Archive for January, 2008

Shout at the Devil


Well! Spider-Man! “One More Day!”

What a screwup that was, huh?

For you non-comics people in the audience, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada decided that he didn’t like Spider-Man being married to Mary Jane Watson. They’ve been married since 1987, and a bunch of Marvel insiders decided pretty quickly that they didn’t like Spidey being married. They felt like it made him too domestic, less of a sad-sack hero. I don’t agree, but I guess they’re entitled to their opinions, no matter who wrong-headed they are.

So Marvel was stuck with a married Spider-Man for 20 years. In all that time, they couldn’t think of any way to make Spidey un-married. It never occurred to them that they could have the characters divorce. Can you believe that? Frankly, there are times I suspect that comic book creators have something wrong with their brains.

Anyway, finally, Marvel decides they’ve got the perfect way to un-marry their most popular character, and they kick off a four-issue storyarc called “One More Day” to get the job done. What did they do? What was their surefire, perfect, can’t-fail idea?

They had Spider-Man make a deal with the devil.

The background is that Spidey had revealed his secret identity as Peter Parker to the whole world. Someone tried to kill him and shot his Aunt May by accident. Peter couldn’t accept that his aunt could die, and Mephisto — Marvel’s version of Old Scratch himself — shows up and offers to save her life, in exchange for retroactively nullifying their marriage. And they actually agree to it. “Oh, sure, we’ll potentially damn our immortal souls just to give Peter’s elderly aunt a few more years of life. What could possibly be the downside to that?”

Let me repeat: There are times I suspect that comic book creators have something wrong with their brains.

So now, Peter and Mary Jane aren’t married. Peter’s a 30-year-old unemployed loser living in Aunt May’s house, and he’s got his secret identity back.

The big problem for Marvel is that this was an unbelievably bad idea. Fine, fine, they don’t want Spider-Man to be married — but in that case, just divorce him. There’s absolutely no reason to have your most popular, most marketed character shaking hands with the Prince of Darkness. Heck, Marvel’s even sanitized Ghost Rider to get rid of his demonic origins (True story — they now say he turns into a biker with a flaming skull because he’s possessed by an angel. Wha?!) so why have kid-friendly Spider-Man cutting deals with the Adversary?

Possibly worse, from a comic-book standpoint, is that it throws a major kink into Marvel’s continuity — and Quesada himself had bragged that the loss of Spidey’s secret ID was going to be permanent, with long-lasting effects. Now, not only is the secret identity back, but 20 years’ worth of stories may have disappeared into the Gulfs. Marvel claims everything turned out mostly the same, but it’s not like Mary Jane spent the last two decades sitting around doing nothing, and writers who aren’t familiar with the subtle differences between pre-Mephisto and post-Mephisto are going to make some pretty big mistakes pretty soon. And the last time someone did a major retroactive refit of Spider-Man’s continuity, they called it the Clone Saga — the least popular storyline of any Spider-Man comic ever.

The assumption going ’round with most Spidey-fans is that, as soon as Quesada gets shown the door, someone will work out some way to undo “One More Day” — they may not bring back the marriage, but they’ll certainly work out some way to erase the deal-with-the-devil aspects of the story and just give them a normal, mundane divorce.

And it’s gotten a lot more people talking about Joe Quesada — and not in any good ways either. People are saying a screwup this monumental is proof that he’s been running the company for too long. I expect him to announce his retirement sooner, rather than later. Sure, they’ll say he’s leaving “to explore other storytelling opportunities” and “to spend more time with his family.” But everyone will know the truth.

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A Three-for-One Deal!

I love the stuffing out of this cover, so I’m posting it a bit larger than normal, so we can all groove on its awesomeness.


The Brave and the Bold #9

This whole issue is nice — it’s got three different stories about DC Comics characters, both mainstream and obscure. The stories are all connected, even though they seem, at first glance, to be completely unrelated.

