Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ambush Bug: Year None #2

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ambush Bug: Year None #2, about which I write the following sentences: "So I winced a bit every few pages, and I'm sure that's the point. But I think Ambush Bug, as a character and as a concept, works best when he's goofing on DC's ridiculous continuity, or lack thereof. And some of those bits are quite amusing, like when Ambush Bug proudly adopts the mantle of Rick Starr, Space Ranger. Or when he confronts the maniacal Go-Go Chex. Or when he asks Ted Kord for an autograph at an inopportune time (hmm, he seems to be having some kind of argument with Maxwell Lord, I wonder what -- oh my god, NOOOOOOO!!!). Luckily the 'Comics Code Authority' sticker jumps into the panel to protect us from the gore, yelling 'not in front of the children.' That stuff, I like. Maybe you'll find the gay jokes funnier. There's something to offend everyone, really."

Read the entire review HERE.

So Long, Catwoman!

With issue #82, Catwoman has reached its final issue, and I would go so far as to say that it was the best Batman-related book on the stands for much of its run. Sure, Morrison is hitting some high points now, but for a long time, Batman and Detective and all the other Batman comics were trapped in the realm of the mediocre, while Catwoman launched with some excellent work by Darwyn Cooke, Cameron Stewart, and Javier Pulido. It was an awesome first twenty issues or so.

It hit a few slumps in the middle of its run, most notably the issues drawn by Paul Gulacy, but it rebounded with Will Pfeifer and the work of David and Alvaro Lopez.

And the final issue is the perfect capstone on the series, ending with one of Catwoman's best thefts ever.

Pfeifer says he has nothing lined up at DC right now, but he's hopeful. I am too, because he clearly wasn't to blame for the travesty of Amazons Attack! and his other work has been very, very good. If you find back issues of Catwoman in any discount bins, grab 'em -- especially the from the early part of the run or from the last three years or so. You won't be disappointed.

See ya, Catwoman, it's been real.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

The covers for Superman Beyond #1 are really quite ugly, I think, and you know what's not ugly? That's right: The Inferior Five. Don't you love that logo? It's brilliant.

This is one of the few IF issues I don't own, so if you have an extra copy lying around, and you want to send me one, I will totally appreciate it. I'll even add your name to the Geniusboy Firemelon blog hall of fame. Forever.

Speaking of Superman Beyond #1, Chad Nevett and I talk about it this week. We were going to run a different conversation, probably something about how much we love/don't love puppies and/or luncheon meat, but instead, we decided to tackle the comic that is completely setting the world aflame this week: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. I'm pretty sure CNN would cover it, if it weren't for that dang DNC and that lady veep thing that's going on.

So join Chad and I as we discuss the most baffling Final Crisis-related issue yet over at the internet's best smarty-pants discussion center: The Splash Page.

Click HERE.

Going Negative: 10 Relentlessly Stupid Things about "DCU: Last Will and Testament"

I am not a Brad Meltzer-hater. I liked some of the things he did with his JLA, although not all of it. I liked Identity Crisis for the first few issues, although I didn't like the last issue's ridiculous ending and the "solution" to the mystery. I liked his Green Arrow run a lot.

And I like to try to stay positive on this blog, and talk about comics I like. Even my CBR reviews, even the ones with only a star or two, tend to focus on why things didn't work rather than just mocking the failures.

But the award for WORST COMIC OF THE WEEK goes to Brad Meltzer and Adam Kubert's DC Universe: Last Will and Testament.

The comic isn't even worth a review, so instead I will just list TEN RELENTLESSLY STUPID THINGS about the issue:

1. Geo-Force holds his hand over the flame on page one, and shows that not only doesn't it hurt him, but even "the scorch mark wipes away." Thing is, he's wearing gloves. So what's the point? His gloves are scorch proof? And that's supposed to symbolize how he's becoming insensitive? Stupid.

2. It's not even labelled as a Final Crisis book, even though the conceit of the issue is that the heroes are preparing for their final battle, supposedly from Final Crisis. If not, what's the point of this comic? Yet it doesn't even make sense as an FC tie-in, because Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all still around, and in FC, they've been taken out of the action. Why does this comic exist, again? To show some theoretical time when the heroes might face some big challenge and feel sad about it? Stupid.

3. Girls are romantic saps. The final actions of Wonder Girl and Starfire: pining for Terry Long and Dick Grayson, respectively. Oh, if only them big strong mens was around to give you a hug. Life is so hard for a lady on her own. Stupid.

4. Joe Kubert inks a handful of pages, and they look awesome (well, the Starfire page looks odd, but the others: fantastic). John Dell inks the rest. Putting Joe Kubert's inks in the same book as John Dell's accomplishes one thing: it makes John Dell look like a hack, and makes the comic look like a mess. Stupid.

5. Rocky, of the Challengers of the Unknown, is all-of-a-sudden, a priest. Why? Just 'cause Meltzer needed someone to be a priest for this story. Stupid.

6. Explicit use of Judeo-Christian rituals and customs in DC superhero comics in general is ridiculous. These characters meet angels and devils all the time. What does faith matter in a universe in which some of these beliefs can be proven as fact? If you want to play with religion in the DCU, it should bear no resemblance to any of our religions. Meltzer doesn't seem to understand that, with his confessing characters and his lack of imagination about how religion might exist in the DCU. Stupid.

7. Captain Cold leaves a note for the cops that reads, and I quote: "From your friendly $@#&'n Captain Cold." That's right, he goes to the trouble of leaving a note, and instead of actually swearing in his note, which is clearly his intent, he writes all of the comics code censored version of a swear. I would see it as a joke on Cold's part, but he doesn't strike me as a guy who would bother to mock the conventions of the comic book medium. Stupid.

8. Pa Kent is depicted as some 1950s parody of a hayseed, with a straw of wheat in his mouth as he dispenses corn-pone wisdom. It's a silly, cliche moment, from a completely different version of Superman than we've seen for the past 30 years. Stupid.

9. Geo-Force slices his own throat as a way to "defeat" Deathstroke. Stupid.

10. He does defeat Deathstroke, even as he's dying from the blood squirting out of his neck. And then Geo-Force survives. (And, since nobody seems upset that he killed Deathstroke, apparently Deathstroke survives as well.) So all his dramatic self-mutilation and whining and crying didn't even accomplish anything, but yet Black Lightning somehow thinks he's a "hero." Stupid.

This was one awful, awful comic book, folks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Immortal Iron Fist #18 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Immortal Iron Fist #18, about which I write the following sentences: "I'm sure people are going to have problems with the art in this comic. I know they are, because I've read the complaints about the last issue. But I love what Travel Foreman's doing here. His new style, which I termed last month as a kind of Lenil-Yu-meets-early-Jae Lee mash-up, is vibrant and expressive and makes this comic look like nothing else on the shelf right now. While David Aja's work on earlier issues added grace and beauty to the kung-fu follies, Foreman turns this book into a stylish midnite movie full of exaggerated kicks and craggy figures. It's a perfect match for Duane Swierczynski's script, which traffics in mysticism and destiny but largely concerns itself with gritty, personal violence. This story may be about a magical creature that kills Iron Fists, but it feels like a brutal knife fight in the back alleys."

Read the entire review HERE.

New Avengers #44 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: New Avengers #44, about which I write the following sentences: "Remember all the fuss when Bendis took over 'Avengers,' blew everything up, and then launched this title with a new, very un-Avengers grouping? That seems like such ancient history, doesn't it, now that we've seen what Bendis has been planning all along? That team of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and the Sentry seems like a quaint little gang of heroes after everything that's happened in the past few years. If only they knew what they were in for! But those who complained that the 'New Avengers' wasn't the REAL Avengers will have even more to complain about with this issue, because 'New Avengers' #44 isn't about the Avengers at all -- new or old."

