Thursday, July 31, 2008

Skrulls vs. Power Pack #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Skrulls vs. Power Pack #1, about which I write the following sentences: "Like the last few 'Power Pack' series, this one is written by Fred Van Lente who, like a Skrull, is infiltrating the Marvel Universe more and more each day. Van Lente still manages to stay true to his indy roots with the infotainment of Evil Twin's 'Comic Book Comics,' but more and more of his comic writing work is popping up at Marvel. And he's been consistently good, bringing a light-hearted (but intelligent) sensibility to everything he works on. His work on the 'Power Pack' has only gotten stronger over the past year. When he first began working with these characters, his pacing was a bit looser and his exposition and bit lengthier, but now he's writing swift-moving stories with just the right mix of humor and peril."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Back from L. A. -- hopped on a plane just a few hours after the earthquake (which felt like a train rumbling by, and that's about it).

I'll link to the rest of my San Diego coverage after I catch up on my sleep and get reoriented. But I'm glad to be home. I haven't hugged my kids in two weeks, and it was great to do so again. (When I try to hug other people's kids, the parents usually just flip out and call the authorities.)

I also have a couple of comic book reviews that should be up at CBR tonight or tomorrow, but it's been three weeks since I've picked up my comics (I've been reviewing from the Marvel pdfs), and I'm going to have a giant stack to buy tomorrow. What should I read first? What was the best stuff from the past three weeks (besides Ambush Bug, obviously)?

This is a big weekend for me, with "The Art of Joe Staton" exhibit opening in Pittsfield, with my pal Lawrence Klein (of MoCCA) as curator and me in charge of the programming. You should all come to the opening reception on Saturday (Aug 2nd) at 5:00 at the Storefront Artist Project.

More details to follow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wolverine #67 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Wolverine #67, about which I write the following sentences: "'Old Man Logan' Part Two is an improvement over the first part -- at least the silly 'Unforgiven' vibe has dissipated -- and this issue shows that the story may turn into something interesting, but in this issue Mark Millar does little more than take us on a sightseeing tour of the post-apocalyptic Marvel America. The reason this comic is still worth reading, though, is the work of Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines."

Wolverine #67 hits the stands tomorrow.

Read the entire review HERE.

CCI: The Adventures of Timothy Callahan: Part Five

Television's Ryan Callahan and I say goodbye to the San Diego Comic-Con and give out the necessary awards. I hope you've been following all of my adventures in San Diego, because I know I have!

Read the finale in The Adventures of Timothy Callahan in San Diego: Part Five.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Comic-Con Answer Man

I can't tell if everyone is sick of the Comic-Con news or just sick of having to read through a zillion articles to find the news they care about, so here's what I'm going to do:

Ask me any question about this year's San Diego Comic-Con and I will answer it.

You might want to hear about an announcement or some breaking news that you missed. You might want to know about the gossip on the floor. You might want to know how it smelled. I don't know.

All I know is that I was there for the entire show--covered a lot of panels and read everything posted about the other ones. I am your one-stop-shopping for Comic-Con 2008.

So, ask away.

CCI: The Adventures of Timothy Callahan: Part Four

Saturday was a day of madness as we found some amazing artwork, failed to chase down Pikachu, and hit the town hard.

Plastic Man really had it rough.

Read more about our exploits in The Adventures of Timothy Callahan in San Diego: Part Four.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My San Diego Coverage

In addition to posting about my adventures over the past week (with two more "Adventures" posts still to come), I've been covering panels galore, and if you haven't been keeping up with the Comic-Con coverage (because, let's be honest, there's a LOT of it), then here's what you might be interested in. Because this is what I've been covering:

CCI: The Adventures of Timothy Callahan: Part Three

The third day of Comic-Con International was all about Watchmen. Well, that and Vertigo. And Batman.

By the way, Grant Morrison says the Black Glove is someone we all know. Someone everyone in the world knows. So that kind of narrows it down.

It's obviously Jesus.

Or Mickey Mouse.

Television's Ryan Callahan and I ventured forth on Friday to find new escapades and to see if that fiesty little Pikachu was ready for some fisticuffs.

Read all about it in The Adventures of Timothy Callahan in San Diego: Part Three.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Errol Morris's "The Thin Blue Line" was unlike anything else screened at film fest HQ this week.

The documentary feature detailed the farcical trial of Randall Dale Adams--who was so clearly wrongly accused of murdering a police officer in in 1976. Using interviews with Adams, the defense team, super-creepy and obvious murderer David Ray Harris, Morris lays out the case for Adams's innocence. But he doesn't do it in the Michael Moore style of, "can you believe this??? I can't believe this??? Can you???" He lets the characters speak for themselves, and uses moody and cinematic re-enactments to show how the murder might have occurred and how the witnesses may have been more than a little unreliable.

Above all, we at film fest HQ were astounded by the film's fascinatingly structured escalation, as the details of the case came more clearly into focus with each interview--even when the interviews didn't describe events in the same way.

"The Thin Blue Line" is about a justice system determined to close the case by the most expedient means necessary, and if an innocent man had to pay the price, then it was for the greater good of the justice system. To keep those monster truck wheels of justice rolling.

This was the first real, substantial film screened at The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival, and it may yet win the coveted Blazing Melonball Award for Best in Show.

Richard Oldstate adds, "this was not the delightful Rowan Atkinson romp I expected.
Three and one-eighth stars.

CCI: The Adventures of Timothy Callahan: Part Two

Thursday: The first full day of Comic-Con International 2008 in San Diego. What treasures would the day hold? Would we wait in line all day? How much is too much, when you're doing a fake British accent? Would any cutesy video game characters get punched in the face?

Where the hell is the press room?

All these questions, and more, answered in CBR's The Adventures of Timothy Callahan in San Diego: Part Two.

Ambitious Failures Hit THE SPLASH PAGE

My negativity toward Southland Tales sparked some debate about the concept of the "ambitious failure," so Chad Nevett and I had to join the fray with a deeply philosophical discussion on the topic--one that may be neither deep, nor philosophical, but is certainly the greatest column in Sequart history.

Read along with us, as we discuss the ambitious failures of Joe Casey, Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, and even Raymond Carver (sort of).

And, because I read the whole damn thing, I propose that Countdown was nothing if not an ambitious failure. I could be wrong about that.

And Charlatan Ball? Is that destined to be an ambitious failure after only two issues?

Only The Splash Page can tell.

Read all about it HERE.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: PTU: Police Tactical Unit (2003)

After the Batman wars, the only ethical choice was to look outside the country for cinema, and thus, when Johnny To's PTU: Police Tactical Unit appeared atop the spinner rack, we knew that we could find sanctuary.

Unfortunately, we at film fest HQ discovered that PTU was one of To's lesser-known works for a reason. While still hauntingly evocative and stylish, it's slow, dream-like unfolding is too subtle for most American audiences. Thirty seven participants fell asleep during the screening, and the remaining forty five spent the bulk of the movie pondering the post-Batman and Robin cinematic fate of Alicia Silverstone and Chris O'Donnell. Only Richard Oldstate remained actively engaged in the film, which slowly unfolds the tale of a police officer seeking his missing gun as the forces of crime and policing build to a Leone-esque confrontation in the final minutes.