Our framing device is the Book of Destiny… but its pages have come to life, animated by the malevolent power of the mysterious Megistus, to attack the Challengers of the Unknown! In fact, June Robbins reads all these stories while the book-monster is trying to kill her…

Our first story focuses on a team-up between the Metal Men and Robby Reed, the kid with the hero-creating “H-Dial” in “Dial H for Hero.” A robot dragon (mindlessly chanting “ME-GIS-TUS”) is attacking the city, and the Metal Men are powerless to stop it — until weak, stuttering robot Tin gets the H-Dial and turns into a superhero called Manbot the Mighty!

Next, we travel back to World War II, as the Blackhawk squadron and the Boy Commandos try to find the mystical Orb of Ra and fight off mummies serving Megistus.

And finally, in the present day, Hawkman and the new Atom battle the Warlock of Ys, a wizard and Z-list supervillain trying to curry favor with Megistus.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All three stories are great fun, and the characters and plots are first-rate. George Perez’s art is awesome, as ever. The ongoing mystery about Megistus is still going strong, and it’s just getting more interesting as more evidence of his/her/its plots through the years are revealed.

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Geek Girls and Wild Women


There are times I wish they’d publish the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans a bit more often, but of course, they have to find a new host every month and compile a new list of articles and blog posts. Still, whenever they get a new one published, it’s always worth reading.

Lots of interesting articles this time about comics, games, movies, TV, and books, including pieces on “The Black Dossier,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “World of Warcraft,” “Countdown,” the Anita Blake novels, “BioShock,” “Mass Effect,” “I Am Legend,” “Doctor Who,” and much, much more.

Go check it out.

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Blue Beetle #22

Hot on the trail of the evil alien race called the Reach, Jaime and Danni Garrett, granddaughter of the original Blue Beetle, go diving into an active volcano to find proof that the Reach are up to no good. They run into Tovar the Lava King, a mighty warrior prone to a lot of hollering about “Less talk! More VENGEANCE!” What’s Tovar’s place in the Reach’s plan? What does Tovar do when he finds out what he’s expected to do?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Reach storyline is advancing very well. There’s a lot of cool stuff with Jaime’s family. And Tovar is a fun character — I hope someone can figure out a way to bring him back someday.


Green Lantern #26

Who are the Alpha Lanterns? I dunno. They don’t bother telling us in this issue.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Come on, don’t tease us with a cover that promises one thing while delivering a bunch of disconnected soap-opera blather.


The Umbrella Academy #4

In the wake of the battle against the Terminauts, the Academy family continue to squabble amongst each other, little suspecting that Vanya, the powerless, unheroic sister, has gone over to the evil Orchestra Verdammten. The diabolical Conductor claims that Vanya is the most powerful and most dangerous member of her family, and he proceeds to torture her to try to bring out her full potential. The eventual result: Vanya is transformed into la Viole Blanche, or the White Violin, a woman who can kill with music. Is she going to destroy the Orchestra Verdammten? The Umbrella Academy? The entire world? Why not all three?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is still one of the best comics to come out in the past year, and you’re missing out if you don’t read it.

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Friday Night Fights: Knockout!

For the past two weeks, you have been utterly lost, bereft of that which sustains us all. It was most fortunate that you had Christmas and New Year’s to distract you from your sorrow, or who knows what could have happened? But have no fear! Your life has meaning again — your life has hope again! Your life has… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

To kick off this next round of mighty battles, let’s turn to the highly, highly recommended “Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth” from August 2003, by Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, and David Baron, in which the Batman from “The Dark Knight Returns” puts his fist through the Drummer’s mostly defenseless face:

No, that’s not a very large picture, but you’ve spent the past two weeks with a bunch of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men” stuff — I didn’t think you’d be able to deal with a BIG picture of face-punching this severe yet. Maybe next week.

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Sewage City

Well, the good news: Star Comics down on 34th has finally re-opened after their short Christmas vacation. Huzzah, I can get comics again! The bad news: my evening was a bit unexpectedly busy, and I haven’t even had time to read everything I picked up yet. And the worser-than-that news: the two I had time to read last night were dogs. The year is still young, but at least one of them is so bad, it may end up being the worst comic I read this year. So let’s get straight to the craptastic reviews…


The Flash #235

Well, the Flash recruits Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Black Lightning, from the Justice League, to help him take the fight to the aquatic aliens’ homeworld. Or homesea. Or wherever it is. It’s actually underwater, but the water there is so heavily oxygenated that it’s actually breathable. Yes, just like in “The Abyss.” So they’re all kicking sea monster butt until Flash suddenly realizes that they’re fighting illusions. He can’t get the rest of the heroes to break off their attack (because they’ve moved into “warrior-rage mode.” I’m sorry, but WHAT?!) so he heads back to Earth, since he figures the aliens have re-invaded the planet since they’re all distracted.

