in a good way. It's a steep drop off in artistic quality from Gary Frank, that's for sure. Prado, by the way, is some kind of agent for about a million artists working for DC these days--all of whom have basically the same style, like all those guys who look kind of like Tony Daniel. So apparently he's the go-to guy for if you're DC and you're looking for an artist. Except, he's not nearly as good as the artists he represents. So, how was the story? Good. It was basically Batman, Superman, and Lightning Lad, and seeing the dynamic between those three was fun. There's a great bit at the end where Lightning Lad wonders what Batman would be like if they'd showed up and took him to the 30th century when he was a teenager. Good story stuff, poor (probably rushed, by the looks of it) art. ***

AVENGERS INITIATIVE #12 Steve Uy's art works fine on some of the Johnny DC titles, but it looks out of place here. I don't know how much longer I'll be sticking around with this comic, because even though I like the bits with Ant-Man and Taskmaster, I don't care enough about any of the Initiates to want to come back for more. It seems like this series is full of secrets that could be interesting in the next year or two, but on an issue-by-issue basis I do not love this comic. **

BLUE BEETLE #26 I think the Spanish was an interesting idea, but ultimately a failure. Either the words are important or they're not, and if they're not, then why have so many word balloons. If they are important, why have them in another language? The script in the back doesn't cut it. Question: if this issue gets translated into another language for purchase in some other part of the world, will the Spanish parts stay Spanish? Mike Norton's art looked pretty nice, and the story was cute enough, but I think the Spanish was a mistake. Especially for a comic that needs to pick up readers to avoid cancellation. I could be wrong. I hope this series continues at the same quality as it's had for the first 25 issues. Good luck Will Pfeifer and Matt Sturges! **1/2

DAREDEVIL BLOOD OF THE TARANTULA I'm scheduled to review this for CBR, but I probably won't get to it until Tuesday. Look for it then.

EX MACHINA #36 This comic frustrates me because it seems incredibly simplistic, but hints at structural complexity. And each issue presents such simple, one-dimensional characters butting heads about complicated issues. Then a girl on a motorcycle jumps off the World Trade Center. I'm conflicted about this book. It doesn't have that many issues until it wraps up, and what has really happened so far? What has really been explored, besides cursory discussions of "topics of the day"? I'm interested as to how it will end, because I've grown increasingly ambivalent about this comic. **

GREEN LANTERN #30 Geoff Johns is trying to do his "Green Lantern: Year One" take here (and I'm glad it's part of the series rather than a spin-off mini-series), and what it lacks in formal innovation, it makes up in classic superhero melodrama. Ivan Reis is THE best artist working at DC right now, and he can draw anything and make it look great. Hal Jordan's fall and rise has never been portrayed in quite this way, and I'm happily along for the ride. Man, it just looks so good! ****

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #14 I've complained about David Aja's replacements before, so I won't spend much time on it here, but now do you see what I'm talking about? Without Aja, this issue loses it's power, doesn't it? It feels a bit anticlimactic, and I think Aja would have saved it from feeling that way. It's still a very good issue in what has been a very good series, and now that the whole crew is back on Earth, we'll get to see more of these characters in the future, which is pretty cool. The loss of Aja has undermined the strength of this series, though. ***1/2

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #41 Jim Shooter's over-reliance on faux-futuristic teen slang still bothers me, and this issue is still setting up the dominoes, but it's not bad. The cover is a total fake-out, as the "Science Police Officer" turns out to be Chameleon playing a prank, and Shooter's version of Chameleon is typically out-of-character. But, as I've said before, at least Shooter's trying to imbue this series with life, and if he changes some of the characterizations around, at least it feels more alive than the wooden, solemn gang of Waid Legionnaires. Shooter seems to have big plans for this series, and editor Mike Marts says he's staying on the book for a long time, so we'll have to wait and see how his little bits of story information play out by the end. ***

NEW AVENGERS #40 The Skrulls have been planning to secretly invade Earth for a long time! And they have mastered a way to completely hide their true identities from Earthlings! And, they are sneaky! And so on, and so on, and so on. I think it's a cool idea to see things from the perspective of the "bad guys," but this issue just felt like a recap of what we already knew. Except for the surprise reveal at the end, but is that reveal even such a shock? I don't think so. At least the comic had nice Jim Cheung artwork. **

TEEN TITANS #58 Reviewing for CBR soon.

THOR: AGES OF THUNDER Fraction's take on Thor is not what I expected at all, but he brings back the majesty of the Tales of Asgard along with the dysfunction as Thor has to come in and clean up his family's messes throughout the story. Thor's no angel either, as he whores around and acts like he's too kool for skool, but he does know how to throw a hammer through a frost giant's face, and that's gotta be worth something. A great Thor comic with beautiful double-page layouts throughout the issue, appropriate for a kick-ass god. ****

ULTIMATE X-MEN #93 Kirkman gets a lot of grief for his run on this series, and I think it's completely unfounded. His work here has been solid from the beginning, and he wraps everything up in this issue with an appropriately epic battle. Yes, his version of Cable is different, and Pyro, and Phoenix, and Apocalypse, etc. But different in an interesting way, and that's what the Ultimate line has become--a place to trot out variations of classic characters and see how they work. For the most part, Kirkman's versions were more interesting than what was going on in the "core" X-titles over the same time period. Hell, he even disbanded the team a year before "Messiah CompleX" and he told a better story because of it. Kirkman's Ultimate X-Men was good, solid X-Men stuff for a couple of years. Don't hate it just because it's not Claremont/Byrne. ***

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Order #10 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The Order #10, about which I write the following sentence: "'The Order' may have looked too conventional or too marginal to survive as a monthly comic, but its readers know that it was one of the most interesting takes on classic superheroics in the last few years."