Accustomed, as we were, to garish costumes, hilarious cold-related puns, and AWESOME VEHICLES, PTU suffered by comparison. It was a ponderous masterpiece, no doubt, but it lacked motorcycle stunts and Nicky Katt.

In the genre of cop-loses-gun, PTU doesn't even rank in the top three, falling just behind Kurosawa's Stray Dog, P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, and that sequence in season three of The Wire.

Says Richard Oldstate: "I found this feature film hilarious. I always enjoy a good farce, and this one was certainly up to snuff. Speaking of snuff, it reminds me of several snuff films I participated in during the '70s. They say it's easy to kill a man, but not when you use only a matchbook."

CCI: The Adventures of Timothy Callahan: Part One

Preview night is over, and the first installment of my weekend of adventure in San Diego is now posted at CBR.

Read about my Wednesday night of intrigue and excitement:

Part One: In Which Lines Are Drawn, But Not Where They Should Be

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: Batman and Robin (1997)

The only possible retaliation against Richard Oldstate's deployment of the Batman Forever gambit was to attack with what is considered the worst superhero movie in history: Batman and Robin. But here at film fest HQ, we didn't just want to watch the fantastical adventures of George Clooney and his band of merry men. We wanted to gain only the deepest insight into the creative process behind the film, so we turned to director Joel Schumacher--or to his commentary track.

Schumacher teaches us a few things about filmmaking, and here are the important lessons everyone should know:

1) Feign ignorance, or, if that fails, actually be ignorant. Schumacher acts surprised when he says people compared this movie to the Adam West television show, with its campy humor, bright colors, and cornball dialogue.

2) Don't be afraid to ask a six-year-old. Schumacher had no ideas for the sequel to his previous Bat-box office smash, so he asked his little godson which characters he liked, and that's why Mr. Freeze is in the movie, and Poison Ivy, and Bane. Even though there's no story that links them together at all logically.

3) Movies are for selling toys. Why all the silly vehicles and costume changes? Schumacher was told to have those things to make the movie more "toyetic."

4) Alicia Silverstone is a skilled actress. Who else can play a mildly retarded young woman with a puffy face and a speech impediment who's really good at computers. "I can do it. I'm a big girl!" she seems to say, in that Life Goes On way of hers.

5) Nicky Katt rides motorcycles.

As terrible as Batman and Robin truly is, we at film fest HQ found it far superior to Batman Forever, largely due to the math involved. While Jim Carrey = Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Tommy Lee Jones < style="font-style: italic;">Batman and Robin is a better looking movie than Batman Forever. And not having to listen to the dialogue while Schumacher droned on about how much contempt he has for the source material, "It's just a comic book movie," he repeatedly declared--well, that was painful gravy.

Richard Oldstate was unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: Batman Forever (1995)

None of us at film fest HQ had seen Batman Forever since its original theatrical release, but when it popped up on the spinner rack, in position #1... (okay, who am I kidding? It was the special selection of film fest founder and secretary Richard Oldstate. He of the tweed slacks and the seafoam ascot. One would think he'd be above such superhero spectacle, especially after the disappointment of Gotham Knight, but as he held the Batman Forever dvd in his meaty hands, he giggled like a seven-year-old who'd just found his father's stash of Gary Panter art books).

As we screened this film, we, at film fest HQ, wondered (vocally) why Batman and Robin was thought of as the film that killed the Batman franchise, when Batman Forever was clearly a work of utter horribleness. How the franchise survived this movie--how this movie earned hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide--we could not decipher, as we sat in loud silence watching Nicole Kidman throw herself at a pre-puffy Val Kilmer; as we watched Tommy Lee Jones take cinematic performance in a direction best left to lesser actors; as we watched Jim Carrey give one of the most grating acting lessons of his long and painful career; as we watched Chris O'Donnell do his laundry karate.

This is the worst movie in GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival history.

Jon Favreau's the best thing in this movie, and he has no lines. Somehow, he survived this monstrosity.

After mocking the crimes against theatricality perpetrated by Joel Schumacher and company, we knew there was only one way to redeem ourselves and save our film festival from the fate of its lesser competitors. We had to go the distance.

Next up: Batman and Robin (1997)

[Note: Richard Oldstate adds, "I am a fan of acting and a fan of the actor, and I chose this film because I so admire the nuances and restraint shown in the performances of Mr. James Carrey and Sir Thomas Lee Jones. I have no comment on Mr. Timothy Callahan's improper impression of the film. He was clearly watching a different movie.]

Immortal Iron Fist #17 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Immortal Iron Fist #17, about which I write the following sentences: "The preview pages released earlier this year haven't done justice to Foreman's work. He's entered a new phase in his career, moving away from more traditional shapes and figure drawing (as seen in his excellent work on 'Ares' or in the pages of earlier 'Immortal Iron Fist' issues) and toward a much more expressionistic line (seen, in rushed form, in an issue of DC's 'The Search for Ray Palmer'). His work in 'Immortal Iron Fist' #17 is passionate and energetic, a style I can only describe as Leinil Yu meets early Jae Lee. I happen to like the style a lot, and it's a great fit for an Iron Fist comic, which is all about dynamic action and foreboding."

Read the entire review HERE.

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: Shoot 'em Up (2007)

When Shoot 'em Up rotated to the front of the film fest HQ spinner rack, we knew we were in for a very special 86 minutes of cinematic profundity.

The title of the movie does not lie. There is shooting, and the shooting is...up. (Actually, I don't really know where the "up" comes in, but "Shoot 'em real good, a lot" isn't as catchy.)

Director Michael Davis has made other films, all of which I have neglected to see--even his screenwriting debut, Double Dragon, which sounds like something everyone would love since it features Alyssa Milano, Mark Dacascos, and The Lady and the Tramp II's Scott Wolf. And it's based on a video game. And there's kicking. But here at film fest HQ, we didn't watch that--we screened Davis's newest feature: Shoot 'em Up.

I took a bathroom break about 45 minutes into the movie, and when I came out: more shooting. I apparently missed the plot, which dealt with some baby harvesting/gun control hot button issues, during my little break. The five minutes of missed plot did not hamper my enjoyment of this movie, which is one ridiculous set piece after another. This movie is one scene after another about a badass holding a baby, shooting everything in sight while chomping carrots. That's it. It doesn't aspire to more. The baby is clearly a doll in several sequences, and the filmmakers don't seem to mind one bit. You have to admire their willingness to abandon any pretense at realism. This is a gleeful romp through the streets of violence, and it has no redeeming qualities other than its self-conscious joy.

Here at film fest HQ, we thought it was a terrible movie, but an entertaining one nonetheless. It cleansed our palatte for the next film. It prepared us for the immense epic of cinematic genius that would soon follow in The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival. We were ready.

Next up: Batman Forever (1995)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Here at film fest HQ, we have one rule and one rule only: put the dvds in the spinner rack, give it a whirl, and let God sort it out. Except when we break that rule by picking a lot of Batman-related movies. But in the case of 1978's Inglorious Bastards (a.k.a. Quel maledetto treno blindato), it was chance mixed with luck and a dash of karma that led to our screening of the film.

It's the film Quentin Tarantino would probably call, "the film I will loosely base my next project on, except I'm stealing the name, the concept, and many of the situations from it too. Because it's Italian and it's awesome."

