Archive for July, 2007

Mixing it up


World War Hulk #2

I know a lot of people who would deride the “World War Hulk” storyline as nothing more than wall-to-wall face-punching, “HULK SMASH!” and brutality. If you’re not into nonstop violence in your comics, the entire concept of the Hulk — a geek who turns into an unstoppable musclebound monster — is going to run you off.

Of course, find me a fanboy who only reads pure action comics. They haven’t made those since the dark days of the mid-’90s. We geeks like some thinking with our face-punching nowadays.

This issue sees the Avengers and the Fantastic Four trying to stop Hulk and his crew, a bunch of gladiatorial aliens who call themselves the Warbound (with names like Hiroim the Shamed, Mied the Unhived, and No-Name of the Brood). Hulk fights She-Hulk, Hulk fights the Thing, Hulk beats Mr. Fantastic into a Fantasti-puddle. There are lots of “WHAKOOOM!” and “THOOOM!” and “THRAKOOOM!” sound effects, though the Hulk-Thing battle is interestingly silent.

We also get some good stuff with She-Hulk trying to talk Hulk down, Dr. Strange working on a spell that he hopes will solve things before Hulk beats him into Strange-puddle, and Hulk’s oldest friend Rick Jones almost talks Hulk down. I’ll be surprised if the last issue doesn’t end with a five-page-long discussion about philosophy (probably accompanied by the occasional “WHAKOOOOM!”).

Verdict: Thumbs up. A little of the old ultra-violence, and a little of the old ultra-talking. John Romita’s art is wonderful, and the writing and dialogue are first-rate.

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On the Fritz

I’d hoped to spend a pretty good chunk of the weekend working on the past week’s comics reviews, but alas, fate and my crappy Internet connection conspired against me. There are two things you should always remember about free apartment wireless: (1) You get what you pay for, and (2) You’re paying for NOTHING.

To put it another way, expect light blogging for a while until I can scrabble together the funds for an Internet connection that doesn’t conk out every weekend.

Oh, a review? Sure, why not?


Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #4

Well, that’s one manly cover, ain’t it?

The grand conclusion of Jeff Smith’s retro-cool series is everything you’d want and more. You’ve got Billy Batson fighting off armies of cockroaches, a nasty new version of Mr. Mind, Dr. Sivana being a complete heel, and the world’s largest Captain Marvel punching holes in giant robots.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If you don’t have this, get it — or wait for the collected edition, which should be coming out pretty soon.

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Friday Night Fights: Engine of Destruction!

As Bahlactus commands: On Friday nights, thou shalt bring the pain.

From “Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #4” by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette:

Catfights are the best when people start hitting each other with car engines.

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Cut the Blue Wire!

Wow, did I ever have a busy day yesterday. Tons of work here at the office, followed by a couple hours running errands for family before finally getting home in time to cook dinner at 8 p.m. I didn’t even have time to finish reading yesterday’s new comics, but we’ll try to remedy that over the weekend.

Here’s what I’ve gotten to read so far…


The Spirit #8

If you’re not familiar with the Spirit yet, here’s the general summary. The Spirit is a guy in a suit, fedora, and domino mask who runs around fighting crime in the best pulp tradition. He has no powers, other than his ability to get repeatedly and entertainingly beaten up. He was created by Will Eisner, who is generally considered one of the best artists and the very best storyteller who’s ever worked in the comics biz. This is a new series, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, who is generally considered to rock the house.

In this issue, the Spirit and superspy Agent Satin are locked in an old water tower with a nuclear bomb. Satin could disarm it easily… but she’s got amnesia. With just 30 minutes left before the bomb explodes, can the Spirit get Satin to recover her memory in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Darwyn Cooke is the reigning King of All Awesomeness. If you’re not reading this comic every month, you’re missing out on a guaranteed pure 5000cc megadose of pure unfiltered AWESOME. Go pick it up.