"It's about Reed Richards, of the Fantastic Four."

"But it's not even about him, really."

"It's about a clone of Reed Richards."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wolverine #68 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Wolverine #68, about which I write the following sentences: "So the charm of this series has to do with embracing the absurdity of the scenario -- not that most superhero comics are less absurd, it's just that most other ones seem so familiar from page to page. Once you allow for a blind Hawkeye driving a Spidey-Mobile, planning to bust his superhero daughter out of the Kingpin's holding tank -- well, you can probably enjoy anything. But you can definitely enjoy this, because McNiven adds so much texture (literally and figuratively) to the future Marvel Universe, and Millar knows precisely how to hit all the right beats. Beats that don't treat superheroes as objects of worship and adoration."

Read the entire review HERE.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1, about which I write the following sentences: "It's an ambitious, heady exploration into the history of the DC Universe and Superman's place within it, but for a comic that's about the power of stories, there's probably not enough of a comprehensible story here for anyone who isn't a regular reader of Morrison's other work. It's a densely-packed meta-text, and I enjoy it on that level, but I think a lot of readers will be baffled. And, once again, the 3-D doesn't help to make this comic any easier to read."

Read the entire review HERE.

[Note: I gave some serious thought to providing annotations for this issue, but I'm going to pass you over to David Uzumeri instead. You're in good hands.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When Words Collide: Anthology Daze

Here's how my brain works. I've been staring at the collection of Taboo volumes on my shelf, thinking, "boy, that cover for Volume One always freaked me out. I remember meeting Steve Bissette right before the Taboo launch, and I was an impressionable teenager and he told me about all the crazy horror stuff he was putting in there. And yeah, that cover gave me nightmares when I first picked it up. I should write about Taboo and the other great anthologies of the late 1980s."

So, for this week's WHEN WORDS COLLIDE, I wrote about three brand new anthologies instead, and never even got around to mentioning Taboo at all.

But that's because I had so much to say about Comic Book Tattoo, MySpace Dark Horse Presents, and Mome. You should totally read my column: Anthology Daze.

Also (super also), I have a CBR Forum now! That's right, you can post on the WHEN WORDS COLLIDE forum and tell me everything I got wrong, try to get me kicked out of the writer's guild, and generally taunt and/or amuse others. You can also say smart stuff that I will totally refute or maybe agree with. Join me, won't you: WWC Forum!

1920's Batman: Arkham After Midnight

Last week I posted Parts 1 and 2 of Andre Perkowski's collage of what a 1920s silent Batman film might have been like, and here's Parts 3 and 4, a two-part narrative heavily inspired by Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum graphic novel. I conducted a lengthy Q&A with Perkowski and posted the results below.

First Part of Arkham After Midnight

Second Part of Arkham After Midnight

Tim Callahan: What's your process? How do you make these shorts?

Andre Perkowski: Digital dowsing. A random, chance-based flicking around on the timeline of the source material. If anything catches the eye, I cut it out for possible use later. Flicking around like this, you can get a frame from the first 5 minutes, a second from the middle of the film, and a bit of the ending jumbled up together very quickly. This can turn up interesting connections between the apparently divergent shots... our brains want these cuts to make sense, and they are trained by a lifetime of television to absorb images and weave a narrative around them. If you're willing to suspend your disbelief a bit and go with the oozing mood of it, it all seems to flow together as part of a whole... the oozing mood is a big part, the magic of sound welded to image is what really makes it pop and flow together. They may have been silent films, but they did have some old biddy wailing away on the organ.

I usually have a list of kinds of shots or actions I'm looking for, and haphazardly go through many films in a row just clicking around randomly until I get more than enough. Then I'm left with a big pile of seemingly disparate clips, I organize them by character and location... or sometimes they organize me, as some things just stick out and edit themselves.

TC: How much did you add to the found footage, besides the title cards? Did you add any special effects (and how did you get that Bat-Signal)?

AP: The bat-signal is untouched from 1926's The Bat. A flashlight and a moth cutout of some sort used as a calling card for the title character, but still fairly similar and you can see that image nestling in the early Batman comics crew's mind, burrowing into their brain and being regurgitated back later subconsciously. Or maybe they just plain swiped and re-appropriated it for a totally different purpose like I did.

I considered adding some creepy b&w 16mm and Super-8 stuff I shot initially, but then reconsidered and thought it would be more entertaining and less clumsy to stay roughly in the right time period. There was tracking stacking at the bottom of the 49 serial footage so I added some vignetting to mask it, trimmed frames here and there to compress scenes and give it a choppy print effect. "Cut-up, slow down, speed up, run backwards," as William S. Burroughs summed it up. I tried not to use too many jarring digital effects as the CG title cards were bad enough.

TC: Why did you make these Batman films?

AP: Pure experimentation and summer holiday pleasure, as a break from working on my supposed "real" films that take years and drag on forever. This one was just an idea had walking back from seeing The Dark Knight, how would I have shot it? Being a retro freak, black and white for starters. 1939. Pulpy. Shadowy. Uncomfortable, itchy, and filled with throbbing industrial noises and wind. A bit of Lynch, a dash of Welles, a clove of Guy Maddin. Not having much money, it'd have to be non-sync sound film. Now we're getting a bit too excited so the real world kicks in: its DC's baby, the thought of making a "fan film" seems vaguely disreputable despite my own total lack of a reputation, and I have my own malnourished film toddlers to take care of! So I filed it away in the "hmmm" section. Until a few days later when I remembered The Bat and Conrad Veidt's proto-Joker. Insert light bulb and exclamation mark over head, dissolve to one long weekend of crazy editing/collaging/cobbling... there it is. I had such a huge amount of fun making the first short, turned up lots of great unused material, and seemed to entertain a decent amount of people in a short time as opposed to my usual er, peculiar stuff. So why not make a serial with what's left and put my disorienting 3 A.M. mark on the character before moving on? Cheaper than processing 16mm film, anyway. I agonize over that enough.

TC: But why Batman, exactly?

AP: So it all comes full circle. Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson took a certain amount from some of these films to create their good old-fashioned enduring icon and his adversaries. The Bat is pretty obvious: sure, the character is a burglar in it. But he also travels around buildings with ropes, has a Batsignal, and dresses up like a giant bat to scare people. Hmm. Does that ring many bells? The Joker's look in the early comics looks pretty much like Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, and they have cited the film as well. Combined, shuffled, and rewritten, it seemed to work quite well and made this man laugh, anyway. Besides, Superman didn't have many pubic domain film influences. Metropolis doesn't count, alas it isn't PD. The German Expressionist mood lends itself really well to Mr. Wayne and his personal problems.

TC: How did you develop new stories out of bits and pieces from unrelated films?

For the first one I knew I had to tell the origin story, so I'm riffing off of the Kane/Finger version and adding my own idiosyncratic spin and made-up vintage dialogue and syntax that never quite existed... being limited to 4 or 5 minutes in The Bat where he actually exists made it pretty easy to work around it.

Marv Wolfman enjoyed it, then it looks like his writer side kicked in with: "Boy it would be interesting if a story was possible, but as you said, copyright and all that." Yeah, I thought. Ah well. Then the next day took it as a challenge and thought, well - why not give it a try. Could be fun to make a little story arc with cliffhangers... of course, I was almost legally mandated to have them since I had already used up all the footage in The Bat and didn't want to bore people by repeating it. So its off to sampling the Batman and Robin 1949 serial, cropping and carefully cutting it right to the very frame JUST before Robin appears. Its a shame to lose the 20s look and attempts at aging and vignetting digitally always look fairly corny, but at least now there's a huge pool of material of the hero to use... now what does he do? For the followup, I knew I wanted to stuff it with all sorts of freaks, monsters, and villains since there are so many
interesting creations in these early films. So there's my location sorted out, as there's that one lax security place in Gotham that seems to have a nice population of freaks, monsters, and villains. Also makes it easier to link prison, asylum, or just hallways from many different films to somewhat create the illusion that it's one place. These are the kinds of meaningless tasks I set for myself in the summer to stay out of the humidity and avoid thinking about actual work. I just confined myself to one month to do them all and then move on before the barrel gets scraped a bit too much.