Here at film fest HQ, we watched the film in various states of nervous disquiet, wondering if Fred The Hammer Williamson would help the film live up to the potential expressed in it's tagline: "Whatever the Dirty Dozen did, they do dirtier!" And the film is just like The Dirty Dozen, except with half the men, and significantly less awesomeness. It's a poster child for the notion that a cool idea does not a good movie make.

If you haven't seen the movie, and you probably haven't, then we at film fest HQ want you to know what you're missing. It's a rag-tag band of POWs who end up fighting on behalf of the VERY ARMY THAT WANTED THEM LOCKED UP. During WWII. And with naked girls shooting guns. And that's not all, because, unlike The Dirty Dozen, Inglorious Bastards does climax with the storming-the-castle sequence. The storming-the-castle is just the middle, as the team of sleazy misfits goes on to blow up a bridge, steal an evil weapon of evilness from a speeding train, and confront the nazis in a showdown of not-really-all-that-epic proportions.

If any of that sounds like it would make a good movie, you're 35% correct. The other 65% of the movie is filled with filler moments on par with some of the lesser episodes of Baywatch Nights. If you like your silences awkward and your character interactions lifeless, then Inglorious Bastards will tickle your satisfaction glands.

Here at film fest HQ, we like it for its concept, but we don't really feel the need to screen it anytime soon. Although the soon-to-be-released special edition dvd looks tempting.

Next up: Shoot 'em Up (2007)

The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival: Gotham Knight (2008)

It's a pretty exciting month. SDCC and The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival all happening within the same two weeks. Since I'll largely be reporting on Comic-Con events elsewhere, I'll provide exclusive coverage of the The First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival here, on GeniusboyFiremelon.

The film festival began early Thursday morning, with a special screening of Gotham Knight the direct-to-dvd prelude to the theatrical release of The Dark Knight.

Here at film fest HQ, we were pretty excited about the direct-to-dvd Batman anthology, and eagerly anticipated the beautiful collision of anime and Bob Kane. I could write a long post explaining just what went wrong to shatter our illusions of straight-to-dvd bliss.

But Richard Oldstate and I already wrote about Gotham Knight HERE.

So, I'll let that post speak for all of us, here at film fest HQ.

Next up: Inglorious Bastards (1978)

CBR and San Diego and Me

As you know, Comic-Con International: San Diego begins tomorrow with the magical "Preview Night" and continues through the less-magical "Sunday, day of weeping and vendors showing up late and everyone napping after it's all over."

I have A LOT on my agenda for the next week, most of which will relate to Comic Book Resources and all of which will be available here for your enjoyment, on the also-magical internet.

For CBR, I'll be...
  • Covering seven panels--you can read my coverage of Stan Lee and Grant Morrison, Vertigo, the Goon, Dave Gibbons and Chip Kidd, and so much more.
  • Contributing questions for Jonah Weiland's video interviews with Morrison, Gerard Way, Geoff Johns, James Robinson, and Sterling Gates.
  • Writing daily features on "Timothy Callahan's Adventures in San Diego," which may or may not run until after the show, but they will be magnificent.
  • Debuting my new, long-anticipated weekly CBR column, in which I say smart stuff about comics. The first entry should be posted sometime next week, and it's entitled "In Defense of Superhero Comics."
For Sequart, I'll be...
  • Discussing the concept of the ambitious failure and how it relates to comics with my friend, and yours, Chad Nevett.
For GeniusboyFiremelon, I'll be...
  • Updating you on all of the stuff above, when it goes live.
  • Counter-programming against myself, since I can't compete with my own SDCC coverage, by posting daily about the soon-to-be-completed First Annual GeniusboyFiremelon Bi-Coastal 24-Hour (Non-Consecutive) Film Festival. You'll get to read my thoughts on the following classic and contemporary films and more:
Gotham Knight
Inglorious Bastards
Shoot 'em Up
Batman Forever
Batman and Robin
PTU: Police Tactical Unit
Thin Blue Line
The Dark Knight

Oh, and I'm scheduled to review the new Immortal Iron Fist issue as well.

Edited to add: Greg Burgas reminds me that I'm looking forward to meeting my hero, Greg Burgas.

How can I possibly get all of this done and still have fun in San Diego?


Uncanny X-Men #500 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Uncanny X-Men #500, about which I write the following sentences: "This issue also helps clarify what was missing from Brubaker's previous issues (other than Fraction, who is a more-than-welcome-addition to the series): a grand threat. When Magneto appears, blending in, at first, with the costumed visitors to the 'Mutant Kitsch,' he not only recalls the best of the classic X-Men stories, but his threatening presence reminds us of how long this series has run without a great villain. And the lack of such a strong antagonist has softened the team over the past couple of years, leading them on adventures into space, and in the sewers, and around the world, like a bunch of directionless little rodents. The X-Men have been scurrying around the borders of the Marvel Universe for too long, this issue seems to say, and now that Magneto has returned, they have something to stand and fight against besides some kind of vague mutant loathing."

Is the return of Magneto a spoiler? It might be, I guess, but wait until you see how he returns. This issue goes on sale tomorrow, and it's the one you've been waiting for. Although, I'm not a big fan of that Alex Ross cover--it looks like he spilled his Kool-Aid all over his painting. Anyway, issue #500 is good, even if the cover is sticky and reeks of fruit punch.

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Moon Knight #20 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Moon Knight #20, about which I write the following sentences: "Basically, it's a flashback to 1994, to a hitherto-untold story about the time Jack Russell (a.k.a. Werewolf by Night) was part of a seedy underworld werewolf fighting ring and Moon Knight swooped in to bust it up. Over the years, we've all seen the classic story about the gladiators fighting for their lives -- whether it be in ancient Rome or in the bowels of the big, uncaring city -- and that's what we get here. Except it's mixed with elements of the dog-fighting genre, and the genre of the superhero-who's-just-as-screwed-up-as-the-monsters-he-fights. All of which is well and good. The concept works. The imagery of giant werewolves fighting each other -- that works too. But this story tries so hard to be hard-boiled and tough that it falls into disappointing cliche."

Read the entire review HERE.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

War is Hell: First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #5 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #5, about which I write the following sentences: "The comic is titled 'War is Hell,' so it's no surprise that it shows the less-than-glamorous side of combat. But what makes it good, what makes it worth reading, is Ennis' ability to find the human situations within the absurdity, and his ability to make Kaufmann, the would-be Phantom Eagle, into a flawed but fascinating character. And then there's Chaykin, drawing biplanes and bloodshed and deeply conflicted square-jawed heroes. Who better to draw such characters against the backdrop of war?"

Read the entire review HERE.

Back Issue #29: Greatest Stories Never Told

I don't know about you, but I've been reading Michael Eury's Back Issue magazine for years. It's a nice blend of interviews and features, all dealing with the glorious Bronze Age of comics.

Not only does the newest issue, Back Issue #29, sport a cover by the legendary Dave Cockrum, but it also has an article by some Timothy Callahan guy who tells you all about a couple of the "The Greatest Stories Never Told."

Find out the connection between Nightmare, Mystique, and Nightcrawler. Find out about how the mighty Apocalypse was supposed to be someone less, um, mighty. Someone like, say, the Owl. The Owl, you ask? Yes, the Owl!