Marvel Adventures: Giant-Size Avengers

An extra-sized one-shot of the best all-ages comic produced by Marvel, thanks to Jeff Parker’s ability to write outstanding action and hilarious dialogue. This issue combines teams up the Avengers with the Agents of Atlas, a team of Avengers surrogates who had their glory days during the Golden Age — Parker wrote a wonderful miniseries starring the Agents of Atlas last year.

Anyway, Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling despot, attacks in this issue, first sending a wave of dinosaurs against the Avengers and later manipulating the Agents into reviving Captain America in the mid-50s instead of the present. As a result, Captain America becomes president and, tricked into thinking that Kang is a great hero, he signs the whole world over to him. Can Storm, Wolverine, and Spider-Man make it through Kang’s timegates to convince the Agents to let Cap remain frozen in the Arctic?

On top of all that, readers are treated to reprints of Golden Age comics starring Namor, Namora, and Venus.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is a joy from beginning to end. Kang’s plot is unusually subtle and clever, and his personality is a lot more interesting than is normally portrayed. It’s great to see the Agents of Atlas again, too. Gorilla-Man is hilarious, and I’d love to see him and the rest of the Agents in an ongoing series. Even the reprints at the end are fun — they’re kid-friendly without being simple-minded. My only disappointment is that there’s no appearance by the Hulk.


Countdown #41

Trickster and Piper fall out of a plane but survive. Mary Marvel is targeted by evil forces. Jimmy Olsen is wearing spandex under his clothes. Donna Troy, Jason Todd, the Atom, and the Monitor (now called “Bob”) shrink down to —

To heck with it.

Nothing happens. Everyone just marks time for another issue, waiting for whenever someone decides to start writing a real story instead of these pointless, meandering vignettes.

I’m done with this one. At its very, very best, it’s been only mediocre. “Countdown” is a symptom of everything that’s gone wrong with DC, and I’m not going to waste my time or money on it any longer.

That’s all for now. More reviews this weekend, I promise.

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Final Crisis

DC has released a big teaser image for the big crossover event that will follow “Countdown.” They’re calling it “Final Crisis.”


Well, first, holy cow, does DC ever overuse the word “Crisis.” See, back in the ’80s, there was “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which was one of the first big cosmos-quaking crossover mega-events. Heroes died, villains died, entire alternate universes were destroyed, readers generally liked it, and DC sold a lot of comics. A couple years ago, DC came up with “Infinite Crisis,” which was another big cosmos-quaking crossover mega-event. Heroes died, villains died, entire alternate universes were created, DC sold a lot of comics, and readers were a lot less favorably disposed.

Now comes “Final Crisis,” and I’ll tell you what a lot of folks I know expect from it: they expect DC to kill everyone and start all over. Reboot their universe from the beginning. Get rid of the characters they don’t like, lose the complicated background continuity, pretend the bad stories never existed in the first place.

I despise this idea. Hate, hate, hate it.

Here’s Valerie D’Orazio’s take on the idea, which I largely agree with, but I do have my own thoughts on the subject, too.

It’s not just the idea of watching favorite characters get killed. Yeah, yeah, they’re fictional, so who cares. The problem is, first, that DC has a really cool continuity and lots of cool relationships between characters. I don’t think DC should want to lose all their Green Lanterns or all their Flashes or all their Robins. Dumping them in favor of having just Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and Dick Grayson would make the DCU a lot less fun to read about.

Second, the idea of clearing the slate and starting over doesn’t say good things about the respect the higher-ups have for their characters. If they’re willing to wipe out characters that people have been reading about for decades, and start over from scratch, I think you should expect some of the fans of those characters to decide they want to do something else with their disposable income…

Third, I’m tired of gigantic crossover events, from both DC and Marvel. Crossover events won’t give you stable revenue and loyal readers — they give you roller-coaster revenues, and readers who are probably close to burning out on your comics, both because they’re tired of the convoluted storylines and because they can’t afford all the extra comics they have to read to keep track of what’s going on.