When Wally gets back to Earth, he finds that his son Jai has gone off on his own to fight the aliens. Flash finds him quickly enough and learns that Jai knows that the powers he and his sister have could kill them at any time. Wally tries to talk him out of his depression, then they go to fight the aliens.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I really can’t get over that howling bulldada about “warrior-rage mode.” Yes, a minute ago, a bunch of the world’s top-notch heroes were perfectly fine, after fighting for hours, and now they’re mindless berserker drones, and the world’s fastest man just can’t think of any way to break ’em out of the spell. Wow. That’s some high-quality monkey fertilizer right there, baby. And really, the rest of the issue ain’t all that great anyway. But “warrior-rage mode” was the 60-ton girder that broke the camel’s back.


Teen Titans #54

Most of the Titans and the future evil Titans Army have been taken over by Starro, who besides being an evil outer-space mind-controlling starfish, also has a Sinestro Corps ring. Umm, okay. The only people who are non-Starroed are Robin and Miss Martian (who both pretty much just watch stuff), Blue Beetle, and evil clone Kid Flash. Beetle and Kid Flash take out Starro, then the Titans Army all try to kill Beetle, Ravager, and Supergirl. Then some of the Army suddenly turn good. Then they all disappear. Then, um, something happens in the future, or maybe not, with some characters who are dead, and, and…

It makes no sense. None whatsoever. Holy cats, is this rotten stuff. I’ve been enjoying the recent “Teen Titans” comics, for the most part, so it’s a bit of a shock to see something this stupefyingly awful come out of this book. It’s just staggeringly inept.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Several thumbs down. Several dozen thumbs down.

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Tangents and Permutations


Justice League of America #16

This is another one of those stories that’s gonna require some fairly extensive background info first. Back in 1997, DC published a small number of comics under a new imprint publishing arm they called “Tangent Comics.” The gimmick was that this was a superhero universe where all the characters had the names of DC characters but were completely different otherwise. Their version of the Atom was an atomic-powered energy-blaster; the Flash was a teenaged girl with light-based powers; the Joker was a crimefighting anarchist; the Green Lantern was a mystical artifact that could temporarily return the dead to life. In fact, Tangent’s version of the Green Lantern actually turned up in the regular DC Universe a while back, and it’s being kept in a storage locker by Guy Gardner.

And that’s where this story picks up, as a couple of no-luck lowlifes burglarize Guy’s storage building and somehow manage to activate the Green Lantern, which acts as an interdimensional teleporter, causing one of the burglars to switch universes with Tangent’s mega-powerful Atom. The Justice League — well, just Black Canary, Red Arrow, and John Stewart — respond to a police call about the incident. They manage to subdue the Atom and move him back to his proper universe, but they don’t realize that there’s another Tangent Universe hero in their universe — the Flash is stuck over here and doesn’t know how to get back home.

Verdict: Thumbs up, with some reservations. I really dug the Tangent concept when it first came out, so it’s neat to see some of these old characters. I wish they’d given the Atom more of a chance to shine, though. The JLA, on the other hand, gets plenty of opportunity to kick off some cool moments and lines — the best moment is probably Red Arrow defeating the Atom by beating him with garden implements. Unfortunately, this story isn’t going to be concluded in the next “Justice League” comic — it’s going to be in a miniseries about the Tangent Universe. I HATE comics that serve only to promote another comic series.


Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Superwoman/Batwoman

Wow, that is one way too long comic book title.

Well, we’ve got Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Jason Todd, and (ugh) Bob the Monitor searching, for some durn fool reason, for Ray Palmer, the Atom, who’s gone missing for the last couple of years. Since his miniaturization powers allow him to travel to other dimensions, they’re jumping from one alternate earth to another trying to track him down. This issue, they visit Earth-11, where genders are reversed. They watch as the world’s superheroines fight Wonder Man and his invading army of extremely hairy male Amazons. Aaaaand that’s about all that happens.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Boooooring.