Speaking of mighty, the grand overlord of Comics Should Be Good, Mr. Brian Cronin, inspired my exploration of these ideas, and while I included a thank you to him at the end of the article, I'd like to thank him again here. Like his blog, he is also good.

Anyway, find out what luminaries like Roger Stern, Bob Harras, and Butch Guice (among others) had to say about all things Never Told inside the fancy pages of Back Issue #29.

You might even find out a little something about an untold Madrox story. That's right! Madrox, the Multiple Man! (That's something you won't find in The New Yorker.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reminder: Order Grant Morrison: The Early Years

Don't forget to order your copy of the newly revised Grant Morrison: The Early Years from your local comics shop. The book is only available through the July Diamond Previews catalog, and I wouldn't want anyone to miss out.

Ask your retailer to order your copy soon, using order code JUL084473.

To find out more, visit the Sequart website.

(And yes, Grant can still see you.)

Authorial Voice Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

How much of his or her own voice should echo through when a comic book writer is working on a comic? Is it the obligation of the writer to act as a steward for the character, maintaining consistency from the character's previous appearance to the next one? Or should a writer express a unique, idiosyncratic voice, thus making his or her own mark on the character?

Chad Nevett and I ponder these questions as we take a remark Daniel Way made in regard to Deadpool and blow it completely out of proportion by turning it into a fierce debate about the merits of authorial voice.

If you never thought a Rob Liefeld creation would spark such intellectual discourse, think again, my friend!

And this Skottie Young Cable & Deadpool cover is nice, isn't it? He should draw more comics using this style. (And, really, isn't style just the artistic equivalent of voice? We raise that question in our discussion as well.)

Read all this and more in the column your mother used to talk about when she asked, "if The Splash Page jumped off a bridge, would you do so too?"

Or, click HERE, because you can.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Scalped #19 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Scalped #19, about which I write the following sentences: "After last issue's done-in-one look at Officer Falls Down, Jason Aaron and new artist Davide Furno begin a new story arc called 'Boudoir Stomp.' You can imagine what kind of love story it is with a title like that and coming from the mind of Jason Aaron. If you've never read a Jason Aaron story before (and you're crazy not to), then think of it this way: it's savage and twisted and hopeless, but that doesn't stop anyone from trying. That pretty much encapsulates the world in which these characters live. Stuck on the Rez, they seek escape, but no matter how much they want it -- no matter what they're willing to give up to leave -- the Rez drags them back in."

Read the entire review HERE.

Omega the Unknown #10 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Omega the Unknown #10, about which I write the following sentences: "The explosive climax of issue #9 has not literally rendered everyone deaf, but that's what it feels like. The silence permeates all of the small moments here, as characters say goodbye, move on with their lives, or fall in with an underground-dwelling homeless crowd recreating some bizarre superhero version of Hollywood Squares -- I'm not sure what that last part's about, exactly, but the image of the emaciated Omega being lifted into his square next to the guy in the Mink costume perfectly captures the tone Lethem, Rusnak, and Dalrymple have been striving for. It's not an image you'd expect in the final issue of a Marvel comic. It's not a grand, heroic triumph. It's a weird, underground, unnoticed-by-the-rest-of-society triumph, not of order over chaos, but of inspiration. These characters will live on -- their exploits will be celebrated and retold by society's underdwellers."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gotham Knight Review (with a special guest)

Here I am, in L.A., watching dvds with guest blogger Richard Oldstate, and since the big old Dark Knight movie is coming out and all -- the movie Grant Morrison says is to superhero movies what Watchmen was to superhero comics -- we decided to pop in a fresh copy of Gotham Night.

(By the way, Richard is particularly excited about the news that Earl Somerlath may have been rumored to perhaps possibly appear at the Convention of Comic Books in San Diego. If you can help verify this fact, he would appreciate it. He's willing to pay, as he says, "up to $3,000" for an autographed copy of The Ombudsman.)

Here's the overall rating on Gotham Night: It's not good.

A few of the segments are worth your time, but most are not. If you do watch it, don't feel compelled to view the whole thing from beginning to end -- it's not necessary, and you lose nothing by skipping to the better bits. Believe it or not, there's a novelization of this thing -- a NOVELIZATION -- which seems completely ridiculous, since the point of the video is to show Batman in various anime styles. (Is each chapter of the book written in a different style? That would be interesting. I suspect they are not.)

Quick responses to each segment, from me and Richard Oldstate (I'm in normal font, he speaks in italics):

"Have I Got a Story for You"
In which three street urchins recall different versions of Batman's appearance and actions.
I've seen this done better in Batman: The Animated Series. At least that version featured Dick Sprang daffiness and Frank Miller bombast. This version featured nothing even close to as interesting.
The number of false remembrances by adolescents featured was patently absurd; two, at most, would have been sufficient.

In which Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez get caught in a literal crossfire between rival gangs before Batman swoops in.
While considerably better than the first segment, this one had little to recommend it. Batman is a cipher who does very little except act as the deus ex machina. "The Russian," as one of the gangsters is called, is clearly a modern update of "The Cossack" from the Adam West series, but even that isn't enough to make this segment worth watching.
At least they delivered upon the promised crossfire.

"Field Test"
In which Batman tests out a fancy gadget that repels bullets, until he realizes that the device "works too well."
Although an interesting premise, the Bruce Wayne character looks 14 years old and by this point in the video, we'd seen very little of Batman being Batman, so frustration started setting in. For a video about the character, we were getting small, uninteresting glipses, but very little of what makes the character interesting (i.e. the quest for vengeance, the detective skills, kicking).
Like Batman's new device, this story proved too good at repelling my interest.

"In Darkness Dwells"
Batman vs. Killer Croc.
This one is the best of the collection, with blocky, high-contrast animation (that looks something like Tony Harris's early work), and an actual Batman story. It's a traditional one, yes, but Batman detects, he kicks, he faces a crazed, monstrous foe. It's good.
I generally find crocodile-based beings much less threatening than those based on alligators. Or turtles. Had Batman faced a villain called Snapper Turt, I would have been enthralled.

"Working Through Pain"
Batman gets shot, and works through the pain, recalling his past experiences in Asia, where he learned some mystical skillz.
Although this one is probably the best pure story, it's too much flashback and too little forward movement in the main plot. Batman works through the pain. Yup, that's about it. But at least it tries to be symbolic, which is something.
Would there be a mystical way to deal with boredom?

A new assassin turns up in Gotham. He's called "Dead Shot," he dresses like a pimp, and he is awesome in more ways than one.
This is nearly as good as the Killer Croc story, but I don't like the animation quite as much. I think this version of Deadshot is a fun combination of the various incarnations of the character, and it's another one definitely worth watching. A strong way to end the disc.
I thoroughly enjoyed the climactic battle sequence, though I feel it would have been vastly improved had it taken place on a steam-powered train.

Jog, Omega, and My Top 10 So Far

Jog has a review of Lethem and Dalrymple's Omega the Unknown posted at the Savage Critics, and I think it's one of the best pieces he's ever written. He articulates what's so remarkable about the difficult-to-articulate series. I share his opinion about Omega, but he was far more fond of issue #10 then I was, although he has the benefit of reading the entire run before commenting upon the finale, while I have only issue #10 in my hands here on my trip to L.A., while the rest of my comics are back home. And without a fresh rereading of issues #1-9, issue #10 isn't completely satisfying, although it's still very good. I sent Augie my review of it and he'll probably post it in the next day or so.

