Archive for August, 2008

A Moment for Scholarly Pursuits


Ya know what’s cool about working at a newspaper? You get all these press releases in the mail, and every once in a while, one of them ends up being useful for your comic book blog! For instance, there’s this one that came late last week from the folks at Texas Tech University…

To all those would-be comic book historians whose mothers tossed out their research materials while cleaning out the attic: here’s the resource for you.

“Marvel Graphic Novels and Related Publications: An Annotated Guide,” written by Texas Tech University pop cultural guru Rob Weiner, is an exhaustive 385-page reference work on the universe of Spidey, Iron Man and The Fantastic Four.

Written to appeal to casual fans, committed collectors and scholars of sequential art – a lofty term for comic books – the guide provides detailed descriptions for all of Marvel’s mainstream comics. Bibliographic citations provide information on writers and artists, ISBN numbers and plot synopsis for each publication title.

Weiner, a Texas Tech author, librarian and instructor with expertise on topics ranging from the Grateful Dead to American presidents in film, noted that a growing number of universities are offering courses that examine the social and psychological impact of sequential art.

“Superman, Batman and Spiderman represent a 20th century type of folklore, much like their predecessors: Odysseus, Hercules and Perseus,” he said.

Weiner spent six years compiling the book – a task that required him to read all the works himself. The guide includes anecdotes and listings of scholarly publications on the subject.

Weiner serves as a subject librarian for the Texas Tech Library who specializes in art, sequential art, music and film. He is currently co-editing a book about transgressive exploitation and art cinema and plans the release of another book covering a Marvel staple: Captain America.

“Marvel Graphic Novels and Related Publications: An Annotated Guide,” published by McFarland, may be purchased through

By the way, Rob is one of the most dedicated promoters of comics in the Lubbock area — he worked for about a dozen years as a reference librarian at Lubbock’s Mahon Library and helped build the library’s comics/graphic novels collection from only a few books to over 4,000. That’s gotta be one of the largest municipally-held comics collections in the country, if not the world.

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Friday Night Fights: All-American Face-Smashing!

If it’s Friday and after five o’clock, you know what that means, right? No, it’s not time for sitting in front of the TV and watching pointless stuff! No, it’s not time to go out on the town and pretend you’re good-lookin’ enough to git some leg! No, it’s not time for your weekly bath! (Well, actually, yes, it is time for that. Please go bathe. Use the wire brush, please.)

No, it’s time for our much-beloved FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!  Why? Because Bahlactus says so, and Bahlactus knows best. Think happy thoughts, or he’ll wish you into the cornfield!

Tonight, we’re only going back a few months to this year’s American Dream #4 by Tom DeFalco, Todd Nauck, and Scott Koblish. Here’s the aforementioned American Dream chin-checking the dastardly Red Queen:


That’s some violence that’s worth standing up and saluting for!

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Worst of the Week


Teen Titans #62

I’d love to review some good comics today — goodness knows, I got a lot of good, entertaining comics that’d be a lot more fun to review — but this one just made me wanna smack the tar outta someone, and I’m not gonna dilute any good reviews I’ve got by pairing them with this turkey.

Okay, backstory time. A while back, after DC revamped the “Teen Titans” series again, they brought in a couple of hipster kids to serve as general maintenance/techheads for Titans Tower and as low-key comic relief. They named them Wendy and Marvin — yes, just like the comic-relief teens in the old “Super Friends” cartoon back in the ’70s. And yes, I rolled my eyes when they were introduced, because it really is a completely silly idea.

Well, in this issue, Marvin and Wendy find a dog. They name him Wonderdog, because no one can really figure out how he got all the way out to Titans Island. While all this is happening, Miss Martian leaves the team, Robin tells Wonder Girl that his old girlfriend Spoiler is alive again, and the remaining members of the team go off to the gym for training. And while no one’s looking, Wonderdog turns into a monster, kills Marvin and Wendy, and disappears into the night.

Yeahhh, how ’bout that?

