Friday Night Fights: Big Fight, Little Fight!

A busy, busy week — I spent almost the entire time moving from my apartment into a new house, and I wasn’t sure I’d actually have time to put this post together. But I did, and here we are — it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes from June/July 1978′s Secret Society of Super-Villains #15 by Bob Rozakis, Mike Vosburg, and Bob Smith, as Blockbuster goes after the Atom.

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I’d come up with something snarky to say about all this — but I’ve got a few hundred boxes to unpack, so you guys have a great weekend.

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The Last of the West

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All Star Western #34

I’d stopped reading this one a long time back, but that was less about disliking the character or the creators and more about my usual general malaise. But this is the last issue — and Darwyn Cooke is doing the art. And I’ll always buy a comic that’s got Darwyn Cooke doing Jonah Hex art.

There’s a lot of this that I missed out on, but at some point, Jonah Hex traveled to the present day, met some superheroes, and got plastic surgery to fix his face. But he’s back in the Old West where he belongs now, and he’s just met up with his fellow bounty hunter and sometime lover Tallulah Black. They’ve heard that there’s an outlaw impersonating him holed up in the next town over, and Jonah wants to see what this is all about. At the same time, traveling to the future meant that he also learned how he’d die, and he’s been dreading how it’s going to happen. Is there a future for Jonah Hex beyond getting murdered and sold to a taxidermist?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A big chunk of the appeal is Darwyn Cooke’s art — but it’s also great to Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti bid farewell to some characters they obviously care deeply about. I do love the fact that Jonah Hex is still very definitely Jonah Hex, even without his famous scars — and even more than that, I love the fact that Jonah’s all purty now, and he still loves the terribly scarred Tallulah. And most of all, I love the fact that we get a gloriously violent and crude Jonah Hex adventure mixed in with the perfect hope-for-the-future ending that you’d never expect Jonah Hex to actually get. And it all works perfectly.

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Evil Empire #4

I’m gonna spoil the heck out of this comic, ’cause otherwise, I can’t tell you why I thought it was not good.

Rebellious pop star Reese Greenwood and her bodyguard Theo have just watched Kenneth Laramy, jailed presidential candidate and unofficial leader of the pro-fascism movement, admit he’d just been along for the ride, desperate to get away from all the crazy nuts proclaiming him their new messiah — and then he got shot dead by his own supporters. Luckily, the feds tear in and save Reese and Theo. This leaves single liberal Sam Duggins as the only real candidate for the presidency. And then, after the election results are announced, and Sam is about to make his acceptance speech, Reese learns that Sam’s sister Julia was sleeping with and manipulating Laramy. And then Reese and Theo both learn that Sam and Julia are having an incestuous relationship. And then Sam gives an acceptance speech claiming that he agreed with Laramy and believes that it’s time the country abandons all pretense of morality to become a nation fully dedicated to evil.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I was enjoying the heck out of this until the ending of this issue, because it makes no freakin’ sense. In the real world, if a Democrat was elected president and then gave a speech just after the results were announced saying that, nope, he was actually in full agreement with his Republican opponent about everything, he’d be lucky to get anything done in office at all. The Democrats would be furious and would refuse to support him at all. The Republicans might be glad to have a surprise Republican in the White House, but they also wouldn’t trust the guy who’d spent years telling everyone he was a liberal. (And, by the way, the same would hold true if a Republican had suddenly switched parties after the election.)

You know what you definitely wouldn’t get? You definitely wouldn’t get everyone in the country to just go “Oh, hey, the president wants us to be evil now, come on, everyone!” I could sorta believe it when Laramy was pushing the whole thing as letting angry people push back as hard as they want when people irritate or offend them. I mean, we’ve all seen what the NRA looks like nowadays, right? But you know who wakes up and decides to embrace cartoon-evil just because the president says so? Ain’t nobody.

This series just faceplanted hard, and they are really going to have to work to make me keep reading.

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Art and Inhumanity

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Yossel: April 19, 1943

I’d had my eye on this for a while and managed to pick up a copy a few weeks back. It was written and illustrated by the late great Joe Kubert back in 2003, but it’s still worth a look today.

Before he was born, back in 1926 in Poland, his family tried to emigrate to the United States, but because his mother was pregnant, the family wasn’t allowed to get their visas and get on the boat. They tried again two months after he was born, and they were more successful this time. They made the long trip to America, and years later, Joe Kubert became a successful comic book artist and eventually founded his own school for comic artists.

“Yossel” is the story of what could’ve happened if the Kubert family had never left Poland.