TC: As a Batman fan, what particular incarnations of the character have you enjoyed?

AP: Almost all of them at different points in my life. I grew up with daily showings of the '66 series, hit the comics, was vaguely disappointed (and then so repulsed I opted out entirely) by the movies, stopped following most comics from 1993-2008 or so. Lately I've been digging out old boxes, cackling at the serials, and have really enjoying the quirkiness of those '39 to mid '40s Bob Kane/Bill Finger stories. Cook them all up together and there's the result ready to be scraped off your monitor.

TC: What do you think about Morrison's current Batman run?

AP: I loved Arkham Asylum, the influence dribbles all over the serials and I wish I could make such gorgeous collage paintings. Morrison's fun references were like taking a pen and checklist to my bookshelves at the time, so what's not to love. I think it holds up a lot better than a lot of Miller's hilarious patchwork right wing drool-covered rants, so when I heard about this fabled current run a few weeks ago over something inexplicably called a "German Breakfast," I ordered some after being befuddled in a nice way by the recent bits. Clearly there's an intricate lysergic backstory that needs absorbing.

TC: You said The Dark Knight movie started you thinking about manufacturing these silent versions of yours, but what are your feelings about that film?

Great big gobs of summer movie fun and an enjoyable air conditioned escape from your friendly local urban hellhole. Nice to see Chicago, city of my windy nightmares twisted just so into Gotham. Must've been meticulously exhilarating to make. Properly pitched acting except the inexplicable moments of pro-wrestler outbursts from Bats. Sounded like those taunts they'd do between matches in front of a brick wall... "I'm gonnnaaa get youuuu Jokeeeer and I'm gonna shooow you that Hacksaw Jim Duggan is gonna ta-" Etc etc. When he rants about good in that voice I'm vaguely uncomfortable. Maybe some sort of pitchshifted/fx-ed Radio Shack cowl-based whisper would've worked better.

TC: What projects are you working on for the future?

AP: There are screenings and associated strangeness for my double feature of Ed Wood Jr. adaptations this year, Devil Girls and The Vampire's Tomb. Two early features finally forced out into an uncaring world. Trailers can be had at YouTube: Terminal Pictures and there are no men with huge furry ears in them that I know of, and I've checked. In theory there might even be DVDs for them along with my real epic that'll have grad students eyes a-straining to footnote about one day, "I Was a Teenage Beatnik and/or Monster for the Literal Underground!" I'll have info on that page about dates/cities as well as a site that'll pop up about 'em.

There's a ridiculous Super-8 feature length semi-surrealist ode to bad 80s kung fu being wrapped up in the editing department entitled A Belly Full of Anger that is just...beyond words. I know what you're probably thinking, but the truth is: even stranger. With voiceover cameos by Phil Proctor of the Firesign Theatre and Trace Beaulieu of Cinematic Titanic/Mystery Science Theater 3000. So we have the theatres and the theaters covered. I just need another pile of film transferred for that and it can be pretty expensive to do it right. Hence the frustrating delay leading me to playing with title cards! There's a trailer for that as well on the youtube page along with 124 other videos or so. I don't sleep much.

Then I have to edit yet another backlog feature, a grimy industrial noir entitled The Man Who Couldn't Lose shot in B&W 16mm/Super-8... how do I describe that one? The mood at 2am around that stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike heading out of NYC when it suddenly gets all Blade Runner-y on you... smoke, stink, grease, and discolored quasi-darkness lit by blinking lights cutting through toxic fumes.

As if that's not enough, there are piles of sketches, faux trailers, and shorts to edit, plus an endless documentary on fringe filmmaking with all the folks I've stumbled into or admired. So until this editing work is done I'm not taking on anything new until next year, probably. Unless I suddenly decide walking back from the new Woody Allen movie that I have to retell Annie Hall using a magic lantern.

Being a no-budget underground filmmaker mostly working with hideously expensive (for me, anyway) filmstocks due to a profound loathing of digital video, I work in spurts and like a painter. A very disorganized, very eccentric painter. Picking up one canvas, tossing another aside, trying to rescue one months later. If its my money, my debt, my pain, why not? I figure if I ever get sucked into more commercial work full-time instead of occasional dabbles and quick retreats, I'll cherish these years of futzing around with whatever I wanted to with no limitations but money, actors aging, and sanity. On second thought, please assist me in selling out right now and I'll helm a Solomon Grundy direct to video movie.

Virgin Comics: The Warning Signs

Everyone's armchair quarterbacking the reasons for the demise of Virgin Comics. It's still unclear how much of a demise it really is, with the company closing up shop in New York and regrouping in L.A., probably trying to figure out what to do with all the intellectual properties they still control.

On the Standard Attrition board, I posted some thoughts about why Virgin Comics might have failed:
I was talking to Ron Marz earlier in the summer, and he's been doing some writing and editing for Virgin. He was really enthusiastic about the company, but when I said, "I don't know if the comics are any good, because I never see them in shops, or read many reviews of them anywhere," he said that the distribution was one of the biggest problems. He also hooked me up with review copies to help promote the line, and I really liked the revamped Ramayan book.

But he also said that they were targeting the vast market in India, but they needed to find some way to deliver the comics more cheaply. A three or four dollar comic wasn't going to reach the masses.

So I guess they never did figure out how to deliver their content.

It didn't help that the line was weakened by a weirdly mixed message--e.g. "Our books are cool sci-fi retellings of ancient myths, plus random Hollywood concepts with actor's names plastered on the front, and, oh yeah, Dan Dare!" Not really a strong identity for a publisher trying to get attention.
I do think distribution problems (or market penetration problems) and lack of a clearly defined identity really hurt Virgin's chances. Because, from what I saw, their content was mostly very good. I'm sure they had some weaker titles, but they were professionally produced and slick-looking, and some of the stuff, like Ramayan 3392 (which I reviewed) and Dan Dare (which I reviewed) was excellent work.

But although I wasn't paying close attention this summer, there were a few warning signs that Virgin Comics was soon headed for trouble:

1. In late Spring/Early summer, Virgin Comics was aggressively trying to get review copies and pdfs out to reviewers. By early July, those e-mails stopped, and the review copies stopped appearing. (At least, I stopped getting them.)

2. Although they had a booth at San Diego a month ago, the booth had very, very little in the way of comic book presence. I'm not sure a random visitor would have known that they publish an extensive line of comics. It looked like a video game company set-up, with no gaming console on display.

3. Grant Morrison and Stan Lee kicked off Comic-Con with a panel I covered for CBR. Neither of them spoke about ANY specifics regarding their upcoming Virgin work, even though that was the supposed purpose of the panel. (Yes, I know Morrison's work is for online videos, but neither he nor Stan Lee seemed particularly eager to talk about Virgin Comics.)

Those warning signs, coupled with the general fan ignorance of Virgin Products (how many Virgin Comics did you local comic shop carry? How often did you see a review of anything other than Dan Dare?) probably could have been used to predict the death of Virgin Comics.