And finally… I’m beyond tired of deaths in comics. No, I don’t want to make comics a no-violence zone or a no-deaths zone. But there have just been way too many in the past couple of years. Death works best in comics when it’s rare, because that rarity gives it a powerful emotional impact. When you overdo death, everyone stops caring. “Oh, who’s the ‘Death of the Week’ now? Yawwwwn.” I want to see a lot less death in comics because I liked it better when death meant something.

Remember when Gwen Stacy’s death in “Spider-Man” really shocked people? Remember when Barry Allen’s sacrifice in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was an unusual and remarkable event? You couldn’t get that nowadays. We’ve gotten jaded because our comics creators think of death as a cheap alternative to real drama, as an easy shock, as a convenient way to make a bad guy into a BAAAAAD guy.

You can make great comics without killing your characters or blowing up your universe. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gardner Fox, Jack Cole, Steve Ditko, and the entire Golden and Silver Ages of comics prove it.

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Slacker Reviews

Man alive, I am one lazy, lazy comics reviewer. You’d think these were hard reviews. But they ain’t. I’m just lazy.

Let’s get after it.


B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls #5

The conclusion of this storyline. Not quite as many spooky scares, but much, much more of Abe Sapien unleashing the forces of scaly-fishman whup-ass on the freaky oldsters in their steampunk armor and on Edward, the oversized muscleman.

It also includes the following panel.


That may not be the coolest cow in the world, but it’s sure close to the top of the list.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice thrill-ride to finish off all the horror. Grand fun.


Countdown #42

Piper and Trickster have been captured and shackled together with manacles that could kill them if they try to break them. Holly Robinson, former Catwoman, is hanging out Harley Quinn and a bunch of Amazons. Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and the renegade Monitor get the current Atom, Ryan Choi, to take them to the hyper-miniaturized “Palmerverse” to find the previous Atom, Ray Palmer. Mary Marvel meets up with the Riddler, then sends Clayface into orbit. And way too many of the pictures of Mary in this issue are upskirt shots. Siiiigh. Fine, fine, I recognize that there’s not much of a way to avoid it with that costume, but after a certain point, it just seems creepy.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Boring.


Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular

Cute, fun, and funny. I’ve never much seen the point of Deadpool, but the Great Lakes Avengers (now calling themselves the Great Lakes Initiative) are always good for a larf. Squirrel Girl meets up with her ex-boyfriend Speedball, who’s now grim and gritty and spiky and calling himself Penance. A.I.M uses the Greek god Dionysus to get every superhero in the world drunk. Flatman shows off his Origami-Fu. Mr. Immortal dies a lot. Squirrel Girl also visits the future, and we get nearly-official confirmation that she is indeed the baddest badass in the Marvel Universe.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Squirrel Girl rocks. Deal with it, fanboy.


Green Lantern #21

The aftermath of the Green Lantern Corps’ first battle with the Sinestro Corps. Hal Jordan fights the Parallaxized Kyle Rayner. Hal is confronted with his only real fear. Ready for it? Ready? He’s afraid… that when his father died in a jet crash… that he was afraid.

That’s it? That’s the great fear?

Where’s my Whackin’ Stick?


Verdict: It’s WHACK!


Martha Washington Dies

Martha Washington, Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ futuristic soldier and freedom fighter from the classic “Give Me Liberty,” is now 100 years old. She dies.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Way, way too short. Half the comic is devoted to promos for next year’s collection of all the Martha Washington stories.

Okay, that’s all of ’em I got. New comics coming in tomorrow.

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Alan Moore knows the score

A friend of mine suggested recently that I should spend more time here recommending writers and artists worth reading. Fair ’nuff — there are a lot of wonderful creators out there, and it’s always a good idea to steer people toward the Good Stuff.

So let’s start with the Best of the Best: Alan Moore.