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Blowing Stuff Up Good

Hey, I had January 1st off from work. Yay for me, right? Well, on New Year’s Eve, I spent many fun-filled hours playing City of Heroes, I got to go to sleep late, I got to wake up late… and from that point on, I pretty much had the worst day off imaginable. Let’s just leave it at that — if I could have a day off to recover from my day off, that would be just awesome. Anyway, let’s hit a quick review.


Birds of Prey #113

Believe it or not, this is actually the first issue of this comic I’ve ever read. And I dug it, so I’ll be picking up more of them.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, it’s about a mostly covert team of superheroes organized by Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl now operating as a super-hacker called Oracle. The classic Birds of Prey team was just Oracle, operating behind the scenes, and Black Canary, doing all the fighting. The current team is a bit larger — Oracle is still the leader, with Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, and a somewhat crazed teenager named Misfit helping out.

This issue, the team is tracking a girl who wants desperately to be a major crime boss and is apparently planning on blowing up a truck bomb in Metropolis to do it. Huntress is riding the truck trying to talk the girl down, Lady Blackhawk is flying a plane in to try to blow it up a bit more safely from the air, Misfit is being over-exuberant and goofy, and Babs is trying to keep everything together. And the whole mission goes way, way bad. Like hundreds-of-people-dying bad. And when that many people die in Metropolis, Superman’s gonna want to have a word with the people involved.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good grief, why didn’t I get on this comic years ago? The characterizations are fun, the action is great, and I love the way they get Oracle involved even while she’s just sitting in front of a bunch of computers. And Misfit is my new Favorite-Character-This-Month. I would love to see a Misfit miniseries. Anyone this funny needs a lot more guest appearances in comics.

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Predictions for the Future


“Gee, Scott, why illustrate your New Year’s post with something as grim as ‘House of Mystery?’ Couldn’t you have found a happier cover?”

Well, let’s just say that, the way I view 2008, that’s the most optimistic illustration I could use.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis: It’ll suck less, but it’ll still suck. And it’s going to lead into…

Infinite Crisis: …which is going to suuuuuck. Yes, even with Grant Morrison attached. Any changes made will be undone as soon as people start realizing how awful the changes are.

After Infinite Crisis: They’ll start planning for “Even Bigger Infinite Crisis.”

Spider-Man comics: Now that “One More Day” has thrown 20 years of Marvel’s continuity onto the trashheap, is there anything to look forward to? Actually, yes. We can look forward to, some morning in the next few months, when Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada looks at his sales figures and his shredded continuity and realizes just how badly he’s screwed things up. On that day, I hope to be looking in his window, laughing loudly. And then I’ll hit him with a brick.

Other people I hope to hit with a brick in 2008: DC bigwigs Dan DiDio and Paul Levitz, hack artists Rob Liefeld and Greg Land, neo-nazi thugs in general, and that guy who stole all my other bricks.

Blue Beetle: I think it’s gonna get cancelled. Very bad news, but the sales numbers are weak, and DC’s already stuck with the title much longer than it normally would. Read it while you can, people. And if you’re enjoying other low-selling titles, enjoy them while they can. I’m thinking there’s gonna be a bloodbath of cancellations later this year.

Secret Invasion: One or two A-list characters will be revealed to be Skrulls, along with several dozen Z-list characters. The invasion will fail after killing another few Z-list characters. Joe Quesada will be revealed to be a Skrull, and Marvel will bring back Spider-Man’s marriage. The series will end with a warning that the Skrulls are still out there, and everyone must continue to be paranoid… and then it will never be referred to again.

Non-comics predictions: My same prediction as every year — things will get worse and worse and worse. More disasters, worse economy, more things to make you wanna hammer yer head against a wall. The worst candidates will get the nominations, and whoever wins will get busy making sure that 2009 is even worse than 2008. And yes, I tend to be right on these predictions a lot more often than I’m wrong. I’m not a pessimist — I’m a realist.

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