But who wanted to predict that? I don't think anyone was rooting against the company, were they?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trinity #12 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Trinity #12, about which I write the following sentences: "But the problem is that this series (and this issue is no exception) is so mind-numbingly average. Everything about it is right down the middle of the aesthetic spectrum. Its very existence establishes the baseline for these five-star reviews. It's two-and-one-half stars from top to bottom. Mark Bagley's art might be the main culprit. He's a perfectly competent artist, and he's fast, but even though his style is recognizable, it somehow ends up as the most generic comic book art possible. Almost every 'camera angle' is from slightly above waist level. His figures look like they were chiseled out of other, better, artist's designs. He's consistent. And bland."

Read the entire review HERE.

Marvel 1985 #4 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Marvel 1985 #4, about which I write the following sentences: "In many ways, this series is the heir to Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross's 'Marvels.' I don't know if it was conceived that way -- though I suspect it was, because of the original plan to use photographs instead of pencilling. What could out-photo-ref Alex Ross besides, well, actually photos? But, luckily for us, Marvel abandoned the photography experiment and handed the book over to Tommy Lee Edwards, who has always been an interesting artist but is doing some of the best work of his career on this title. And I say it's the heir to 'Marvels' not because of the look of the pages, but because of its perspective. Like 'Marvels,' (and like Millar's own 'Kick-Ass,' but from a different angle), 'Marvel 1985' shows stale old superheroes and villains through the eyes of a civilian. Not in the way that Busiek sort of did it in the early 'Astro City' stories, and not the way that Marvel's various 'Front Line' series try to do it, but in the way 'Marvels' actually did it: with a sense of the wonder and terror of the superhuman race."

Read the entire review HERE.

Hey Kids, Free Comics

Heidi MacDonald's recent linkage to Bob Greenberger's announcement that he'd be joining the ComicMix team reminded me of something: it reminded me that ComicMix exists.

I don't say that to be callous, and I've actually bumped into ComicMix President and EIC Mike Gold twice at two local comic book events, so I have had ComicMix on my mind this year, but whenever I sit down in front of my computer, I always forget to check out ComicMix. The thing to check out of course -- especially now that they're winding down their news coverage -- is their regular stream of original comic book content.

They have Mark Wheatley and Mike Oeming on Hammer of the Gods 2.

They have Dick Giordano drawing a kung-fu comic.

They have our old pal Mike Baron writing a high-flying adventure comic.

Plus, they have archived strips featuring John Ostrander and Tim Truman's Grimjack, Mike Grell on Jon Sable, and Bo Hampton doing a Robin Hood horror comic.

It's all-new content, exclusive to the website. It's like First Comics never died, it just moved online.

But even though I love my old First Comics, and even though I love all of those creators, I have absolutely no interest in reading any of those comics on my computer screen. It's good stuff, from what I've sampled, and it's the type of thing I should adore, but I don't want to click and read any of it. I'll probably buy some of it when it's collected--especially if it comes out in a nice hardcover edition--but as webcomics, I just don't care.

So here we are, in 2008, with a wealth of free comics at our fingertips, and guys like me (guys who love the content and the creators) don't have any interest. Something must be wrong with that. Something must be wrong with me.

Check out ComicMix yourself. Maybe you'll like reading free comics more than I do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Closing Universes -- a guest post from Katherine

With a new school year to prepare for, I'm looking for a bit of help keeping my daily schedule with this blog, so if you're interested in doing a guest post on something comic book or pop-culture related, send me an e-mail (TCallah AT, and we'll see if we can get you on the Geniusboy Firemelon train-to-fame-and-fortune.

Today, I have a guest post from Katherine of Superheroes Space, a virtual community of comic book fans that features forums and a blog. Katherine's a 30-year-old superhero aficionado who's been reading comics since she was a child. Right now, she's really enjoying Secret Invasion but says that she remains loyal to Wonder Woman "if only for the fact that there are almost no female heroes in the comics world that can sustain their own comics." Here's what she has to say about Marvel and what she calls "Closing Universes":

Secret Invasion ends in November and at that time the Marvel Universe will change dramatically. We will be informed who was a Skrull and who wasn’t, and there will probably be empty places in the Marvel Universe that we know and at least partially love.

The new story of Ultimatum starts in the first week of November when the upcoming five-issues run instead of Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four.

Ultimates 3, Ultimate Power, and Ultimate Origins all lead to it so it probably won't build the story from scratch. In a sense, Ultimatum will do to the Ultimate Universe what Secret Invasion does to the Marvel Universe. David Finch said that it would close the Ultimate Universe, meaning some of the titles would cease to exist after the fifth issue of Ultimatum.

I have a very good feeling about the what Marvel is doing, both in Secret Invasion and in the planned Ultimatum issues. In fact I would recommend that DC watch and learn. It is a good opportunity to discuss the branching of the stories and side stories that became such a big part of the comics culture. I like the interaction between the superheroes and the creation of the universes, but, at least for me, it becomes spread too thin.

Too many side stories, too much to read just to follow the superheroes that I really want to follow, and the stories of the universes became too divided in themselves. Maybe others won't agree with me on this one, but I am happy that the branching process is being reversed at least partially. Marvel is in the process of creating more cohesion in their stories and opening space for new developments and creativity.

In a sense it is a risky move as they terminate many stories that work at least partially, but I like the new order that is being created and the opportunities for entirely new stories and directions. I have the feeling that by 2009 we'll have very different Marvel comics than the one we know today, and a change can be a very good thing.


[Note: I don't have any sense that the conclusion of Secret Invasion will have that much impact on the Marvel mainstream -- not nearly as much as Civil War had, but maybe Katherine's right. Maybe Marvel in 2009 will bear little resemblance to the Marvel of the past couple of years. The Ultimate Universe will certainly look a lot different. What say you?]

Watchmen Part II Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

The Splash Page is a little late this week, but if you're interested in the second, and final, part of our discussion with Justin Dickinson about Watchmen, it's now posted for your reading pleasure.

Chad and I have plenty to say about the book, and Justin brought some insight and a fresh perspective as a new reader. It's good stuff, and it's probably the last you'll ever hear about Watchmen from anyone on the internet. I can't imagine anyone talking about it at all over the next year or so, can you?

So, enjoy it while it lasts -- a rare discussion of an obscure little graphic novel: Watchmen, now available on the internet's hottest arena for smarty-pants chit-chat: The Splash Page.

Or, as always, click away: HERE.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Captain America #41 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Captain America #41, about which I write the following sentences: "This issue is typical Brubaker 'Captain America,' by which I mean it's very good, jumps effectively from scene to scene, balances character moments with action, and works as a mini-masterpiece of serialized storytelling. I can't seem to give this comic more than four stars for a single issue, because each issue relies so much upon the whole of the series, but what a whole this is shaping up to be! I think it's safe to say that this series has been Ed Brubaker's best sustained work. 'Criminal' might be better in small doses, but he's doing something in 'Captain America' that points to what serialized superhero comics ought to be. He's developing subplots slowly, he's rotating characters in and out of the overall drama -- in this case the 1950s Captain America is the bait used to find the bad guys -- and he's pacing each issue to provide forward progress and end on a cliffhanger. It harkens back to the classic Marvel comics of old, when each issue would conclude with a shocking splash page, but Brubaker has the advantages of writing for a modern audience (which means he can take his time to develop things) and working with a consistent set of artists. Even the fill-in artists have maintained the look that was established in issue #1. Frank D'Armata continues to over-render the colors, and use white highlights garishly, but he is largely responsible for maintaining the consistent look here, and I appreciate that."

Read the entire review HERE.

Mike Baron's Coked-Up Heyday

From TwoMorrow's The Flash Companion, edited by Keith Dallas:
KEITH DALLAS: The late 1980s were a particular heyday for you. At the time you started writing Flash in 1987, you were also writing Nexus, Badger, Robotech Masters, and Marvel had you on The Punisher.