Moore is a shaggy, shaggy Englishman, a practicing magician, a worshiper of a Roman snake-god called Glycon, and the second-best-known comics creator in the world, after Stan Lee. He’s known for intricate plotlines, razor-sharp characterizations, and scripts so detailed, a single panel description can go on for a page or more.

Moore has always worked to create comics for adults. That means there’s violence, nudity, swearing, and other stuff that parents may not want their kids getting their hands on. Moore sees the comics medium as something that shouldn’t be mired in juvenilia, though he also recognizes that superhero comics can be a great deal of fun for grown-ups as well as kids.

Here’s some of his best stuff, with short descriptions.


We’ve discussed this a bit already. This is widely considered to be the very best comic book ever created. They teach this one in many universities as literature. If you’ve never read this, you should.

V for Vendetta

A masked, swashbuckling anarchist battles a fascist dictatorship in Great Britain. Not a perfect work — there are way too many characters to keep track of — but the story absolutely blisters the brain with excitement, derring-do, and mad, dangerous ideas. An extremely political comic — Moore wrote it in response to Maggie Thatcher’s hard-right British government.

From Hell

This is a story about Jack the Ripper. Moore comes up with his own solutions for the Ripper slayings, ties it all together with head-trippy stuff about sacred geometry and time travel. Moore did a lot of research into “Ripperology” and includes an excellent bibliography and panel-by-panel endnotes. This comic is violent and absolutely blood-drenched, but if you have any interest at all in the Ripper slayings or in the seamier side of Victorian England, it’s highly recommended.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It’s a superteam composed of characters from Victorian-era adventure fiction! The British government assembles a covert team of Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll, and the Invisible Man to battle Dr. Fu Manchu. A second series of the comic has the team taking on invaders from Mars. Guest stars include everyone from Auguste Dupin, Mycroft Holmes, Dr. Moreau, the Artful Dodger, Mr. Toad, John Carter, and many, many more.

Tom Strong

A modern-day superhero book that takes most of its inspiration from old pulp adventure novels, particularly Tarzan and Doc Savage. The quality is a bit here-and-there, but in general, it’s grand, frothy fun.

Top 10

One of my favorite Moore comics, it’s a hard-boiled police procedural set in a city where everyone — citizens, cops, crooks — has superpowers and wears a brightly-colored spandex costume. It’s a fun commentary on comics in general, plus it has a lot of really wonderful mysteries for the cops to solve. If you like TV shows like “Law and Order” or “Homicide: Life on the Street,” you’ll like this one.


A psychedelic/metaphysical comic about a superhero who is destined to bring about the end of the world. If you’re into new age stuff, magick, Qabalah, or the Tarot, you’ll love this. This comic is also the one where Moore does the most experimentation with visual styles and symbolism. It’s not light reading — it’s a very challenging book that requires fairly deep reading to understand.


A British superhero, similar to Captain Marvel. The original version got its start in the ’50s, and Moore started working on it in the ’80s. In his version, Marvelman ends up taking over the world and ruling as a god. It’s awfully hard to find this series anywhere in the U.S. — the rights to the character and the series are in dispute. (They even had to change the name from “Marvelman” to “Miracleman” when Marvel Comics threatened to sue.)

The Killing Joke

This Batman story presents the definitive origin of the Joker. And it’s the story that started Barbara Gordon on the path from being Batgirl to becoming Oracle, the wheelchair-bound super-hacker. It’s a wonderful comic, one of the best Joker stories ever.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

DC was preparing to reboot the Superman from the beginning back in the mid-’80s, and Moore wrote this story to bring an end to everything in the old Superman mythos. Supes is forced to deal with powerful enemies who destroy his secret identity, turn his old rogues gallery into psychotic murderers, and threaten to destroy him and everyone he loves. It’s a sad and scary story that’s soaked in nostalgia for the lost innocence of DC’s fabled Silver Age.