As you might guess from the cover art, this is a story about the Holocaust — with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as its focal point — and it’s appropriately horrific. Things start slowly enough, with slowly mounting discrimination and oppression visited upon the Polish Jews. Yossel’s father is a butcher, and Yossel’s over-riding passion is art, but eventually, the Nazis order all the Jews in their village shipped off to a massive — but still too small to hold everyone — block of apartments in Warsaw.

And of course, things get steadily worse and worse. There’s not enough food, there’s not enough of anything, and no one is allowed to leave — although Yossel actually receives permission to leave periodically. See, the Nazis like his artwork, so they bring him to their headquarters so he can draw for them. This earns him a few privileges, which he tries to distribute to the other residents of the ghetto. But when his family is finally shipped off to Auschwitz, he has to stay behind.

Eventually, Yossel meets up with an escapee from one of the death camps, who tells everyone about the horrors that go on there. And from that point, it’s decided that the ghetto must fight back against their oppressors.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It was clearly a deeply personal book for Kubert, who is basically imagining an alternate universe where he and his family are killed by Nazis. There are no great surprises here — we know what the Nazis did, we know the history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising — but it’s still a harrowing account of man’s inhumanity to man.

And it’s also stunningly beautiful. The book wasn’t inked at all — Kubert decided he preferred the look of his rough pencils over the finished elegance of the inked product. Kubert wanted to make the drawings look like something Yossel would’ve drawn while observing the events around him, and it does do a lot for giving the story an air of authenticity. It gives the whole book a really unique look — rough and sketchy, but also more immediate, urgent, and even intimate. The emotions, body language, everything you see is more raw and painful — but it’s also utterly gorgeous, brilliant work. You’ll go back to this over and over to study what Kubert was doing.

It’s a beautiful book about a terrible time, created by one of the comics world’s top artisans. You’ll definitely need to pick this up. Beg your local shop to find it for you, or go online to find a copy.

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Three Faces of Trouble

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The Wicked + the Divine #3

Well, it looks like Baphomet has just murdered the Morrigan — but whoops, no, it’s just Baphomet using magic to make her look dead. In truth, the Morrigan, with three different hairstyles and three different personalities, is good and pissed, and the two gods are about to throw down and probably massacre all the mortals who came to see them — until Laura manages a desperate ploy to distract them from their fight and convince them to perform together instead. This may not be an improvement — everyone else may end up dying anyway. Then the cops show up and arrest everyone. Does any of this lead Laura any closer to finding out who framed Lucifer?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Morrigan is a lot of fun. Baphomet is alright, too, but the Morrigan is definitely the highlight of this issue. Laura’s gambit is appealingly deranged, too. Did I mention how awesome the art is, too? ‘Cause the art is just plain awesome.

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Daredevil #7

Matt is trying to find out why Wakanda has kidnapped his mother, a nun called Sister Maggie, so he has S.H.I.E.L.D. airdrop him into the Wakandan jungle. Once he’s there, he’s captured pretty quickly — which turns out to be part of his plan. Otherwise, he’d have to trek through miles of jungle to get to the royal palace. Can Daredevil convince the new Black Panther to release his mother and the other nuns? And will he find out the secrets behind the vision he had of his mother and father?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Matt gets to demonstrate his greatest power once again — lawyering — and the backstory of his mother is interesting and points an excellent spotlight on the problems of post-partum depression.

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Manifest Destiny #9

While Lewis is stuck aboard the boat trying futilely to kill the frog monster in the river, Clark and the rest of the expedition are roaming around the countryside getting into terrible trouble, mostly involving really large mosquitoes.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the best issue of this series, but there’s nice interaction between the characters and a lot of wonderfully gory scenes with giant mosquitoes.

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Trees #4

As rural artist Tian Chenglei slowly gets accustomed to the weirdly anarchic city he’s moved to, Marsh and the scientists in the Arctic learn that the black flowers growing around the Trees are actually filled with wires.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is, so far, a very slow moving story, but it’s really a great deal of fun to get to know all these characters and their settings, and by extension, the transformed Earth they all live in. The Trees never interact with humans, but they’ve still changed the world in entertainingly drastic ways.

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Friday Night Fights: Wonder Whupass!

We’re gonna keep this short. If things turn out right, I’ll have gotten the closing done on the new house. If things don’t turn out right, it’s getting pushed back, which will make it harder to get all my stuff moved. Either way, things are about to be too busy for a whole lot of jibber-jabba. So here’s… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from February 1997′s JLA #2 by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, and John Dell, as Wonder Woman meets up with Fluxus of the villainous Hyperclan.