DC has this ongoing problem where they can’t decide if they want to embrace the innocence of the Silver Age or if they want to tack the other direction, so they can tell everyone they’re making comics for grownups. Hence, you’ve got DC bringing back Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and the silly kids from the “Super Friends” because it appeals to their sense of nostalgia. And then, to make ’em feel like they’re hardcore badboys who’d fit in at the nastiest corner of Image Comics, they kill Sue Dibny, they kill Bart Allen, and they turn Mary Marvel into a psychotic bimbo. It’s a constant push-and-pull — Is DC all about innocent, goofy fun? Is DC all about gritty and adult mayhem? Wait five minutes, and the answer will change again…

This is the same thing. They bring in Wendy and Marvin — isn’t it cute? It’s just like the crazy cartoon you loved when you were a kid! Then someone else at the company thinks to himself, “Hey, this is like a kid’s comic! I don’t make no kid’s comics!” And so they make yet another “Teen Titans” comic that looks like it was written by some sadistic lunatic.

It’s not like I really mind death in comics. I mean, I’m a pretty huge fan of horror comics of all types. What I do mind is gratuitous and unnecessary death in comics. And this was a picture-perfect definition of gratuitous and unnecessary.

And lo and behold, who’s that listed down there as one of this comic’s editors? Dan DiDio. Of course. What a complete and utter surprise. The guy who ain’t happy unless his comics are blood-soaked slaughterfests supervises yet another completely pointless and gratuitous blood-soaked slaughterfest.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m dropping this comic as of now.

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The Last Night on Earth


DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

It’s the night before the final battle against Captital-E Evil, and all the superheroes expect to get slaughtered. So everyone’s spending their last night trying to take care of the things that are most important to them. Superman goes to visit his dad; Batman hangs out with Robin and Nightwing; Wonder Woman and Donna Troy perform some ancient warrior rituals; Rocky Davis, of the Challengers of the Unknown, of all people, acts as a confessor for various superheroes; and Captain Cold does some good. But most of this issue is devoted to Geo-Force’s obsession with Deathstroke. Can he finally figure out a way to kill the assassin he blames for the death of his sister?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Way, way too many pages devoted to a C-lister like Geo-Force? With maybe two or three pages for the real heavy hitters? No, sorry, this was complete, useless garbage, and I’m mad at myself for buying into yet another load of crossover-inspired bilge. My life is actually worse for having read this comic.


The Spirit #20

The Spirit investigates a murder at an aquarium — one that was apparently carried out by innocent dolphins! The Spirit has some severe doubts about the official story, and he enlists Ebony’s aid by getting him to apply for a job at the aquarium. But when some of the dolphins are stolen in the dead of night, what could really be going on here?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The mystery here is properly intriguing, and Spirit’s interactions with Ebony and with Ellen Dolan’s class of pint-sized students are lots of fun. Some elements of the solution to the mystery seem a bit unlikely, but nitpicking a mystery in a comic like this is a little unfair…


Wonder Woman #23

Wonder Woman has to keep the demonic D’Grth from destroying the world, all while struggling to maintain her own humanity after the loss of her soul. Meanwhile, Tom Tresser has really stepped in it this time. He’s called in a DMA strike team on Agent Diana Prince’s apartment, unaware the albino gorillas inside are on the side of the angels. Donna Troy shows up to help out, but Tresser is still going to have to risk arousing the suspicion of his bosses by calling off the strike team.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but it’s a near thing. The fight against D’Grth is pretty good, but dangit, Tresser is just an irritating character. And as bad as he screwed things up, it’s really pretty unbelievable that he was able to keep his job or stay out of prison.


The Flash #243

Missed at least one issue of this one. In the interim, it appears that the Flash’s daughter, Iris, has aged into an old woman because of her out-of-control speed powers. Can the science of Gorilla City determine a cure for Iris and her brother Jai in time, or are the Flash’s kids doomed?

