Archive for June, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Punishment!

So it’s Friday, it’s night (or at least night-ish), and we’re all in the mood for some comic-booky fights? Sounds like the perfect time for…FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today, we’re turning to 1974’s Amazing Spider-Man #129 by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, featuring the debut of the Punisher:


Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a good old-fashioned kick-to-the-face.

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Trashed Trinity


Trinity #3

There’s a big battle between the Justice League and Konvikt and Graak, in which the JLA gets its collective clock cleaned. Then Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman show up, and Supes gets knocked out with one punch. Everyone, a big round of applause for the World’s Greatest Superheroes! Meanwhile, in the backup story, a woman named Tarot, who’s discovered that she reads Tarot cards way more accurately than she can believe, gets attacked by a gang and defended by some unseen monster.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Three issues in, and I’m bored silly. Besides pointing up the complete lameness of the current Justice League roster, just about half of the length of this comic is taken up with the backup feature. And the backup is fine, but it definitely doesn’t include any mention of Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. This is an ongoing problem with DC’s books, especially their mini- and maxi-series — they don’t have enough story or plot to fill out six issues or 12 issues or 52 issues, so they pad it with extra, unrelated stuff. If they can’t figure out enough plot, either do shorter series, or don’t waste their readers’ cash. And I’m definitely not wasting my cash on this one anymore.


Tiny Titans #5

Well, the Tiny Titans meet up with the Teen Titans East — the more recent, villainous version from the regular comics. Of course, they’re all good friends here, but I couldn’t help getting a little creeped out that they were hanging out with Inertia, who helped kill the last Kid Flash. Anyway, this issue’s activities included Enigma pestering Speedy with knock-knock jokes, Robin — or Nightwing — deciding what name he wanted to use, and Batgirl teaming up with Nightwing and a penguin to impersonate Batman.

Verdict: Other than my squeamishness about having a psycho like Inertia repurposed as a childhood buddy, I’m giving it a thumbs up. This is a great, fun series.


Green Lantern Corps #25

After a fairly terrific battle that featured gravity being boosted around the Green Lantern Corps members while they were pelted with thousands of alien corpses, everyone discovers that “Mother Mercy,” the queen bee of the Black Mercy plants, is actually a good guy. We get an origin of the Black Mercies, originally created specifically to bring happiness and contentment throughout the galaxy, even if the plants were sometimes commandeered by Mongul to further his evil schemes. However, the newest version of Mongul has collected a bunch of Black Mercies, re-engineered them to generate pure fear, and distributed them all over the place. Of course, Mongul is still nearby, and he still has some nasty plans…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing particularly important going on here, but it’s good readin’.


Booster Gold #10

Frankly, it’s all a bit hectic, but the general gist of the whole thing has Booster’s reunited Justice League fighting his dad’s evil Time Stealers. Booster is in danger of fading from the timestream due to his temporal meddling, and it’s revealed that Booster’s dad is actually being mentally controlled by the evil Venusian brainworm Mr. Mind, who Booster fought during the “52” series. And in the end, Ted Kord has to die to fix time, just like we always knew would happen.

Verdict: Ehh, I’m on the fence on this one. It’s a bit too hectic, and a lot of interesting stuff from previous issues gets abandoned. With Superman, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter hanging around, all the bad guys shoulda been toast in about 10 seconds. But I liked Mr. Mind’s return, and I’m looking forward to the next issue, with Booster hanging out in the 853rd century.

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The Goon Gives Up?


The Goon #25

A pretty serious issue. The Buzzard reveals some pretty scary stuff to the Goon — the entire town is cursed. No one there can ever be truly happy, sadness and pain will inevitably multiply, more and more powerful monsters will come. The Goon is the only hope for anyone to survive in the town, but if he stays, he’s doomed to sorrow and misery and hardship until the day he dies. If he leaves, he has a shot at happiness and a normal life, but the town will eventually be destroyed by evil forces.

And the Goon decides to leave.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Obviously, I’m not telling you the whole story, but it’s excellent, and you should go read it. Frankie gets to show an uncommonly sensible side for once, and the whole story, all the characterization and dialogue and action, are just wonderful. If you ain’t reading “The Goon,” you’re a stone-cold sucker.


Locke and Key #5

Psycho teen murder-junkie Sam Lesser finally makes it to Lovecraft, Massachusetts, leaving a long, bloody trail of bodies behind him. While he attacks Kinsey and Tyler and locks their mom and cousin in the cellar, Bode Locke is talking to the sinister echo in the well, telling her that he doesn’t trust her and won’t be back… and she actually gets out of the well and grabs him. Sam and the Echo both want one special key, and if Bode can’t find it, his whole family will die.