MIKE BARON: I was a busy boy.

DALLAS: [chuckles] Can you describe your career at that point? What was it like writing all those titles?

BARON: Well, there was a lot of confusion.

DALLAS: How so?

BARON: [pauses] Keith, at the time I was making a lot of money, and I was doing a lot of cocaine.

DALLAS: Really?

BARON: As a result, my work was not the best that I could have done. I have gone through a lot of changes since then and I look back at that period with mixed feelings.

The cocaine definitely contributed to my "over-writing." I don't think I was taking my writing subjects as seriously as I do now. However, I took Flash very seriously and that's the reason I stopped writing the series [after issue #14] because I just ran out of ideas and I couldn't vamp it.

DALLAS: It was around this time that you were nominated three years in a row for an Eisner Award for your writing on Nexus.

BARON: My work on Nexus has never suffered.

When you do cocaine, you think you can do any damn thing. Often, I just would grab a sheet of paper and start telling a story and make it up as I went along, panel by panel. But you can't do that really. You need a real solid idea and solid characters to build a story around.

For the record Baron's work on that Flash overlapped with Nexus #33-46 and The Punisher #1-9. I think his work on those two runs, and on Flash were actually the BEST work of his career. Maybe because he was "over-writing" instead of "over-thinking." Much of his later work seems to suffer from being worked to death and drained of all improvisation.

Drugs are bad, kids. But am I wrong in thinking that Baron's self-proclaimed cocaine phase was also the time when he did his best work?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Moon Knight #21 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Moon Knight #21, about which I write the following sentences: "'Moon Knight' #21 begins the 'Death of Marc Spector' arc -- the arc you may have seen promoted in the jarringly odd in-house Marvel ads this month. You know, the one with this issue's cover -- the Arthur Suydam painting of Venom pouncing on a sad-looking Moon Knight. The one with the text, 'From "Entourage" Writer Mike Benson.' Nothing says death and violence like a jokey, unimpressive HBO comedy. Of course, if Benson brought a sense of humor to 'Moon Knight,' it would probably be a whole lot better than it is, because this first installment of "The Death of Marc Spector" is relentlessly serious and faux-intense. It's a good thing Texiera and Saltares thrive on drawing guys making angry faces and yelling, because they get to show that side of their talent on half the pages in this issue. It's an endless stream of, 'Where's Moon Knight?!?' and 'I know you know where he is! Tell us!' Because, you see, Moon Knight's on the lam. He's a registered hero who isn't playing by the Initiative rules.

Read the entire review HERE.

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #32 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #32 about which I write the following sentences: "So the conclusion of the four-issue arc, as heavy-handed (pardon the pun) as it is -- with its imagery of Tony Stark's guilt (as the ghosts of the dead literally hover over him in the final panel) -- just feels like a morality tale from another era. Like Denny O'Neil preaching to us about the evils of racism, or Chris Claremont telling us that blind hatred is destructive. I suppose there's room for such storytelling in 2008. Perhaps the moral lesson is intended for younger readers, but my son has sampled some of this recent arc and come away bored. It's not the Iron Man he knows, with the flippant demeanor and the race car driver enthusiasm. It's a serious Iron Man, heavy with regret."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, August 22, 2008

1920's Batman: Silent Shadow of the Bat-Man

Using silent film footage reconfigured, edited, and transposed with new title cards, filmmaker Andre Perkowski has created a look at what a Batman film might have looked like, circa 1926. Part One features the origin of the Bat-Man:

Part Two features the Bat-Man's greatest enemies:

Perkowski has posted the first part of a two-part "Arkham Asylum" movie, but I'll link to that later this weekend, when the second part becomes available as well. I also have an exclusive interview with the filmmaker coming soon!

Forgotten imaginary Bat-Man films of the 1920's are good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ghost Rider #26 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ghost Rider #26, about which I write the following sentences: "Danny Ketch's motorcycle in the background of page three is the only thing that gives it away as a 'Ghost Rider' comic. Ketch himself is on the page, smack in the foreground, but Tan Eng Huat's expressive line and twisted anatomy render him almost unrecognizable. That's okay though, because we can see the bike, and his identity is pretty clear by the context. But the rest of the characters on the page? They look like they stepped straight out of the Brotherhood of Dada Auxiliary. They are Morrison rejects, and their presence here livens up the comic to a gleefully twisted level. If you're interested -- and who wouldn't be? -- the characters are the all-new Orb, dressed like an orange Evel Knievil with a giant eyeball instead of a head; Doghead, part man and mostly pit bull; Death Ninja, the zombie ninja dressed in crimson; and Blackout, with the braided white hair and purple trenchcoat. Based on the dialogue, I'm guessing some or all of these characters have appeared before. But they're new to me, and they are great additions to Aaron's menagerie."

[Note: Since writing the review, I've learned that all of the weirdos in the issue have appeared in Ghost Rider stories before. That does not diminish my appreciation of them one single bit. Also, the image here is from one of the Orb's original appearances. He's even more badass in this new issue, believe it or not.]

Read the entire review HERE.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1 Annotations

Like my "Batman R.I.P." annotations, my approach here is to talk about what I notice about stuff and what I know. I don't know everything, but I know an awful lot about the Legion.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1: The Annotations

Cover: I bought the Lightning Lad cover because I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy who wants to see Legion characters on the cover of a Legion comic. Supermanboy-Prime doesn't cut it. The Lightning Lad cover shows the Johns version of the post-Levitz era Lightning Lad, and inside his ball o' lightning, we see the Reboot Lighting Lad with the robot arm and the Threeboot Lightning Lad with the David Cassidy haircut.

Page 1: Enter the Time Trapper, the Legion's most powerful villain. He has been revealed to be a member of the Sun-Eater-unleashing Controllers and an aged Cosmic Boy who has come back to "fix" time. Presumably this version shows here is the "original" Time Trapper, though what that means isn't exactly clear when you're dealing with time travel and alternate realities. But on page one he refers to how he tried to "rip out their soul" which refers to TT's creation of a pocket universe which the Legion had erroneously travelled back to. It was basically the continuity patch to explain how Superboy still inspired the Legion if Superboy no longer existed in the "post-Crisis" DCU. The pocket universe was later removed from continuity as well, but apparently Time Trapper still remembers it happening. And since he used a Superboy in his past plans, he uses a Superboy here: Superboy-Prime (a.k.a. Supermanboy-Prime, since DC isn't sure what to call him from page to page).

Pages 2-3: The "Earthman" stuff refers to Geoff Johns's recent arc in Action Comics #858-863. In that arc, the multicultural Legion had been branded as traitors by a xenophobic Earth and its Justice League, led by a character called Earthman (kind of a Superman type, but racist). Those are Martha and Jonathan Kent analogues (Mara and Jun) from Smallville's future. Notice how the alien-fearing future-Kents see a spaceship crash landing and try to blast it, unlike their liberal 20th century precusors. Also, Legion stories always take place 1,000 years in the future. So, 3008. (The only exception being the "Five Years Later" stories of Giffen and the Bierbaums, which would be 1,005 years in the future.)

Pages 4-5: Supermanboy-Prime, formerly of Earth Prime, the only superhero on his planet. He was one of the central heroes of Crisis on Infinite Earths and then removed into a pocket continuity bubble until Infinite Crisis, where he started punching extra-dimensional walls and causing/curing continuity problems galore. Since then, he's been locked up in space and joined the Sinestro Corps. He's had a rough couple of years. He's also a fanboy analogue, complaining about continuity changes and superheroes not being like they used to be when he was a kid.