Verdict: Kinda hard to say, ’cause I have no idea what happened in the previous issue. I got no clue how Flash took care of Spin, and I got no clue what’s up with the Nzame. I think I’ll give it a thumbs up, though. The kids weren’t irritating, and Flash got to do some actual superspeed running, which it seems like he does mighty little of these days. Even better, the kids’ powers appear to have stabilized, so maybe the comic will stabilize, too.

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Turbo Booster

Booster Gold #11

The timeline has gotten screwed up again. Because of a criminal time-traveler’s interference during a museum robbery by Killer Moth, Batman, Robin, and Batgirl have ceased to exist. Booster, Skeets, Rip Hunter, and Booster’s formerly-dead-but-now-alive twin sister Goldstar are on the case, and decide that what caused the chronal chaos was Batman capturing Killer Moth. So to make sure Moth gets away, Booster mugs him, dresses up in his costume, stages the heist, and knocks out the crimefighters. Unfortunately, Booster’s stunt has made Killer Moth look like an unstoppable criminal, which has pushed him into becoming a Batman-like defender of Gotham City’s underworld. How to fix things this time? Booster is going to have to masquerade as the Dark Knight himself. But that’s easier said than done…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Old-school Bat-folks! And Skeets gets to run around with little-bitty moth wings while Booster’s disguised as Killer Moth, so extra points for Teh Cute.

Number of the Beast #8

I missed the final issue of this miniseries a while back, but finally got it picked up. There’s a lot less emphasis on the Paladins and a lot more focus on the heroes of the Wildstorm Universe, including the Authority, Majestic, StormWatch, and the WildC.A.T.S. trying to fight off the army of clones of the High, the mega-powerful anti-hero. They manage to put a few of the clones down and lose a few heroes (most of them being stray members of the Paladins). In the end, the High clones fly up into the upper atmosphere and blow themselves up like bipedal nukes. Crisis over? Actually, no. A hundred nukes blowing up in the atmosphere? Now the planet’s off its axis, the moon has been destroyed, and 90% of Earth’s population is dead. Wow, way to completely shake up the Etch-a-Sketch, Wildstorm…

Verdict: I’m a bit up in the air about this one. I respect any comic company willing to change their universe so drastically, but Wildstorm was already pretty dark and morally-conflicted — how much darker can they make things? And it’s really hard for me to believe that the Authority, who’ve already saved the planet from gods, would manage to get skunked so severely by a bunch of doofy clones. And heck, I wish we’d seen some more of the Paladins. I liked those dudes…

Captain America #41

The Red Skull’s schemes march on. The fake Captain America is recaptured, and plans are made to assassinate a few presidential candidates. But the evil Dr. Faustus has decided to betray the Skull, help Sharon Carter escape, and lead the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the Skull’s doorstep. And of course, Cap, the Falcon, the Black Widow, and more are on hand to help out.

Verdict: I gotta give this a thumbs down. It’s not that things are particularly convoluted. It’s more that Captain America doesn’t really do very much here. He gets a couple of great moments at the end of the issue, but by and large, it’s the bad guys’ scheming and betrayals that move all the action. Cap generally watches from the sidelines. And I’m really getting a mite tired of this unending storyline by now.

Jonah Hex #34

Hex has decided to reform. He buries his guns and his old Confederate uniform, builds a house, and avoid people so he won’t get in any trouble on their behalf. And naturally, a bunch of toughs ride into the nearby town to raise some hell. A pretty shopkeeper’s daughter tries to enlist Hex’s aid by bringing him pie (Amazingly, he discards the pie. Who can resist pie?!) and having sex with him (He discards the girl afterwards, too. The cad!). But Hex is a hard-hearted cuss, and he stays out of trouble up until he finds out that the girl and her family have been killed by the crooks. After that, there’s nothing left but shooting a few hellraising mooks in the face.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I like the concept of Hex trying to lie low, stay out of trouble, and lead a life without gunslinging, but the dialogue just plain cheesed me off. They made Jonah Hex talkative and poetic and downright dadgummed loquacious. People, people, people, you do not take a grim, taciturn gunslinger who’s basically modeled on Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name and turn him into a chatterbox. You just do not do that.