Saga of the Swamp Thing (especially “The Anatomy Lesson”)

When Moore took over this comic, the Swamp Thing was a low-selling comic on the fast track to cancellation. In the space of just a few issues, he turned it into one of DC’s best-selling and scariest comics. “The Anatomy Lesson” revamps Swamp Thing’s origin and re-introduces the character as a terrifying monster. Highly recommended — go hunt it down.

Terra Obscura

This one was just plotted by Moore, but it’s still great fun. A simultaneous spin-off from “Tom Strong” and a series of superhero comics from the ’40s, this series featured a bunch of characters with a strong Golden Age flavor but modern personalities and characterizations.

Most of these stories are still in-print in various anthologies and trade paperbacks. You can go out and buy them today. In fact, you should, because they’re all wonderful reads. Git after it, kids.

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Cartoons and Monsters

DC has released their solicitations for the comics they’ll be shipping in October. Lots of stuff about Countdown, the Crime Syndicate, the New Gods, the Sinestro Corps, the Justice League, the Justice Society, and much more.

But for me, there were only two comics listed that really set my geeky heart a-thumpin’.

During the early ’80s, I, along with a lot of other people, re-discovered comics, thanks to Chris Claremont’s work on Marvel’s X-Men, and Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s work on DC’s Teen Titans. But not me. I got back into comics because of “Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew.” And it’s not like I was the only fan of funny-animal superheroics — the Zoo Crew has acquired a dedicated cult following over the years, despite more than a decade of open contempt from DC’s bigwigs.

But we wore them down.


Written by Bill Morrison

Art by Scott Shaw! & Al Gordon

Cover by Shaw! & Morrison

The Zoo Crew is back in a 3-issue COUNTDOWN tie-in miniseries! Captain Carrot reunites the team to face a threat that begins at the “Sandy Eggo Comic-Con” and quickly menaces the entire world ! The gang’s all here: Fastback, Pig-Iron, Yankee Poodle, American Eagle, Alley-Kat-Abra, and the Captain himself, taking on the Salamandroid!

On sale October 10 – 1 of 3 – 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I have no earthly idea how this is supposed to tie into “Countdown.” But hey, the Zoo Crew’s back! Everyone do the happy dance!

For the second one, you have to go back further — as far back as I seem to be able to remember, I’ve loved monster movies (even when I wasn’t allowed to watch them as a child), monster makeup, scary stories, and Halloween. It’s now just about the only holiday I really celebrate, and by the time October gets here, y’all should expect to see me running around town in a vampire cape, biting random people on the leg, and making werewolf noises.

And DC knows what I like to read in October.


Written and illustrated by various

Cover by Gene Ha

Don’t miss this collection of 13 stories of tricks and treats by some of comics’ top creators, including writers Steve Niles, Mark Waid, Steve Seagal, Dan DiDio, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Peter Johnson (TV’s Supernatural), David Arquette (Scream), Cliff Dorfman (Entourage) and many more with art by Ian Churchill, Dean Ormston, Dustin Nguyen , Bernard Chang and others! The inmates of Arkham horrify each other with terrifying tales involving Superman and zombies, Batman and vampires, Robin and werewolves, Aquaman and witches, Flash and the dead, and more! Plus, the return of Resurrection Man!

On sale October 31 – 80 pg, FC, $5.99 US

It’s an Eighty Page Giant — with monsters! HUZZAH!

That is, by the way, an entirely awesome cover, but everything Gene Ha draws is golden.

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The Great Cloverfield Mystery


History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man

Cloverfield. Bad Robot. The Untitled J.J. Abrams Project. That weird trailer before the “Transformers” movie.

If you know what any of that means, then you’ve been successfully targeted with one of the neatest marketing maneuvers since “The Blair Witch Project.”