The Interlac on the Superman Museum reads "Superman Museum." I'm not going to translate all the Interlac in the comic, unless it's funny and/or important to the story. I'm sure someone else will translate every single word, though. Good for them. We need that kind of gung-ho attitude.

Pages 6-7: Just the big images and characters : Pictured on the top of page 6: (1) Young Clark Kent with Ma and Pa, (2) Clark Kent getting married to Lois Lane, (3) Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent at the Daily Planet, (4) Lex Luthor. Top of page 7: (1) Power Girl, (2) Steel, (3) Lori Lemaris, (4) Original Justice League of America. Middle of page 6: (1) Superman of the Golden Age/Earth 2/or from Superman for All Seasons by Tim Sale, depending on what you're looking for, (2) Superman 1,000,000 , (3) Kingdom Come Superman, (4) Tangent Universe Superman (a.k.a. Earth 9 Superman). Middle of page 7: (1) Krypto, the Superdog, (2) Superwoman (Kristin Wells) of the 29th century, (3) Supergirl--current version, (4) Superboy, Conner Kent. Bottom of page 6: Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Pete Ross, Lana Lang (all looking like the ones from the Byrne revamp). Page 7, bottom: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White. Also of note: the golden statue is the image from the cover of Action Comics #1 and the manger scene above the steps is from Superman: The Movie.

The Superman Museum of the future apparently draws from multiple realities and timelines.

Page 8: Jimmy Olsen's whole shtick in the Silver Age Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen comics was that he'd turn into a different weirdo monster or hero each issue. Hence, the 1,000 Olsens. As Elastic Lad, he was even a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Page 9: Top left: Nightwing and Flamebird, the superheroes of Kandor (actually Superman and Jimmy Olsen in disguise!) Interlac joke: the "Portrait Gallery" at the bottom of the page features artist credits. The one in the foreground is labelled "Perez," (although it's the famous Neal Adams image of Superman breaking the chains). Behind that, we see artist credits for (Joe) Shuster, (Wayne) Boring, (Curt) Swan, (Jose Luis) Garcia-Lopez, something I can't make out, and what looks like (Rob) Liefeld (?!?--But check out that exaggerated hand and pointy feet!) [UPDATED: It's "Hirschfeld"!]

Page 10: Do you want me to name all the Legionnaires? I could, but that seems silly. [Okay, people want to know, I guess. Starting from the back and going from right to left: Colossal Boy, Polar Boy, Night Girl, Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, Wildfire, Ultra Boy, Lightning Lass, Blok, Invisible Kid II, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Girl, Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Dawnstar, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Superman, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy.] The group in panel 3 is the group seen in Johns's Action Comics arc--a kind of post-Levitz team that ignores anything after "Magic Wars" and inserts years of undisclosed continuity in its place--although Johns hinted at a lot of the bad stuff in his recent arc. Note that Colossal Boy's wife is now part of the team, as Chameleon Girl. The final panel shows the team from my favorite era--the Levitz Baxter time period, but Tyroc and Sensor Girl were never on the team at the same time. Still, who doesn't love Tyroc? [Well, I guess I'll name all of these Legionnaires too. From left to right, front to back: Bouncing Boy, Dream Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Tellus, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Tyroc, Sensor Girl, Chameleon Boy, Duo Damsel, Mon-El, White Witch, Star Boy, Element Lad.]

It's important to note that throughout this issue, and Johns's other use of the Legion elsewhere, he doesn't seem particularly concerned about using a team from a specific time period, so the team compositions are a bit out of whack and members who had left or died are sometimes shown with characters who hadn't yet joined. But since the Time Trapper, Supermanboy-Prime's continuity punching, reboots, Crises, and multiple Earths are all in play, it doesn't really matter, does it? Everything is in flux, especially in the future.

Page 11: Most of the villains are identified here. Not named in the bottom right panel: Cyborg-Superman (also of the Sinestro Corps), Metallo, Toyman.

Page 12: A biased retelling of Supermanboy-Prime's life thus far, but it's not too far from the truth. Sodam Yat is the new Ion, in case you were wondering. Neutron, mentioned in the bottom panel, is a particulary lame Superman villain, and saying he made a "bigger impact" is a bomb joke but also a slap in the face to S-Prime.

Page 13: Bottom left: Composite-Superman. Almost-bottom-right: Geoff Johns's version of the Teen Titans from his relaunch a few years back.

Page 14: S-Prime did kill Conner Kent, a.k.a. Superboy. Although the Siegel lawsuit probably didn't help.

Page 15: The United Planets is a bunch of planets, united (but very geocentric, to be honest).

Page 16: In the Johns/Perez version of the 31st century, the United Planets meets just like the Federation in Star Wars: Episode II. Remember when Jar Jar became a Senator? Ha! That was hilarious and touching. Here, everyone hates the Legion because the Justice League of future xenophobes messed them up recently (as seen in Johns's Action Comics arc). The three Legionnaires at the bottom are, of course, the founders of the team, and you can tell they aren't the spry young teenagers who formed the team in 2958. They look pretty good for being in their mid-sixties, though.

Page 17: Blah, blah, blah summary of the aftermath of the Action Comics storyline. Brainiac 5 helped the Legion, so he's out at Colu. Everyone else is grumpy. Nobody takes the Legion seriously. Johns makes a meta-commentary on why they still have "boy" and "girl" names even though they are grown men and women. Seriously, why doesn't the Legion get any respect?!? Johns is asking that question in the comic and inviting the outside world to respond.

Page 18: Mon-El always ends up in the Phantom Zone. It's the only place he's safe from the lead poisoning that will kill him ever so quickly. Shadow Lass and Mon-El were a couple for years, at least in the original continuity (whatever that means).

Page 19: You can tell things have gotten bleak in the future, because the straight-laced Brainiac 5 stopped grooming.

Page 20: When Brainiac 5 says that he "alone" created the anti-lead serum, he's paraphrasing Dr. Frankenstein from the 1931 James Whale classic film. Goes along with his mad scientist haircut and everything.

Page 21: Sun Boy, the Johnny Storm of the Legion--in powers and lady-killing skills--was used in the Johns Action Comics arc to turn Earth's sun into a red sun, thus negating Superman's powers. He's literally burnt out from that. Polar Boy, the first Legion of Substitute Heroes member to get promoted to the big show, lost an arm in that arc as well. Fire and Ice, cynical and optimistic: contrasts.

Page 22: More from the United Planets of Grumpy Xenophobia. Karate Kid II (Myg) has grown facial hair AND an attitude since we last saw him. He started out bad, and even the Legion Academy couldn't whip him into shape, apparently.

Page 23: R. J. Brande, super-gazillionaire and benefactor of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Before Brainiac 5 invented the flight rings, the Legionnaires used to fly around with flight belts. Flight belts! How 2950s! Brande is actually the father of the Legion's Chameleon Boy, and a Durlan shapeshifter himself, although that is not known to the world at large. Such was revealed in Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the first comic book mini-series ever (published in 1981).

Page 24: Takron-Galtos, the prison planet. I love to see it pop up in Legion stories, but every time it does, some prisoners escape and cause trouble. This is the third Takron-Galtos in this continuity, I think, but maybe they should come up with some other rehabilitation program. I'm telling you. A prison planet SOUNDS like a good idea, but it rarely ends well.

Page 25: Do you want me to name all of the Legion of Super-Villains too? Really? [Okay, fine. From left to right, back to front: Zymyr, Mist Master, Silver Slasher, Magno Lad, Ol-Vir, Hunter II, Lazon, Neutrax, Spider Girl, Esper Lass, Sun Emperor, Tyr, Micro Lad, Ron-Karr, Titania, Radiation Roy, Tarik the Mute, Chameleon Chief, Cosmic King, Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, Nemesis Kid, Terrus.] Anyway, this collection is from the first arc in the Levitz Baxter run, as recently reprinted in the An Eye for an Eye trade paperback. It's really good, except Giffen quit halfway through and Steve Lightle had to finish it up. Both are fantastic artists, but with COMPLETELY different styles. LSV, though. Bad news all around.