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Surrendering to the Inevitable

Fine, fine, I was weak. I swore I’d never give in to the marketing hoopla behind “Final Crisis.” Shows what I know. I broke down recently and bought all the three issues of “Final Crisis” so far.


Final Crisis #1-3

The storyline? Darkseid and his Apokoliptian allies have killed the last of the New Gods and are now preparing to destroy Earth. They’re able to possess the bodies of people, and one of their minions, Libra, is organizing DC’s villains. Martian Manhunter gets killed, the Daily Planet gets blown up, Superman gets distracted, Batman gets kidnapped, John Stewart gets mugged, Hal Jordan gets framed, martial arts tough guy Sonny Sumo and super escape-artist Shilo Norman recruit some young Japanese heroes, Oracle loses control of the worst computer virus ever, and Wonder Woman gets corrupted. Busy enough for ya?

I gotta say, I think I prefer reading these big crossovers this way. If I’d been reading these issue by issue, I would’ve been either outraged or bored stiff. Reading all three back-to-back, things make more sense and seem to connect much better. Not all crossovers or event comics seem to work this way — I thought “World War Hulk” and “Sinestro Corps War” worked very well on an issue-by-issue basis. But the scale Grant Morrison is writing for is easier to read when you’re taking the entire thing in at once, not focusing on a tiny portion of the plot at a time. And yes, this is one of the best reasons to read collected editions instead of single issues of comics — you get a complete storyline all at once instead of a piece at a time over six months or more.

However, as of the end of the third issue, things looks to be moving forward really quickly, so I’ll probably pick up the rest of the single issues until the series is over. It’s going to be fun seeing how Darkseid wins, how awful the Anti-Life Equation really is, and what happens to Earth and DC’s superheroes in the meantime.

Verdict: Thumbs up. But only for all three issues at once, not singly. I think reading ’em one at a time would drive you nuts, especially if you’re not familiar with Morrison’s peculiar obsessions.

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Multiple Guess

Okay, heading back to work today, so that means it’s time to get some comics reviews done.


PS238 #33

Poor Tyler Marlocke is still in three places at once. He’s in a stasis pod in the school’s basement because he’s been infected with an alien virus; he’s running around in a cloned body, which is being operated by remote-control from within the stasis pod, because if the alien student Prospero even suspects that Tyler is still infected, he’s going to destroy the Earth; and he’s existing in a quasi-dimension in the Castle Beyond Space and Time, where he has to decide whether the cosmos will continue to let humanity have superpowers.

Meanwhile, Cecil Holmes, the alien-obsessed student with the magic overcoat, has been taken on a field trip by Kent Allard, who’s secretly the Revenant. He’s taken Cecil to see if he can figure out whether a group of corporate CEOs are aliens — Revenant suspects that Cecil has a superpower of his own, namely the ability to sense whether or not someone has superpowers. Unfortunately, the CEOs are all supervillains, and they’ve figured out who Revenant is.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s weird how great a character Cecil has become, ’cause when he was first introduced, I just couldn’t stand him. His scenes with the Revenant are just wonderful. The rest of the book is worth buying, too. Y’all get this one put on your pull-list, okay? It’s definitely worthy of a larger readership.


The Brave and the Bold #16

While Batman is out of town, Superman is keeping watch over Gotham City. Commissioner Gordon has asked him to try to track down an underworld auction, but he runs into Catwoman pulling a big heist so she can get a large enough stake to be allowed to attend the auction in question. The main item up for bid: the map to a certain hidden cave near Gotham. Of course, Supes decides he’d better attend the auction to keep the Batcave’s location safe, but of course, no plan is perfect, and things get a lot more chaotic.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great banter between Supes and Catwoman. I especially love the mild-mannered disguise Selina puts together to let Superman attend the auction incognito.