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That’ll do it. I should be able to post on Monday, but things will get good and busy after that. There’s a decent chance I’ll be too busy to come up with a post for Wednesday, but I’ll do what I can. At any rate, y’all have a great weekend.

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Across the Multiverse

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Multiversity #1

Nix Uotan is the last Monitor, operating as a multiversal superhero called Superjudge. While answering a distress call from Earth-7 with his sidekick, Mr. Stubbs the Pirate Monkey, he finds a world ruined, with only one superhero left, the Thunderer, an Aboriginal Australian and thunder god laboring under intense psychic attack by transdimensional monsters called the Gentry. Uotan sends the Thunderer to a place called the House of Heroes while he prepares to battle the Gentry.

Far away, on Earth-23, Superman (also known as the President of the United States, which has got to be the world’s worst secret identity) gets teleported to the House of Heroes, where he meets up with Captain Carrot, the Thunderer, Dino-Cop, Aqua-Woman, Red Racer, and heroes from across the Multiverse. They travel to Earth-8, home of Lord Havok and the Extremists, as well as a bunch of superheroes from Marvel — excuse me, from Major Comics. Lord Havok is about to hatch something terrible from the Genesis Egg — but what horror is going to emerge?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s Grant Morrison writing a cosmic story about weird alternate-universe superheroes, with only a slight connection to the New 52, so he’s going to be playing with a bunch of wild characters and concepts. Superman may be our lead hero, but Captain Carrot is where all the fun is. As I’ve said plenty of times before, I’d love to see a revival — a non-dark-and-gritty revival — of Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew.

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Sensation Comics #1

Much like “Legends of the Dark Knight” and the more recent “Adventures of Superman,” this is an anthology series of not-necessarily-in-continuity tales, this time entirely focusing on Wonder Woman.

Our first tale, written by Gail Simone and illustrated mostly by Ethan van Sciver, is set gloriously in the pre-Reboot DC Universe. It has Gotham City’s villains teaming up to (temporarily) take down Batman. Looking for a hero to help get Gotham back under control, Oracle (Yes! Oracle!) gets on the phone and calls in Wonder Woman, who comes in throwing actual Wonderangs. But the villains in Gotham are a lot more uncontrolled than most bad guys, and they don’t generally consider anyone less terrifying than Batman to be a real threat. Can Diana put the scare in Gotham’s villains? Or will she find a third way forward?

The second story is, unfortunately, a much more pedestrian battle against Circe.

Verdict: Thumbs up. That first Gail Simone story is really pretty awesome. And not just because it doesn’t have a single whiff of the New 52 about it. Every bit of it is gloriously put together, and it’s really fun to see Diana out of her element and getting challenged by Batman’s mostly-unpowered rogues gallery. If more of the stories in this series are like Gail’s and less like the predictable and dull Circe slugfest, this is going to really be a great series.

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Ms. Marvel #7

Kamala and Wolverine narrowly survive an attack by the Inventor’s gigantic sewer alligator and then start making their way out of the sewer. But it turns out the mad genius wasn’t done with them yet and was just luring them into another trap. Can they escape? Can they free the Inventor’s other victims? And what’s gonna happen after Wolverine deduces her true origin?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some good action, but most of this issue is pleasantly talky, with Wolverine coaxing more of Kamala’s background out of her. The art is a bit odd in places — a little like the Teen Titans cartoon — but in others, it’s really fun to watch how the dialogue will go crawling up a page as the two heroes climb out of the sewer.

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Mighty Avengers #13

The immortal wizard-gods called the Deathwalkers are back, and they have a plan to destroy the world using Blade’s blood. Can Blade break free from confinement? Can Power Man track down where he’s being held? Can the combined forces of the Mighty Avengers of the 1970s and the Mighty Avengers of 2014 defeat the boundless evil of the Deathwalkers and their minions? Or is it already too late for the human race?

Verdict: Thumbs up. For starters, no Greg Land on the art! We’ve got Salvador Larroca, who’s way, way better. The rest of the story is fine, but probably not blow-up-the-house awesome.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Shuttering in the Cold

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Shutter #5

Kate Kristopher has just met the little brother she never knew she had. He seems like a nice kid. Likes dinosaurs, is really nervous around Kate (she keeps cussing and yelling at all the other monsters in the mansion), and is just under nine years old — which sets off another round of cussing from Kate, because her dad died ten years ago — and, as we find out, in entirely shocking circumstances.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The real magic in this issue is the interaction between Kate and her newfound brother, Chris Jr. — as well as Kate’s more furious interaction with her former nanny. Which isn’t to say there isn’t some wonderfully weird action, particularly in the flashback to Kate’s final mission with her dad.