In my review, I mentioned that Lethem and Dalrymple's Omega will probably make my end of the year Top 10 list -- or I speculated that it might. And I do think that it will, especially after I read the whole series in one sitting. But now I'm wondering what else might make my Top 10 Comics list. I know it's only July, but since I brought up the idea in my Omega review, I'm thinking about other stuff I liked this year.

Here's what I've liked a lot this year, and if I had to make the Best of... list right now, this is what it might look like:

1. Casanova
2. Northlanders
3. Omega the Unknown
4. Batman
5. Scalped
6. Skyscrapers of the Midwest
7. Umbrella Academy
8. Captain America
9. Tiny Titans
10. Incredible Hercules

Many of these titles will get bumped by the end of the year, probably, but what else am I missing so far? What other quality comics have come out this year? What would be on your "so far" list?

Oh, yeah, and I mentioned it above, but I'm in Los Angeles right now -- and I will be for the week leading up to the San Diego Comic-Con. Stop me in the streets and say hi.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Justice Society of America #17 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Justice Society of America #17, about which I write the following sentences: "Writer Geoff Johns, with plotting assistance from Alex Ross, seems to be questioning the role of a higher power. He's asking, in this narrative, 'what is the price of getting your ultimate wish?' and 'what is the relationship between humanity and the divine?' Being a comic book writer, Johns isn't asking these questions idly. He's putting them in action, literally embodied by Gog and his relationship to those around them. He's also challenging the god-like roles of the superhumans, and when Gog says to the JLA (who make a guest appearance in this issue), 'You are protectors. Who protects you? Now I do,' we understand the math involved. Gog is to Superman as Superman is to humanity. It's a matter of degree, but an important matter, to be sure."

Read the entire review HERE.

Young X-Men #4 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Young X-Men #4, about which I write the following sentences: "I'm going to boldly state that 'Young X-Men' is the best of the recent X-Men comics. While Mike Carey spins his wheels with the nostalgic 'X-Men: Legacy,' and Ed Brubaker stumbles toward Matt Fraction for help with 'Uncanny X-Men,' this series presents intriguing characters who are trying to make sense of the new, Post-Messiah Complex scenario. It's more streamlined than the two main X-Titles and more graceful than either the new 'X-Force' or the new 'Cable' series. Plenty of problems still exist with 'Young X-Men' -- problems I'll articulate in a bit -- but it's been a solid launch with some really nice art by Yanick Paquette. Part of the reason why I'd rank this book slightly higher than the other X-Titles is that Yanick's work reminds me of Paul Smith and Kevin Nowlan -- his pencils are nothing if not a combination of the Smith/Nowlan aesthetic -- and that combination works well for a series such as this. A series where a young team heads toward an uncertain future. A series where Cyclops acts as a father figure and a taskmaster. A series where the old New Mutants (oxymoron?) have become the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Or have they? Things are not what they seem, and while that makes for some intrigue, it also makes for a bit of confusion in this first story arc."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Detective Comics #846 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Detective Comics #846, about which I write the following sentences: "The real attraction in this issue is Nguyen's artwork. I find it endlessly frustrating that Grant Morrison has been saddled with mediocre artists on his well-crafted 'Batman' run, while Paul Dini has had the good fortune to land Nguyen as his collaborator in what has been a series of solid, but unspectacular issues. Imagine the real 'Batman R.I.P.' with Nguyen! He brings a sharp sense of design to every page, and he knows how to spot blacks as well as any superhero artists working today. His characters inhabit a sinister world, but they glide through it sleekly, swiftly. Nguyen's Batman is a razor-sharp blade of vengeance, and he can maneuver from quiet flashbacks to subdued drama to lightning-quick action will grace and skill. If you're buying this issue for the 'Batman R.I.P.' tie-in, you'll be disappointed, but you might find a lot to like here anyway. Come for the misleading advertising, stay for the Nguyen.""

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Southland Tales: Did Anyone Else See This?

Okay, Mike Phillips, I finally saw Southland Tales.

Here's the thing: I heard this movie was terrible, and it was even worse than I expected. Sure, like anyone, I enjoy some Donnie Darko. Not the Director's Cut, which adds lengthy text pieces and attempts to "explain" the science of time travel using the magic of metal + water. But the theatrical release of Donnie Darko is a movie I can recommend. I used to teach it in my cinema class, but I stopped because every teenager had seen it by the time they hit senior year. I don't know if that's true anymore, and maybe I'll start showing it again soon, but you know what movie I won't add to the curriculum?

You guessed it! Southland Tales.

Even before the Cannes crowd booed this piece of cinematic silliness off the stage, we had plenty of warning signs that the movie wouldn't be very good. I personally had the misfortune of seeing Richard Kelly speak at the 2004 San Diego Comic-Con, after being brought onstage by his pal Kevin Smith. As quick-witted and loquacious Smith can be, Kelly is the opposite. He could barely form a sentence during that presentation, stumbling over words and incoherently trying to explain bits of the project he was working on. Then he showed an early version of the CGI sequence of the scene where an SUV humps a smaller SUV. Maybe Kelly has trouble with public speaking (not the best character flaw to have as a director, one would imagine), but there's no excuse for the utter lack of taste or humor in that SUV scene.

Another warning sign that Southland Tales would be a disaster was Kelly's director commentary track on Donnie Darko. As anyone who's ever listened to that track knows, the story Kelly thinks he's telling doesn't match what's on the screen. In his mind, Donnie is a kind of superhero who, at the end, flies up into the sky and pulls the engine off the jet, sending it back through the time rift. That doesn't match the visuals, and listening to him explain the movie to (once again, his pal) Kevin Smith, proved that his ideas and the execution of his ideas do not correspond.

Then, of course, he cast Kevin Smith as a paraplegic Gulf War vet, and considered Southland Tales a postmodern musical dealing with the effects of 9-11 and the celebrity culture. All warning signs that the movie might not work.

And it doesn't. At all.

This is a movie where Cheri Oteri and Seann William Scott give two of the more restrained performances.

This is a movie where the Rock is somehow Jesus, just because he happened to time travel sixty-nine seconds into the past. Except, wait, he's not Jesus, because Seann William Scott is. Spoiler, sorry. But you really don't want to see this movie anyway.

This is a movie where Wallace Shawn can't even make the dialogue work.

This is a movie where a facially-scarred Justin Timberlake acts as a lethal sentinel over the city, shooting Marxist rebels before lip-syncing and dancing to somebody else's song, selling Iraqi-import awesome sauce, and forgiving his best friend (who shot him in the face and is Jesus).

This is a movie where the number sixty-nine is supposed to be inherently funny, so Buffy the Vampire Slayer has it on her license plate.

This is a movie where the presidential ticket features Eliot and Frost, as in T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost, and then goes and quotes or misquotes the most famous lines from their most famous poems as if that somehow legitimizes the awfulness.

This is a movie that tries so hard to be about something, it is about nothing more than the unrestrained incoherence of its writer/director.