Page 26: Man, this is a long comic. With so many panels! We're getting our money's worth here, aren't we?

The Legion of Super-Villains was founded by Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, and Saturn Queen. They're adults with the same powers as the original Legion founders. Because adults are evil and always try to mess up our clubhouse with their smoking and cussing. [UPDATED: The adult Legion of Super-Villains was from the future, and originally founded by Tarik the Mute. Also, Cosmic King looks like Cosmic Boy, but he actually has powers similar to Element Lad.]

Page 27: Brande's speech implies that the Legion taught Superboy how to become Superman. That's not really what happened, but it's a pretty cool interpretation of the events. Maybe it happened between panels. Let's all say that it happened. Feel better now? I do. I like it.

Page 28: Leland McCauley was not only Brande's rival, but in the post-"Zero Hour" reboot he was actually revealed to be Ra's al Ghul, still alive in the 30th century! Wheeee. He's not Ra's al Ghul in this version, though. He's just a bitter rich dude.

Page 29: "Long Live the Legion" is the rallying cry of the team. Brande almost gets it out, mentally before he gets all Durlan on everyone. By the way: TOLD YOU he was a Durlan! Totally called it. It gives McCauley a chance for more xenophobia and provides a touching moment. Geoff Johns can write comics!

Page 30: McCauley was apparently in cahoots with the Time Trapper. Folks, that's never a good idea. It's about as dumb as putting every single powerful criminal together on one giant space station.

Page 31: My guess is that Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl, and Element Lad are up to something. Probably something involving the Legion Espionage Squad. Because Johns is definitely not going to leave the Espionage Squad out of the action. Look for them to pop up with some vital information/secret weapon/awesomeness around issue #4.

Page 32: Thats the silhouette of the Legion clubhouse on the right side of the skyline. The old upside down spaceship. Of course, Secret Origins revealed that the original clubhouse was Fortress Lad, who had transformed into a clubhouse and then everyone, including him, totally forgot about it because of the after-effects of an angry Mnemonic Kid. (I am not making this, or anything else, up.)

Page 33: Superman arrives in 3009. A year after Supermanboy-Prime, thus leaving time for S-Prime to...

Page 34: Free all the prisoners from Takron-Galtos! I knew that prison planet was a bad idea. It's like rescuing evil fish from a space barrel. Although the 3008/3009 thing doesn't exactly make sense, since Cosmic Boy said the Smallville stuff and the freeing of the prisoners just happened in the past few hours. Hmmm... a time inconsistency. Who's the villain behind this whole thing again? [EDITED: Apparently, he stopped just before 3009. So, yeah, 3008 it is.]

"L.O.S.V"? L.S.V. sounds better, doesn't it? Maybe it's just to make it clear to all the new readers. But that's what I'm here for. L.O.S.V. is the Legion of Super Villains, silly.

Page 35: The post-"Zero Hour" Reboot Legion. A.k.a. the "Archie Legion" because everyone looked straight outta Riverdale. (I don't agree with that label, by the way.) This image on the top shows that Johns is not cherry-picking teams from a certain time, he's cherry-picking entire rosters that never existed. Some of these characters, like Kid Quantum died well before others, like Gates, joined. Do you want me to name all of these characters too? Seriously, if anyone wants such a thing, e-mail me, because I'm not really planning on wasting your time with a long list otherwise. [Okay, people want to know. From left to right, front to back: Apparition, Chuck Taine, Inferno, Kid Quantum, Thunder, Leviathan, Magno, Wildfire, Shikari, Monstress, Invisible Kid, Gear, Timber Wolf, Star Boy, Element Lad, Triad, Kid Quantum II, Ferro, M'Onel, Umbra, Spark, Chameleon, Dreamer, Andromeda, Live Wire, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, Karate Kid, Shrinking Violet, Brainiac 5.1, Sensor, Gates, XS.]

"I've met them both. We all did a long time ago." I'm not sure what the second part means. Who's the "all." If it's just him and the other 20th/21st century heroes, then, yes, they met around the time of Final Night and recently in The Brave and the Bold. If he's putting Mon-El into the mix, I don't know what he's talking about.

Page 36: I literally have used my whole laptop battery on these annotations, as feeble as they are. I have six minutes to wrap it up.

This Legion is the Waid/Kitson Threeboot era, with the Shooter/Manapul costumes (mostly). Once again, it's not a roster that ever existed in the series, since Dream Boy (second from top left) and Dream Girl (third from top right) were never on the team at the same time. Yet it doesn't have any members from the "future" of the team. I guess that would make it too complicated. [From left to right, back to front: Mon-El, Dream Boy, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Dream Girl, Supergirl, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Triplicate Girl, Princess Projectra, Triplical Girl, Ultra Boy, Triplicate Girl, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Light Lass, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, Karate Kid, Invisible Kid, Atom Girl, Chameleon.]

Do you think this series will end with the redemption of Supermanboy-Prime? Will he sacrifice himself to save the Legion and bring harmony to the United Planets?

Long Live the Legion(s)!

(P.S. I'm not the one reviewing this issue for CBR, but if I did, I would have given it four and a half stars.)

[Michael Grabois has annotations at The Legion Omnicom as well.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When Words Collide: Don't Fear the Legion

Just in time for Geoff Johns and George Perez's Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1, I've written a "Don't Fear the Legion" reading list for the newest installment of CBR's "When Words Collide." It's not just a glorified promo for my upcoming Teenagers from the Future book (although if you want to go out and buy that book when it premieres later this month, you totally should); it's a guide to ten essential Legion stories that you'll probably want to read now that Johns and Perez have primed you for some 30th/31st century superhero action.

So check out "Don't Fear the Legion," and stop back here tomorrow for my annotations on Legion of Three Worlds. Who doesn't love annotations?!? (And, man, that issue is going to require a LOT of notes.)

Special thanks to CAMERON MORGAN for designing the new logo for my column, as seen above!

Large Wooden Badger

Television's Ryan Callahan has finally started posting on his blog, probably due to his fame as my San Diego sidekick. The fan letters have been pouring in, and it's only right that he uses his charisma and wit to placate the masses.

So, go and read "14 Reasons Bert Blyleven Should Be in the Hall of Fame" at the Large Wooden Badger blog.

Here's just a sample:
Whereas Nolan Ryan strengthened his arm by repeatedly thrusting it into a barrel of rice, Blyleven would thrust his arm into a washing machine full of bricks and broken glass.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Young Liars #6 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Young Liars #6, about which I write the following sentences: "Here we have a comic in which each character has a clearly established quirk and probably one or more dark secrets. See the self-loathing anorexic, see the drug-addled transvestite, see the trust-fund thief, see the girl with the bullet in her brain, see the lover who put it there. And so on. Lapham takes the Lynchian (incest, clowns, Pinkertons) and the Tarantino-esque (non-linear narrative, pop culture arguments, axes to the skull) and throws them all together with these deeply flawed characters. It's not dull. It's not like any other Vertigo comic. But it also feels a bit hollow."

Read the entire review HERE.

Surprise of the Week: Green Lantern Corps #27

Peter Tomasi has done a nice job since taking over Green Lantern Corps. It's been a cut below the Johns/Reis work on the main Green Lantern title, but it's been solid and I'm fond of the characters and the concept of the Corps, so I've been enjoying it.