For the rest of you, here’s the rapid summary. Viewers of the “Transformers” movie have been treated to an untitled movie trailer (some folks think it’s called “Bad Robot” but that’s just the name of the production company, which is flashed on the screen as the trailer begins) in which a handheld camera records a small going-away party in an apartment in New York City. The party breaks up when there’s an apparent earthquake accompanied by a strange roaring sound. The partygoers go up on the roof to see if the view is any better, and they see a terrific explosion, again accompanied by the monstrous roar. As debris rains down, everyone flees in a panic into the streets, where we overhear someone say something along the lines of “It’s alive, and it’s huge.” After the head of the Statue of Liberty is flung into the street, the trailer ends with “From producer J.J. Abrams” and “In theaters 1-18-08.”

People seem really electrified by this trailer. The working title is apparently “Cloverfield” but no one expects that to be the final title. The mystery about the title, the monster, and everything else is helping to really ramp up online speculation and interest, and Paramount is doing their part by having the trailer pulled every time someone posts it on YouTube. (If you want to see it, you can try the version I just watched… if Paramount hasn’t had it pulled again. If so, do a search for “Cloverfield” and see what you come up with.)

J.J. Abrams is pretty darn good at this sort of thing. He’s kept viewers coming back to “Lost” over and over for a couple of years, and a lot of that show is all about perpetuating the ongoing mysteries. And Abrams is pretty well known for both action and character work, so folks are hoping that it’ll be an action movie that won’t get lost in expensive special-effects sequences, like so many sci-fi/action flicks do these days.

A lot of people are guessing that it’s a new Godzilla movie, or else a Rodan movie, or Gamera, or even Cthulhu. Those don’t make a lot of sense to me — the last Godzilla remake was a colossal flop, and I can’t see Hollywood revisiting the franchise. Rodan, Gamera, Ghidora, and the rest are also-rans compared to Godzilla, and I can’t see anyone paying for the rights to those characters. If it’s a Cthulhu movie, I’m gonna have to fight someone, ’cause I love H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories, and I’d hate to see Hollywood screw it up this badly. The eldritch monster-gods those old stories were more about blasting humanity’s sanity and less about destroying cities.

There aren’t a whole lot of giant monsters in comics that could carry a movie either. Maybe Galactus, but he’s reserved for the Fantastic Four. I’d love to see Fin Fang Foom in a movie, but I doubt that’ll ever happen. And hey, if it was going to be a comic book movie, we would’ve seen a Marvel or DC production stamp at the beginning of the trailer.

I’m betting it’s an all-new monster. Probably something that landed from outer space, judging by that big seismic “whump” that gets everything started off. That way, the studio doesn’t have to pay royalties to anyone else.

A better question may be whether the entire movie is going to be shot with hand-held camcorders. If so, you’re going to hear a lot of the same complaints about headaches and nausea that you heard from people who didn’t enjoy the camerawork in “The Blair Witch Project” back in ’99. However, if they decide to shoot it traditionally, a lot of the people who are excited about the immediacy and drama of the trailer are going to be extremely disappointed.

So let’s let the speculation run completely wild. What are the best stories you’ve heard about the secrets of “Cloverfield”?

UPDATE: If you’ve got Quicktime, you can see the official trailer right here.

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The best science is comic-book science

Though I doubt most people should want anything to do with comic book science (getting struck by lightning will never give you superspeed, and being bitten by radioactive spiders is a good way to get a radioactive spider bite), there are still some folks out there thinking about the places where science and comics intersect.

First, there’s biologist P.Z. Myers, who’s being reading Vertigo’s “Y: The Last Man,” which is about a disease that’s killed all but one man on the planet — and Dr. Myers has actually found a reference to a disease that does target males for elimination. Lucky for us (well, lucky for the male us), it only affects arthropods…

And here’s Polite Dissent, a comic book blog written by a doctor. Much of the emphasis is on how comics often mishandle medical terminology — incorrect anatomy, bad diagnoses, crazy medical procedures, etc. It’s grand fun to scroll through, really.

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