Verdict: Thumbs up, I think. I still wish I’d been able to read all the previous issues of this, so I’d understand a bit more of what was going on. But the suspense is good, the shocks are good. Sam and the Echo both make excellent antagonists. I am really curious how this is all going to end.

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Politics in Comics: Mr. A

Conservatism seems to be a difficult topic for comics to deal with, especially for traditional superhero comics. Part of that could stem from the medium’s early liberalism (While Superman is considered a conservative character nowadays, his early adventures usually had him taking on wealthy corporate crooks and greedheads), but in general, most comics writers just seem to have trouble tying characters to political views. Even characters whose conservatism is considered well-established often have fairly vague political beliefs — how do we know, for example, that Hawkman is a conservative? Is it because he’s in favor of lower taxes or opposes gay marriage? No, it’s because he always gets into big arguments with Green Arrow, who is a liberal.

But sometimes, a creator comes up with a compelling character whose conservative political philosophy is not just specifically stated, but is an intrinsic part of the character’s personality. For instance: Steve Ditko’s Mr. A.


Ditko, of course, is the co-creator of Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, the Creeper, Captain Atom, and dozens of other characters. But he’s had a bit of a snarky relationship with comics — he hasn’t given interviews or made personal appearances since the ’60s, and his general dissatisfaction with the current state of the comics industry is pretty well-known. Ditko is also a follower of author Ayn Rand’s conservative philosophy of Objectivism, and in 1967, he decided to create a hero embodying Objectivist principles.

The result, in the third issue of “witzend” magazine, was Mr. A. Named for the Randian “A is A” philosophy of the “Law of Identity,” Mr. A was really reporter Rex Graine. He never really had an origin — he just went out in his all-white suit and fedora and his solid steel mask and gloves, and fought crime. He leaves business cards that are half white and half black to signify his belief that there is only good and evil, with no moral gray space in the middle.

The typical Mr. A story focused on a character who convinces himself that he can do a small number of illegal acts without compromising his own inherent good nature. But those small crimes eventually snowball into larger and more serious crimes. They often try to justify their actions by blaming other people, the environment, or society for their own actions. People who commit only small crimes may only be delivered by Mr. A to the police for trial, but murderers are often left in a position where they must rely on Mr. A to save them, and he never lifts a finger to save the guilty, because they never lifted a finger to save the innocent.


Of course, Mr. A is indeed impossibly merciless, but that’s been done plenty often before. Mr. A wasn’t really written in order to be realistic or to be a thrilling adventure tale — its primary purpose is to promote Objectivism. Does it do that job well? On the one hand, there’s not much way to doubt that Mr. A is as close as you’re going to get to an Ultimate Objectivist — he never compromises or bends his principles; he absolutely does not believe that evil is subjective; he’s a moral, intellectual and physical super-specimen, especially compared to most other people; and he’s a really, really preachy guy.

The big problem for Mr. A as a piece of Objectivist propaganda is that the only people who think Mr. A is an appealing role model are people who are already Objectivists. You wouldn’t want to hang out with a guy like Mr. A, getting all scowly and condemnatory if your favorite football team got too many penalties. You wouldn’t even want him to be a cop, ’cause he’s the type of guy who’d haul you off to jail for jaywalking. You wouldn’t want to hang out with Mr. A, and there probably aren’t too many folks who’d want to be him, either.

But “Mr. A” is still a series and a character that I feel a lot of respect for. He’s a well-realized character with conservative beliefs that don’t derive from whatever the latest shouting points are on right-wing thug radio, or devolve into cartoonish parody. And besides that, Ditko’s artwork is fun to look at, too. 🙂


And of course, Mr. A is closely related to another Ditko character, the Question, who got his start very close to the same time as Mr. A. Originally a Charlton Comics character, the Question was another vengeful Objectivist, though it’s been a few decades since the Question was portrayed that way. And Mr. A also has ties to Rorschach, the uncompromisingly conservative vigilante who co-starred in Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” series in the mid-1980s.

(For more on Ditko and Mr. A, be sure to read Dial B for Blog’s Mr. A series.)

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The Sword in the Stone


Captain Britain and MI:13 #2

The Skrulls have invaded England, established a beachhead in Avalon, source of the world’s magic, and blown up Captain Britain. Pete Wisdom is hearing mysterious voices urging him onwards, Dr. Faiza Hussain has escaped death and somehow developed superpowers, and the Skrulls are slaughtering the Fae and mythological figures right and left. The only hope is for someone to pull Excalibur itself from the stone… but what if no one’s worthy to wield the legendary sword anymore?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice, desperate action, lots of nasty Super-Skrulls, and interesting stuff going on with Dr. Hussain and the Black Knight. Not quite as much characterization as I’d prefer, but this is taking place in a war zone — kinda hard to get into a lot of personality quirks in that kind of setting.