I know the obvious joke for me to use regarding this silly, ugly, ineffectual time travel movie is something like, "I wish I could travel back in time and stop myself before I wasted my time watching this disaster," but instead of saving myself, I'll spend the rest of my life warning the rest of humanity to avoid this movie. It's not good.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Last Defenders #5 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The Last Defenders #5, about which I write the following sentences: "'The Last Defenders' hasn't maintained the quality of its opening issue, but it's shaping up to be a quality little series nonetheless. The first issue was a jokey, fun, subversive bit of Marvel madness, probably due to the contributions of Keith Giffen, who is no longer contributing to the story. Issue #5 is almost completely without gags and one-liners, but it still has an ironic core. 'The Last Defenders' doesn't take itself as seriously as most Marvel comics, and Joe Casey manages to have fun playing around with Marvel history, but it still deals with surprisingly earnest themes. 'The Last Defenders' is the story of Kyle Richmond and his place in the world."

Read the entire review HERE.

Eternals #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Eternals #2, about which I write the following sentences: "It's still too early to condemn this series, and the Knaufs do seem to be heading somewhere: the Deviants are scheming, the Celestials may not be what they seem, and the Eternals are trying to hold everything together while dealing with their very human problems. But after two issues, it's still all promise -- a lot of talk with no sense that anything significant will happen soon -- unless you believe the imitation Stan Lee in the 'next issue' box, which I, understandably, do not."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Northlanders #7 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Northlanders #7, about which I write the following sentences: "If you're reading this series, you must know how good it is, but if you're waiting for the first trade, or if you're waiting to see if it lasts before investing in it monthly, how about if I throw a little high concept description at you? What if I say, "Northlanders is 300 meets Braveheart, but with vikings?" Would that interest you? Because that's not too far off from what issue #7 feels like. But it's more than that, too. "300 meets Braveheart" cheapens what Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice are doing in this series -- it's an oversimplification just to get your attention. Yet, issue #7 in particular has moments that evoke both of those films. (And, yes, I know 300 was a comic before it was a film, but let's keep our comparisons cinematical, shall we?) Northlanders #7 has a group of warriors facing impossible odds, using their shields to create a barricade -- their only hope of survival. It also features the return of the prodigal son, bent on exacting a violent revenge. It's also got plenty of blood and cursing."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The New York Four Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The New York Four, about which I write the following sentences: "The most impressive aspect of this book is how accurately Wood captures youth culture. His portrait of an eighteen-year-old girl isn't the least bit condescending or out-of-touch. It's not Bob Haney, circa 1968, trying to sound like a 'swinging teen.' It's a writer sensitive to the eternal fears of any burgeoning adult but also someone who has been paying attention to how teenagers interact. When Riley obsesses over her text messages at the expense of her face-to-face friendships, we get a sense of what it means to live in that kind of social world today. As someone who works with adolescents in my day job, I know that Wood has captured the energy, the coolness, the uncertainty, and the reality as well as anyone telling stories today."

Read the entire review HERE.

Joker's Asylum: The Joker #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Joker's Asylum: The Joker #1, about which I write the following sentences: "This comic is ugly, no question about it. It's not ugly in the grotesque way a Garth Ennis comic can be ugly. It's not 'Preacher' or 'The Boys' with death and sodomy and blood and guts. It's 1970s Hollywood movie ugly, when everyone was a little less attractive, less polished, and the themes were right there on the surface. I happen to like 1970s movie ugly, but writer Arvid Nelson and artist Alex Sanchez don't quite pull it off well enough for me to recommend it. I appreciate what they do in 'Joker's Asylum: The Joker' #1, and I'm glad they didn't give us another bland, generic Batman story, but this comic is ultimately a near miss -- a clever idea that's too simple and, yes, too ugly, to succeed."

Read the entire review HERE.

Morrison's Head Talks Batman, Joker, and Black Glove

I didn't realize Grant Morrison's new site had exclusive content until Jog pointed it out, but, yeah, it does--when you register, you get words from the head of Grant Morrison himself, and here's what he says about present and future Batman issues:
Can YOU guess the identity of the Black Glove? I keep thinking it’s so upfront, so obvious, that readers will inevitably demand an impromptu hanging when the reveal is revealed but, as ever, the looming possibility of public execution is part of the fun of writing BATMAN. Issue 678 is my gift to fans of the Dark Knight who’ve always dreamed of seeing a strung-out, psychologically-pulverized Bruce Wayne staggering across Gotham City in search of a heroin dealer. Holy Harry the horse, Batman!
And since I know every living thing is crouched with bated breath for his return…NO, there’s no Joker yet. He’s coming in #679 and will, of course, stride like a colossus across #680, the issue before the FINAL revelation of the identity of the Black Glove.
Issue #679 is the NEXT ISSUE! Joker is coming just in time for Heath Ledger's final bow.

And issue #681 will reveal the Black Glove as Alfred, or Bruce Wayne, or Thomas Wayne Jr., or Jezebel Jet, or the Joker. Finally. And then we'll all get to see how right I was.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Why I Write Comics

I'm really making a push to get my comic book writing career firmly underway this summer, and I have a couple of creator-owned works in the pipeline (no publishers yet, just a lot of "looks great--show us more when it's finished," so if you're a publisher and you want to be in business with me, let me know: tcallah [AT] And while my artists are working on the stuff I've scripted, I'm pitching to some editors here and there.

But one of the reasons I love writing comics more than prose is that magic of collaboration.

My friend and collaborator Todd Casey, who's working with me on our Steeple City graphic novel, just sent me the page on the left here. I wrote this Steeple City page but you know what I didn't include in the panel description? A grappling hook! Todd added that grappling hook to the scene, and I love it all the more. It may not seem like much to you, but when you ask for a panel of a rabbit rifling through some old junk, you don't expect a grappling hook, and yet there it is. Genius!

That's why I write comics. For the surprise grappling hook moments.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Flash

I've been thinking about the Flash far more than normal lately. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it's just one of those things taking up an inordinate amount of brain space these days, probably because (a) Barry Allen has returned in Final Crisis and (b) I finally got around to reading the entire Geoff Johns Flash run, which has been sitting on my shelf in tpb form for months--I'd completely missed everything but his last dozen issues, because of Mark Waid burnout and my apathy toward superheroes when Johns took over the series.
  • The Barry Allen Flash is Grant Morrison's favorite superhero of all time, so is anyone really surprised that the character has returned in Final Crisis? Apparently, based on what Dan DiDio has said, Barry Allen has something the heroes need to defeat Darkseid, but he's just one piece of the puzzle. He's not the anti-Libra. Personally, I'm more of a Wally West guy myself, if I had to choose, but I have read all the Flash Archives and I like the Infantino art and think the Rogues are brilliant. In fact, the Rogues overshadow Barry Allen so much, that it's hard for me to even really grasp what Barry Allen's personality is supposed to be, other than a straight man for the Rogues.
  • Of course, the other thing about Barry Allen's return is that it's the final bit of undoing the Wolfman/Perez Crisis. The multiverse is back (basically). Supergirl is back. Now Barry Allen is back. And the death of the Flash was supposed to signal the end of the Silver Age, which is what Crisis on Infinite Earths brought about (although, in retrospect, it was the end of the Silver and Bronze ages). So, now that everything has been undone, is Final Crisis going to bring about a new age? I doubt it, but we'll have to wait and see.
  • If Barry Allen stays in the DCU, and if he gets a new series after Final Crisis--which seems likely--will he stay true to his science-based roots? The Wally West Flash was always about the human beneath the costume, but the Barry Allen Flash was all about using science to defeat bad guys. Will a new Flash series try to Wally-ize Barry Allen?
  • In Geoff Johns's Flash run, he made the Rogues an essential part of the book, which was a brilliant move, since its what made the Silver Age Flash work so well. But since he was writing Wally West, for a different generation, his take on the Rogues was quite different but quite good. I like what he did with Hunter Zolomon in particular--creating a new Rogue that acts as a legacy character and is frightening in his own way.
  • Howard Porter's work on Flash was ten times better than his JLA work. I really like what he did with Johns on the series.
  • Johns made great use of Identity Crisis, using the Dr. Light mind manipulation idea as the reason why the Top ended up so crazy and the Top as the reason that so many Rogues had decided to go straight (and how inconsistent they were at going straight, really--depending on the writer).
  • Johns had Hal Jordan as the Spectre mindwipe the entire planet so Wally West could regain his secret identity. It was handled well, leading to the weird Alberto Dose-drawn noir stories of Wally West not even knowing that he's the Flash. And really pissing Batman off. Was anyone at the time up in arms about Johns using magic to make Wally West's secret identity reappear? Or is that kind of thing more palatable in DC rather than Marvel?
  • I met the Flash at Six Flags with my family last week, but he was wearing the television show version of the costume. Why?