1985 #4

The supervillains of the Marvel Universe have invaded the real world and are busy slaughtering as many people and causing as much chaos as they can. Toby and his dad make a narrow escape from the Lizard, then join the evacuees trying to get out of town. Dad goes back to find Toby’s mom, who’s still hiding out in her house, and Toby decides to snoop around the old Wyncham mansion, where the invasion seems to be centered. But what can a kid do to stop a horde of supervillains? Well, he can always call for backup…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The chaos of the situation is very well-realized. I love Dad’s reactions when the Lizard threatens Toby — it’s not exactly comic-book heroic, but it is real-world realistic. Toby going dimension-hopping looks to be fun, too.

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Friday Night Fights: Police Brutality!

Man, being ill and trying to recover is no fun at all. But ya know what is fun? FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

From 2002’s Powers #23 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Hey, bad-tempered supercop Deena Pilgrim! What’s your favorite Ice-T song?


Hey, Deena! Can you use that girl’s head to keep the beat?


Hmm, yeah, that doesn’t work so well, I guess.

(Bahlactus is the King of Rock, there is none higher, sucker MC’s should call him Sire)

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Medical Mayhem!


Hey! I’m back! Well, I’m kinda-sorta back.

Basically, the thing I thought was nothing serious yesterday? It was serious. Not “You have three months to live” serious, not “Wow, those monkey bites are chock-full o’ Ebola virus!” serious, not “We’re going to have to remove that arm” serious, but “We have to do minor surgery, and we need to do it today” serious.

But the surgical procedure was finished quickly, and I went home. I’m still going to do lighter posting over the next few days, because I’m just not comfortable sitting in front of the computer for long periods yet. Besides, I haven’t had time to pick up new comics yet. Curse you, Surprise Surgical Procedures, for making me miss New Comics Day!

Anyway, light posting for a bit. I’ll be resting and recovering, trying to catch up on my reading, maybe watch a movie. I won’t really be able to stay too far away from the blog, but I’m going to try.

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Jonah Hex #33

I really should be a bigger fan of Jonah Hex — he’s got the bad attitude, he’s got the murderous skills, he’s got the truly excellent facial scarring. But he’s just never ended up appealing to me. Still, I had to pick this one up, just because it’s got artwork by Darwyn Cooke, masterful illustrator of “The New Frontier,” “The Spirit,” and more. Anyway, this story takes place up in Canada during a harsh winter, far from the American Southwest where stories about Hex are usually set. We focus on a little boy whose father has just died, leaving the kid trapped in a blizzard and facing a pack of hungry wolves. Hex shows up and dispatches the wolves, but runs afoul of some Mounties who make the mistake of thinking Hex will be easy to kill. People should know better than to make mistakes around Jonah Hex.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Cooke’s artwork is, of course, absolutely gorgeous. It’s worth picking up for that alone, but I’m also pretty fond of the story. Hex saves the kid, but he doesn’t actually care about him at all. He mostly ignores him and even backhands him at one point. But the kid’s a quick learner and picks up a trick or two from the Meanest Gunfighter in the Old West. It’s good fun. Maybe I ought to start picking this one up.


Green Lantern Corps #27

Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner re-open Warriors restaurant on Oa as an intergalactic cop bar. Elsewhere, Morro, the Cryptkeeper of the Green Lanterns, lays Bzzd to rest and then meets another Green Lantern named Saarek who can commune with the dead. And somewhere else, someone is killing the families of Green Lanterns and later actually dumps their eyes on a bunch of rookies in training to demoralize them.

I think I’m going to give this a thumbs down. It seems to be the beginning of a new storyline, but it basically functioned as a placesaver issue. And the thing with the eyes, while suitably hardcore, seemed a bit too excessive for my liking.

And in unrelated blog news, posting may be light to nonexistent over the next few days. I’ve developed a minor but extremely painful medical condition (technical term: Axe in Face), and the pain is just too distracting to allow me to do very much writing. Hopefully, I can get all patched up today, but if not, I’ll see ya when I see ya…

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