Read the entire review HERE.

Ramayan 3392 AD Volume 2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ramayan 3392 AD Volume 2, in which I write the following sentence: "It feels like a fully-realized fantasy world, something from the coolest video game you've never played."

Read the entire review HERE.

Glamourpuss #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Glamourpuss #1, in which I write the following sentence: "It's fascinating, in the way that skimming through someone's diary might be fascinating, but as a comic book, it doesn't really work."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Glamourpuss, Dc Universe, Legion, and So Much More Hit THE SPLASH PAGE

Sometimes a whole stack of comics is worth talking about more than a single, important issue. That's how Chad Nevett and I felt this week, and so we explore the schizophrenia of Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #1, the tease-ery of DC Universe #0, Shooter's new direction for the Legion as exemplified by Legion of Super-Heroes #41, Matt Fraction's take on the Thunder God in Thor: Ages of Thunder, and we don't even stop there. Chad challenges me to name some entry-level Legion comics, and I divert the question with skill. We also don't really like everything that came out this week, and we let you know about it.

All this, and as always, more, in the transnational Splash Page!

If you didn't click on the link above, you can click it HERE.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Saw the Iron Man Movie. Did You?

It seems Iron Man can't be discussed without comparing it to other superhero movies. At least, I can't think of it any other way. But unlike most of the other superhero films over the past decade, Iron Man presents a sexy, confident hero. Iron Man will kick you ass with his repulsor rays and he'll love it. That scene in the trailer where he shoots the tiny rocket at the tank, then turns and slow walks toward the camera with the explosion behind him? That's not just summer action movie cool. That's Tony Stark cool. He acts like that even when nobody's around to see him, because being a superhero is the world's coolest hobby. Sure, he's got some kind of guilt over years of weapon profiteering, but that's just so he doesn't look like a dick. He loves having a high-tech suit of armor and being able to fly in and act the hero, and the movie knows it.

It's easily the best version of Tony Stark ever. Robert Downey, Jr. has personified what Iron Man always should have been.

That's the thing with this movie. It doesn't have as much obligation to the source material because how many definitive Iron Man stories are there really? "Demon in a Bottle"? That's it. And even that is not so much a coherent narrative as it is a bunch of traditional superhero stories with a subplot about alcoholism. So this movie gets to come in and do whatever it wants with the character, but the glorious part, the thing that really bodes well for future Jon Favreau/Marvel productions, is that instead of just taking the concept and going in a new direction, the movie nails the essence of the character in a way the comics never could.

And it Jeff Bridges gives great Obidiah Stane. Same with Paltrow's Pepper Potts. All are perfect.

Even if the movie lags a bit, it lags by focusing a bit too much on Tony Stark's technology fetish, and that's not such a bad choice. He is obsessive, and his tinkering can slow down the movie, but that's what that character is about just as much as he's about flying low over a carnival just to show off.

Iron Man isn't revolutionary or ground-breaking or innovative. It's just really good. You'll like it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Clown at Midnight and DC Universe #0

In this week's DC Universe #0, we see, for the first time outside of the Grant Morrison prose issue of Batman (issue #663), the new "Clown at Midnight" version of the Joker. The character looks nothing like the John Van Fleet version, but if you look closely, the art in DC Universe #0 (did Tony Daniel draw that sequence?) shows the Joker's newly menacing grin, and the callback to the red/black pattern establishes that this is the same incarnation as the prose story.

So my thoughts are: isn't it strange that this new version of the Joker appeared only once, over a year ago, in a prose story, hasn't been seen since, and now appears a second time in this book that's basically just an ad for Final Crisis? And what does that mean for the timeline of Morrison's Batman? Does it mean that the rest of the DC Universe has finally caught up with the chronology he's been exploring since he took over Batman? If so, then how does the recent "Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul" crossover fit in? I'm not sure I really care about any of these answers, since I'd rather have Morrison's work off in it's own little corner of the DCU, but with Final Crisis, his stuff is center stage.

By the way, as I already implied in my review for DC Universe #0, Countdown is completely irrelevant to Final Crisis, or so it seems. We all knew this already, based on the fact that they ended Countdown an issue early to make way for this Johns/Morrison issue, but it's nice to see the irrelevance of Countdown so enthusiastically verified by DCU #0. So, I guess my question for those who shelled out the $150 for Countdown is: are you angry that Countdown has been rendered completely irrelevant, or are you unbelievably happy that such an abominable book has been ignored?