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Chad Nevett and I decided to take a look at Vertigo comics and how the imprint has changed over the years. We make plenty of recommendations and identify our all-time Vertigo Top Five.

Like Flex Mentallo, for example--that's in my Top Five because it's FLEX MENTALLO, just look at it!

It's not in Chad's top five, but he throws out a list that's full of great stuff, too.

Guess what book makes both of our lists? You might be surprised.

For all this and more, check out the newest installment of the internet's controversy-causing one-on-one discussion, the Splash Page.

Or, click HERE.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1, about which I write the following sentences: "One of the biggest changes Kunkel brings to what is supposedly a spin-off of the Jeff Smith series is that the Captain Marvel in this comic has the mentality of Billy Batson. Smith portrayed Marvel as a mature version of Billy -- after all, Captain Marvel supposedly has the wisdom of Solomon -- while Kunkel portrays Marvel as a muscle-bound superhero with the mind of a child. Kunkel's Captain Marvel means well, and tries hard, but little Mary Marvel can think circles around him. And I think that choice makes the character more interesting. This version of Captain Marvel may have the wisdom of Solomon, but he doesn't know how to use it yet, and that increases the potential for humor."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Bru's Captain America Notebook

I've been enjoying Ed Brubaker's Captain America run, and I'm totally fascinated by the writing process behind any narrative, but I can't imagine who's willing to spend thousands of dollars to own Brubaker's spiral-bound Cap notebook.

It's for a great cause--to benefit Gene Colan--and if you have the money, you should bid on this item like crazy. Raise some money for Gene!

But how high do you think this item will go? Eight days left, and it's already well over $2,000? Do you think it will crack $5,000? $10,000? What's the precedent for this kind of thing? It's the notebook that outlines the ideas for the death of Captain America, but it's not like the character is going to be dead forever.

Has any other recent comic book writer ever sold a notebook before? If this thing sells for $10,000, will other writers start supplementing their income by selling their notes just as artists sell sketches?

Friday, July 04, 2008

"Batman R.I.P." Part III: Batman #678 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 where I went wrong.

#678: The Annotations

Page 1: As I mentioned yesterday, the opening dialogue here comes directly from Batman #113, in which Bruce Wayne is transported to the alien world Zur-En-Arrh--a story in which the Bat-Radia plays an important role, and a story which ends with Batman wondering whether or not it was all a dream. But how could it have been, since he end up with the alien Bat-Radia in his hand!

The second panel juxtaposes an excerpt from Batman's Black Casebook--the series of notebooks he has maintained about his strange adventures over the years--with an image reminiscent of "The Rainbow Creature" from Batman #134. In that story, Batman and Robin are turned "two-dimensional" by the attacking Rainbow Creature.

The third panel shows the "Robin Dies at Dawn" entry of the Casebook. As you'll recall, this story is from Batman #156, and it involved a strange sensory-deprivation experiment which caused Batman to fail to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Dr. Hurt the leader (???) of the Club of Villains in Morrison's run, was the scientist who appeared in Batman #156.

The fourth panel is from Batman #153, "Prisoners of Three Worlds," which involved three alien races (the bird people, that purple flying thing, and the little green aliens), the original Batwoman (depicted in the panel as well--in her yellow and red ensemble), Batman, Robin, and the original Bat-Girl.

All four of the stories alluded to on this page dealt not only with science-fiction elements, but caused Batman to question his own perceptions of reality.

Page 2: Tim Drake, Robin, reads excerpts from the Black Casebook, because who wouldn't? He's been worrying about Batman's mental state for a while--he was with Bruce Wayne at the caves of Nanda Parbat in 52, and he knows things aren't right with Batman's head.

The parts about needing to know what goes on inside Joker's head shows that Batman may have undertaken his own explorations into psychosis, and perhaps this whole "Batman R.I.P." descent into madness is a way for him to fight the Joker at a more primal level.

Here's an interesting correspondence that I recently came across in my Batman research--something that might be completely irrelevant, or it might tie Morrison's whole run together. In Batman #152, Batman finds himself infiltrating the "False Face Society" a VERY Club of Villains-type of organization. These aren't the same characters we see in Morrison's Club of Villains, but check out how similar they look:

And at the end of that particular story, the guy with the top hat and mask, the leader of the "False Face Society" is revealed to be the Joker!

Clearly Morrison would have been familiar with this comic, since he's referenced the issues around it, and perhaps there's more than a passing resemblance between the False Face Society and the Club of Villains. The references to the Joker on page two of Batman #678 makes me suspect there is.

Page 3: That's Pierrot Lunaire in the tree and Springheeled Jack waiting by the door. They're bad guys. Members of the Club of Villains/Black Glove organization.

Page 4-5: Pierrot Lunaire is a killer mime, so it's only appropriate that his battle with Tim Drake would be completely silent.

Page 6: This is the second appearance of Honor Jackson, who first appeared on a single page in Batman #676, right after Batman's pursuit of the pathetic Green Vulture. As I said at the time, homeless people love Batman, and I compared the homeless black man to Woodrow from Saturday Night Live, and both Jog and Douglas Wolk compared him to the magical negro cliche. Either way is good. You'll remember, of course, that Batman gave Honor Jackson a big wad of money back in issue #676--because Bats loves the homeless as much as the homeless love Bats--and that plot point will connect to something later in this issue. Oh, Morrison, you expect us to read all the issues, don't you?

Oh, that's Bruce Wayne on the ground, after being induced into some state of delirium by the trigger word "Zur-En-Arrh" at the end of the previous issue, but you all knew that.

Page 7: I like that Batman/Bruce Wayne's first words in this issue are, "Stuff? Don't know stuff." That's the problem, isn't it, Batman? You don't know what's going on and neither do we--even if we have a collection of your Silver Age adventures. But it's fun to guess.