But with Green Lantern Corps #27, Tomasi has kicked this title into mad genius overdrive. It has some character bits between Kyle Raynor and Guy Gardner that work just fine -- as they open their American Diner on Oa -- but it's the two other subplots that really make this issue excellent. The first one, clear foreshadowing toward "Darkest Night," deals with a Green Lantern who can talk to the dead, and it's creepy and engaging. The second one, though -- the one indicated on the cover -- shows a monstrous new villain who's zipping around the galaxy, killing the families of Green Lanterns.

Those eyeballs dropping from the sky on that cover? That's not a metaphorical image. (Okay, the eyeballs are a little smaller in the actual issue.) Any comic that ends with a shower of dead GL family member's eyeballs is worth my attention.

Surprise of the week! Nicely done, Peter Tomasi.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Standard Attrition: Where It's At

I'm not a big message board guy. I pop into Barbelith now and then, and go to the CBR forums sometimes (and once I get my "When Words Collide" board, I'll be there a lot more), and post here and there if people link to this blog, just so I keep up appearances. But the board I visit most often is the Standard Attrition board, started by Jason Aaron, but now featuring a bevy of Vertigo creators like Brian Wood, Azz, Davis Lapham, Cliff Chiang, Jock, and G. Willow Wilson.

Willow's board--with newly appointed Co-Moderator, Tim Callahan--is now, officially, where it's at. Whatever "it" is, come and talk about it with Willow. Let's get the discussion going about it. Let's run it into the ground and then resurrect it only to mock it. Let's discuss why it's so important. Let's talk comics, life, politics, fear, lightsabers, Derrida, and why it all matters/doesn't matter at all.

Join us, won't you?

Willow's Standard Attrition Message Board: Meeting Your Discussion Needs Since 2008.

The Last Defenders #6 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: The Last Defenders #6, about which I write the following sentences: "Yet, in this final issue, even as we get mindless, green (but not Skrull) versions of the Squadron Sinister and the intervention of a Defenders team from the future, it all regresses into standard superhero fight sequences. It's only the first half of the issue, true, and after that intervention from the future, Kyle Richmond knows who he must select as the 'Last' Defenders, and he knows what role he must play -- as a benefactor more than a member -- but it still ends with a relatively traditional scene. A scene where the new team assembles and a villain, watching from afar, says, 'even as the Last Defenders are reality's greatest hope. . . they are also its greatest liability.' Dun dun dunnnnn!"

Read the entire review HERE.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wonder Woman #23 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Wonder Woman #23, about which I write the following sentences: "As much as I like Simone's approach to Wonder Woman, and her skill at characterization, the stories thus far have felt almost like fill-in plots. You know, the kind where the hero goes off on some adventure that doesn't really matter too much, just so when the real writer comes back, he or she can advance the important stuff back home. Simone has sent Wonder Woman into space and then into a magical dimension and that's all well and good -- maybe it shed some light on who Wonder Woman is, by seeing her in contrast with others -- but it also feels like a series of tangents. Like you're sitting down ready to hear an epic story of Wonder Woman, and just as it gets started the storyteller says, 'but wait, there was this one time where she was abducted by Khunds, and it doesn't have a whole lot to do with the main story, but let me tell it for a couple or hours,' and just when the story gets back on track, you hear, 'oh, and then there was this other time when Wonder Woman ended up in a weird fantasy world where guys had swords and bad haircuts and I'll just take a few more hours to tell you what happened then. But don't worry, I'll remind you of the main characters and let you know what they're up to as they wait for Wonder Woman, so you don't give up and walk out just yet.'"

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Action Comics #868 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Action Comics #868, about which I write the following sentences: "As you may have heard, Geoff Johns is introducing the 'real' Brainiac in this story arc (of which 'Action Comics' #868 is part three), right after he did something similar with Toyman earlier this year. It's Johns' way of saying, 'you haven't seen the real character yet, all the other versions were just the advance scouts' (or in Toyman's case, toys). There must be something in the DC drinking water, because Morrison said the same thing about Darkseid going into 'Final Crisis.' Or, more likely, it's a clean way to pave through the inconsistent continuity of past decades. It's almost impossible to reconcile the various deeds and behaviors of Brainiac over the years, but if you say, 'oh, those were all different (robot) guys,' it makes things a lot easier. I'm not necessarily a fan of such an approach. Especially since it's been popping up regularly this year, but this particular comic, 'Action Comics' #868, is exceedingly well-drawn and cleanly told. I may not particular like the concept, but I like the execution enough to recommend it."

Read the entire review HERE.


Yes, I'm in Watchmen mode, but who isn't? Everyone's thinking about this thing these days. So when I found out that one of my former students--one who has never really read comics--finally read Watchmen last week, well I had to take advantage of that.

So Chad Nevett and I invited him to The Splash Page, where we could taunt him about his foolish ignorance about comic book tropes and traditions and school him in the ways of Alan Moore.

But Justin Dickinson held his own against the geek onslaught, and offered a fresh perspective on a graphic novel that is so ingrained in us that we can barely remember life before Watchmen.

Join us as we discuss morality and superheroics and everything in between in the newest installment of Alan Moore's favorite internet chat-piece: The Splash Page.

Or, as always, click. HERE.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Review

On Sunday, I told my kids they could write down any two things they wanted to do this week, and if the requests were reasonable (Disney World, for example, would be out of the question) we could do what they wanted. My four-year-old daughter wanted to (1) play with her toys [DONE!] and (2) go swimming [not yet done, but the weather around here hasn't exactly co-operated], while my seven-year-old son listed (1) buy a pack of Chaotic game cards [DONE!] and the thing he really wanted to do most was (2) go to the theater and see Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

He even got my daughter excited about it. Every day this week, she'd ask, "is it Clone Wars today?"

I don't hate the Star Wars prequels. They just make me sad, and I don't have any desire to watch them again. Particular scenes? Maybe. The entire movie of episode one, two, or three? Not so much. But this Clone Wars movie seemed interesting. Sure, the last I'd heard, it was supposed to be a television show and the pilot somehow ended up with a theatrical release. Sure, the designs were a strange mix of the Cartoon Network Clone Wars animation and some bad video game modeling. Sure, I really had little interest in the adventures of young Anakin.

But an action-packed Star Wars movie sounded like fun at least.

It is not.

It is a very bad movie.

My son liked it, and but he likes every animated movie, and he's a video game addict, so the look of this movie was just what he was used to. But that's the problem with the movie--it is a video game, except you don't get to control it. It's got those cinematics where the characters describe the mission and tell you what's at stake, only instead of reaching for your controller to bust out some lightsaber skills or pilot your ship through an asteroid field you watch as the animators do it for you. And not in any particularly exciting way.

My daughter, who sat through Indiana Jones IV totally engrossed, couldn't sit still during this movie. She not only squirmed around and looked bored, but she actually asked to leave. She's never done that in a movie before. I would have left, too, except my son was enjoying the action.

I will say this: the stiffly animated Anakin Skywalker was a more interesting portrayal than the Hayden Christensen performance in the prequels. I'm not saying that to be snarky. I'm serious. The pixellated Jedi was far more engaging than his real-life counterpart. But it still wasn't enough to make the movie watchable.

I won't bother you with plot specifics, but the main thread deals with Anakin and his precocious young apprentice trying to get Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped baby back from the bad guys. There are plenty of jokes about how stinky the baby is, and tons of scenes about Anakin not knowing how to handle a trainee, and important life lessons about not judging a book by its cover, and plenty of dull, poorly paced fight scenes.

I didn't expect much from this direct-to-video, but-somehow-on-the-big-screen little Star Wars movie. And it still felt like a waste of time for everyone involved.

Half the people in the audience clapped at the end of the screening. I wonder if they were celebrating because it was finally over.