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Coffin Hill #10

In the present day, Eve Coffin is in prison, hated by both the prisoners and the guards, while demonic monsters stalk teenaged girls in the forest. In the past, Officer Eve Coffin is working on a way to catch the serial killer prowling in Boston.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The main problem is that the story is all over the place, across two different time periods, nine different settings, and at least a dozen different characters. I felt worn out just trying to keep up with what was going on.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Paint the Town Red

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Red Sonja #11

Sonja and her compatriots — some of the greatest artisans and warriors in the world — make short work of a bunch of cutthroats and then move on to the next person they’re supposed to recruit — Plaitius, the world’s greatest soothsayer. But he’s being held captive by a tyrannical and prudish theocrat, and he’s decided to have Plaitius executed. If he recants his prophetic powers, even untruthfully, he’ll be released. But he refuses to do so, convinced that it’s better to die than to renounce his gifts. Is there any way Sonja can rescue him from his well-defended prison?

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, an excellent story and excellent art, and plenty of excellent action.

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Ghosted #12

Jackson Winters has been sprung from jail by the feds, and he’s being put on a new team, including former friend and former skeptic Oliver King, Nina Bloodcrow, and a hardass called Agent Creed. They want him to figure out why there’s been an increase in paranormal activity worldwide. They also want him to track down a street magician named Damian Charon, who’s been seen in the vicinity of several hauntings. Jackson recognizes him — he’s actually his late friend Trick’s estranged son, Danny. And it turns he’s running a profitable business creating his own hauntings.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice establishment of the setup for this new storyarc. It’s clear we’ll have lots of conflict on this one — Jackson hates Oliver, Creed hates Jackson, and Danny Trick clearly hates everyone. More ghosty fun incoming.

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Friday Night Fights: Tummy Time!

Alright, kids, this may be my last Friday Night Fights for a few weeks. There’s a decent chance I’ll be moving before the end of the month, and there’s a real good chance I’ll be too busy for a while packing up my stuff, getting everything moved, and getting my house set up to spend a lot of time digging up new fights to post. If I can post something up, I’ll do it, but y’all don’t expect me to prioritize the fights over moving.

Tonight’s battle comes to us from September 1981′s Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk by Len Wein, José Luis García-López, Dick Giordano, and Glynis Oliver. Batman meets up with the Hulk, fisticuffs ensue, and the Dark Knight figures he’ll balance the ridiculously long odds by hitting Green Genes with some knockout gas. Doesn’t turn out the way he plans, though…

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A kick in the breadbasket by a normal man and a few lungfuls of gas is enough to KO the Hulk? I don’t buy it. But dig that awesome José Luis García-López artwork!

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Rumble Robots

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Astro City #14

Our story focuses on an older lady living in the desert and running a makeshift museum of hundreds of robots built by mad scientists and taken down by superheroes. But in fact, Ellie is some sort of mechanical genius, and she’s managed to rebuild and reprogram all of them. Her hard-luck nephew Fred comes to visit and tries to make the museum profitable — and he’s willing to use less-than-legal methods to do so. But what is the strange secret Ellie is hiding inside her age-addled mind?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an intriguing mystery, with several interesting characters. We also meet some new superheroes from an obscure superteam. And so many robots! Robots are always a good thing.

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Captain Marvel #6

J’Son, the despotic ruler of the Spartax Empire, plans to kill everyone on the planet Torfa to cover up the vibranium he’s mining there, and the vibranium toxicity that’s poisoning everyone who lives there. Captain Marvel fights off his fleet while the rest of the refugees on the planet below work on a plan to save everyone. Can they keep J’Son from wiping everyone out? Can they expose what he’s done to the rest of his empire?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and a great story — it reads like the last reel of a really fun action movie, and there aren’t that many comics that can pull that off nearly as well as this one does it.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Not in the mood for a lot of funny stuff lately, mostly because of the crap that went down in Ferguson, Missouri. If we were a truly civilized nation, most of the police officers in that city would be in jail right now. (Though, in fairness, things are already getting less horrible in Ferguson.)
  • On a related note, America has been a very racist nation for a long time, and seeing so many people embrace that like it’s a good thing is intensely frustrating.
  • And on a similarly related note, the depressing secret they never teach you in history class is that the South actually won the Civil War, and the news refuses to talk about the fact that the Tea Party is ultimately an anti-American movement.
  • The roleplaying game industry and GenCon have their own problems with race and diversity.
  • Okay, fine, one funny link for you: 100 actual titles of real 18th-century novels.

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