Honor Jackson recognizes Bruce Wayne even though it was Batman who gave him the money two issues earlier. Perhaps Jackson just recognizes the very famous Wayne from some publicity, but he specifically says, "Honor Jackson never forgets a good turn!" seemingly in reference to ye olde wad of cash. Homeless people are not only fun and magical, but they can see through disguises. Good to know for future reference.

In unrelated annotation news, "Soljer" was a character Jim Shooter created for Superboy #210 (featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes). I mention it here, because it's what I think of when I see "soldier" spelled that way, and I like that Legion story a lot (mostly because it has some pretty Mike Grell pencils). It also plays into my theory that Morrison's entire Batman run actually takes place in 3008 and Computo is the Black Glove. J/K! Ha!

Pages 8-9: Here we get the present day homeless action crosscut with the black, white, and red flashbacks to what happened between the last issue and this one. We see Batman going into shock after saying the trigger word, and then Dr. Hurt coming in and doping up Batman with some crystal meth (which is bad for you, kids!).

When Dr. Hurt says "How you've grown, hmm? How long has it been?" we're probably supposed to think that Dr. Hurt is referring to more than just the time they hung out and played with sensory deprivation. No, this Dr. Hurt knows Bruce Wayne from way back. Could it be his long-thought-dead father? His suspiciously rarely referenced older brother? His post-op transgender mother? One can only speculate.

Jackson establishes the structure of this issue as a heroic quest story by calling it an "odyssey," and that makes him the Supernatural Aid. You know, like Gandalf--also a crazy homeless person.

Pages 10-11: Nightwing fights some fourth-rate gladiators and makes jokes that even he knows aren't funny. When I was going back and rereading a lot of the mid-to-late 1950s Batman stories, I was surprised at how often Batman ended up in Rome or ended up fighting people who looked like centurions. I guess Morrison had the same kind of stuff lodged in his brain as well, from all that Bat-research, because here we go with the Roman dudes. They probably work for Charlie Caligula, another Club of Villains guy. Oh, and that's Scorpiana at the end, which doesn't bode well for Nightwing, apparently, because he's never heard from again! Except in Arkham Asylum (as we'll see)!

Pages 12-13: Jackson and the Wayne-with-the-heroin-jones play at Gulf War Veteran for a bit before fighting with the menacing Psycho Riderz. These guys are obviously just an excuse to see Bruce Wayne kick some people in the neck, but they are called the PSYCHO Riderz and Morrison's Batman is all about psychosis, so there's that. Just pointing it out.

There's no dialogue in the final panel of page 13, but you know they're both thinking "feets, don't fail me now!" Especially Honor Jackson, being a cliche and all.

Pages 14-15: "Delta Force," is a reference to Army Special Forces, since Bruce Wayne is all badass with his fighting skillz and all that. But let's not forget that Delta Force is also a movie starring Chuck Norris AND Joey Bishop. Morrison was probably thinking about that cinematic masterpiece while writing every Batman issue ever.

How does Bruce Wayne know what his haircut looks like? One wonders. Does he have a mirror in his slacks?

"Sherlock Holmes" is a fictional detective who Batman met for "real" in Detective Comics #572. Neither Chuck Norris nor Joey Bishop ever played Sherlock Holmes in a movie, sadly.

Jackson hands the Bat-Radia to Bruce Wayne here, although we don't know that until the end of the issue. How he ended up with the Bat-Radia we do not know, although as the Gandalf-analogue in this story, he does have the power to grant sacred boons and all that. Plus, he's like Captain Caveman with that cart of his--he can pull anything out of that sucker.

The quest was to get some booze, which goes to show that it's all about the journey, not the destination. Unless the destination is booze-ville.

As far as I know, this is the first mention of Lone-Eye Lincoln, but I haven't read EVERY Batman comic in the world yet.

Page 16: Ah, Gotham City at sunset. Honor Jackson disappears here because he's a ghost! (As we find out shortly.) Or is he? He's probably a delusion, since Jackson never actually interacts with anyone else in the issue and nobody besides Bruce Wayne talks to him. That would explain how he "recognizes" Bruce Wayne even though he met Batman. You know you've hit rock bottom when your delusional guardian angel is a crazy homeless person.

Page 17: Turns out, Jackson's been dead since yesterday, after blowing a hundred bucks on "smack." That would be the street name for heroin, if you're from 1978. The hundred bucks came from Bruce Wayne two issues earlier. Perhaps you should devote the rest of your life to avenging Honor Jackson's death, eh, Batman?

But even though Lone-Eye Lincoln (if that is his real name) offers Wayne some smack of his own, the real purpose of Jackson sending him here was so Wayne could revisit Crime Alley, the place where his family was gunned down years before. Of course, Morrison has indicated that maybe the Wayne family death was not as it seemed, so perhaps Batman will find some clues here. Or not, because my guess is that the Wayne family died just as they have been shown dying and the rumors around their possibly faked death are just another way to make Batman unstable.

Page 18: Sorry Robin, Nightwing isn't answering the phone because he's locked up in Arkham Asylum. He's frothing at the mouth an the attendants think he's Pierrot Lunaire, but we know he's not (mostly because of the Nightwing mask in panel four--a nice inclusion, since Tony Daniel isn't so great at differentiating faces and who knows what Lunaire would look like without his make-up? Maybe he'd look exactly like Dick Grayson. So the mask helps make sense out of the page).

Notice that now Batman and Nightwing are crazy. Who's next to fall victim to the insanity?

Page 19: Dr. Hurt puts on the "Bat-Man" costume once worn by Thomas Wayne at a costume party--the costume that possibly inspired Batman's own look, years later. In panel two, from left to right, that's Le Bossu, El Sombrero, Scorpiana, Charlie Caligula, and King Kraken--members of the Club of Villains, all.

When a villain says, "nothing can stop us now," you know what happens? They always get stopped! Villains should learn not to say that. From now on, villains should say things like, "we're doing okay, but we could be doing a lot better," and thus not tempt the karmic winds.

Pages 20-22: Bruce Wayne, using the magical shopping cart of the imaginary Honor Jackson, sews himself a new costume. As I mentioned in my look at Batman #113 yesterday, the lines, " would be far easier to consider this a dream. But how can I? For in my hand...I hold the Bat-Radia," come word for word from the Zur-En-Arrh space-Batman story in that issue from the 1950s. And, of course, when Batman says "I am the Batman. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh," and reveals his fancy new costume, it's the one the alien Tlano was wearing in Batman #113. All of which, apparently, were Batman's delusions in the past--Black Casebook stuff and all that.

And, Bat-Mite, hovering behind him, is of course part of his delusion as well. His line, "uh-oh," is pretty great finish to the issue, mocking Batman's new look and at the same time underscoring the butt-kicking that will soon commence.

It's worth noting that Morrison himself has written plenty of stories in which Batman has travelled into alternate dimensions and battled with gods and demons and science. But in his Batman run, he seems to be treating Batman as someone who has imagined practically all of his supernatural adventures. In JLA, it might have been appropriate to show Batman as a science-fictional adventurer, but in his own comic, Morrison has taken a "realistic" approach to the character. The rules of his run here seem to be that everything that doesn't make literal sense must have been part of some delusion on the part of Batman. I don't know if that will play out through the finale, but I suspect it will. His Batman is human--a human who isn't able to process everything he's been through in life.