B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #1

A story about the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense that’s not written by Mike Mignola? In this case, our writer is John Arcudi, who’s written more than his fair share of tales from the Hellboyverse. This one is a flashback in which the late Roger the Homunculus goes on a mission to round up the frog monsters who attacked Hellboy and Abe Sapien in one of the first “Hellboy” comics. Roger tracks them to an underwater lair where they’ve set up a shrine to their late mother and their old way of life. Does Roger have what it takes to fight off two frog monsters at once?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s really nice to see Roger again.


Wonder Woman #21

Back in the real world, Director Steel assigns Tom Tresser to investigate Diana Prince and Etta Candy to find out if they’re secretly Amazons in league with Gorilla Grodd. (“Amazons in League with Gorilla Grodd” would be a killer band name.) This leads to problems when Tresser thinks he’s discovered Grodd in Diana’s apartment only to find the intelligent gorillas who are living in Diana’s apartment. Meanwhile, in where ever the heck Wonder Woman has ended up, she and Beowulf are fighting off a bunch of demon-possessed peasants, and Diana finds herself struggling against her growing bloodlust. They also meet up with the Stalker, who tells them his origin — unwisely bargaining his soul away for immortality. To gain his soul back, he has to kill a powerful demon. Diana and Beowulf agree to assist, and they go to enlist Claw the Unconquered, an old DC fantasy character, in the quest, and Diana discovers that she’s acquired a deformed, demonic hand, just like Claw.

Verdict: Ya know, when I read the summary above, it sounds absolutely rollicking. But it isn’t. It’s actively uninteresting. This should be the type of thing where you blow your mind six or seven times just reading the book, but it’s criminally boring. Thumbs down.

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Missed a couple of these, so let’s catch up.


Number of the Beast #4

By now, it should be obvious to readers that the superheroes are trapped in a virtual reality world, though most of the heroes themselves remain clueless. From the looks of things, the heroes and villains have been stuck in VR rigs for the last 40 or 50 years, forced to relive an Armageddon scenario over and over and over. For what purpose? We haven’t been told that yet. But back in the real world, the High has regenerated enough to get free of his VR tube, and Dr. Sin is also roaming around free. The government has decided to shut down the project and terminate the heroes, and inside the program, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been loosed on the virtual world. Hotfoot, desperately trying to save as many lives as he can to make up for a lifetime of villainy, gets an arrow through his leg, courtesy of Pestilence, while Engine Joe gets War’s sword stuck through his chest.


Number of the Beast #5

Dr. Sin is running the VR facility, while the military tries to get inside. The High has been forced back inside the virtual world, and the superheroes have been told that he’s the Antichrist. On the bright side, that leaves him free to kill as many of the Paladins as he can, because when they die in the virtual world, they wake up in the real one. But do they still have time to save themselves and the other prisoners in the VR tubes before the government has them all killed?

Verdict: For both, thumbs up. Things seem to be progressing quite nicely. I like Hotfoot’s slow redemption, though that may get interrupted now that he’s out of the VR world. I do hope most of these characters survive so they can re-enter Wildstorm’s continuity — they’re too interesting to just get discarded.

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Friday Night Fights: Elijah Snow vs. a Table!

Traditionally, Friday Night Fights is all about unleashing the fisticuffs on the unsuspecting chins of those schmuckbunnies around you. But sometimes, you just gotta beat up furniture.

From Planetary #12 by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, Elijah Snow takes out his frustrations on a frozen desk.


Hmf, beating up on a poor defenseless table…

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Skaar Tissue


Skaar: Son of Hulk #1

Everyone’s kinda been waiting on this one with bated breath. It’s written by Greg Pak, who penned the thoroughly awesome “World War Hulk” last year. Its backstory is tied all the way back to the “Planet Hulk” storyline, where Mr. Green Genes was marooned on a distant planet and forced to fight in gladiatorial contests. He eventually became king and took a wife named Caiera, who had some major superpowers of her own. But a planetary disaster killed Caiera and sent Hulk on a vengeance-fueled trip back to Earth. But apparently, Hulk’s unborn son somehow survived his mother’s atomization to become a savage and fast-growing warrior. A year after his birth, Skaar’s homeworld is dominated by a barbarian horde led by a warlord with the extremely awesome name of Axeman Bone, who’s working to exterminate any rumored sons of the Hulk so they can’t interfere with his rule. Of course, Skaar and the Axeman (Wow, that’d be a great name for a ’70s cop show) come to blows.

Verdict: Ehh, first issue really doesn’t float my boat. We don’t know a durn thing about Skaar yet, other than him being the son of the Hulk. And as far as brutal barbarian action heroes go, Skaar ain’t no Conan. Maybe the second issue will be more appealing.


Trinity #2

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman get introduced to some strange otherworlds — a miniature but very destructive solar system descends on Metropolis, Gotham City gets temporarily turned into a city of mystics and demons, and Wonder Woman is attacked by gigantic robots (which leads us indirectly into the title of this story — “A Personal Best at Giant Robot Smashing” — which is the coolest thing in nine parsecs. This is all the work of Morgaine Le Fay and Enigma, somehow… And in the second half of the story, John Stewart is attacked by a couple of space monsters called Konvikt and Graak.

Verdict: Once again, ehh, not thrilled. The title is tres cool, but I’m left completely unimpressed by the story so far.


Abe Sapien #5

Basically, even though it looks like Capital-E Evil is gonna triumph, Hellboys fishy pal Abe Sapien shoots a few ghosts, checks out a crazy church, and a magical moray eel eats the evil spirit.

Verdict: Okay, I absolutely adored the crazy church where all the icons had been redecorated in a marine motif (Saints with shark jaws and starfish wired all over them, plus a Virgin Mary statue with a dead squid tied to it. That’s bizarreness that I’d pay a good four dollars for, fer sher.), but the rest of the story was just a bit not-there. Abe did a little bit of shootin’, but he was mainly there to watch as other people did the heavy lifting.


House of Mystery #2

Our lost runaway who came to the House at the end of the first issue is named Fig, and she looks like she’s gonna be our main character. She meets the various residents of the House and learns that she’s one of the few people who’s actually stuck here forever — she can’t leave, ever. We also get a story told by an otherworldly process server, about how he got himself temporary gills so he could serve an undersea monarch named King Krakenheart. Unfortunately, the gills are a lot more temporary than they were expected to be.

Verdict: Looks like this is gonna be my day for “Ehh” reviews, ’cause this one just didn’t float my boat. The spotlight story about the process server just doesn’t measure up to last issue’s nightmarish insectoid horrorfest, and the story focusing on the denizens of the House of Mystery is even lighter than that. This book needs to step up to the storytelling plate and start knocking ’em out of the park, or it’s gonna get cancelled fast.

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The Return of Kate Spencer


Manhunter #31

It’s yet another triumphant return for the most frequently almost-cancelled comic in DC’s stables. For new readers, we get a good recap of the character’s origin and previous adventures (prosecutor Kate Spencer, tired of seeing metahuman crooks beat the system, takes up crimefighting as a hobby, using a bunch of cast-off equipment from other super-people). Once the story kicks off, Kate beats the bone spurs out of the Atomic Skull, then gets set on the trail of the Juarez mass murders (for an excellent overview of this real-life mystery, read Maxo’s muy excellente summary here). Anyway, Kate ends up stranded on the border and meets up with a certain superhero from that neck of the woods.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’d never read much of “Manhunter” before, but it looks to be plenty good. The artwork takes a little getting used to, but it has a realistic quality I like. I’ll be picking this one up more often.


Comic Book Comics #1

From the creators of the brilliant “Action Philosophers,” it’s a comic book about comic books! This one has actually been out for a while, but Lubbock didn’t get it until this past week. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey are putting together a history of comics in this one, starting out with a few quick pages on how comic strips and comic books got their start in America, and then narrowing the focus down to a few star players, including Winsor McCay (creator of “Little Nemo in Slumberland” and film animation pioneer), Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Walt Disney, Will Eisner, and Joe Simon.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Much like “Action Philosophers,” this is far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

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Double Dreams

Okay, I know “American Dream” is a miniseries, but is it a weekly? ‘Cause it sure seems like there are a lot of them on the shelves right now…


American Dream #2

In the alternate future where Shannon Carter becomes American Dream to continue Captain America’s legacy, she’s just gotten trashed by a mysterious crystalline monster. Her fellow Avenger teammates are ready to go hunt the monster down until they get a visit from the National Security Force warning them to stay away from the crystal monsters. Shannon plans to follow the feds’ orders, but while she’s investigating a case about kidnapped illegal immigrants, she ends up running into a bunch of smugglers who are using two of the monsters as muscle! She manages to knock one of them off a pier, but then she dives in to save it!


American Dream #3

In the newest issue, Dream manages to pull the crystal monster out of the drink, but the feds show up later to confiscate it and threaten all of the Avengers with treason. Fearing that she’ll be used as a weapon against her team, American Dream quits to pursue the case on her own. Meanwhile, Avenger enemies Red Queen and Ion Man meet up with a guy calling himself Silikong, and together, the three villains unleash a small army of crystal monsters on Dream.

Verdict: For both issues, thumbs up. Again, the story here isn’t real deep, but it’s good enough to keep yer interest going. Looks like they’re trying to push more of the characters from the “Spider-Girl” alterniverse as all-ages comics, which is fine with me.

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