Archive for November, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Battle Monkey!

Another Friday means it’s time for another session of comic-art pain to kick off the weekend! Everyone strap yourself in for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Our weekly dose of ultraviolence comes tonight from the 2005 anthology Bizarro World and a story by Evan Dorkin and M. Wartella called “Monkey, the Monkey Wonder.” Here we see the inevitable result when Beppo the Super-Monkey catches Batman trying to do away with his new monkey sidekick.



My mon Spacebooger don’t shiv.

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Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #4

The Sparrow, British superspy extraordinaire, manages to get Atomic Robo rebooted in time for both of them to escape the crashing train, but they still need to capture Otto Skorzeny and Dr. Valkyrie. They trail them to their mountain fortress, get inside, and have a number of spectacular fights against each other, robots, and cybernetic monster men before a self-destruct sequence blows the whole place sky-high. Are the bad guys dead? Seeing as how there’s a whole ‘nother issue left, probably not.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Straightforward action is good. The screwball “I hate you but secretly think you’re cool” patter between Robo and Sparrow is made all the cooler by the fact that one of them is a hyper-scientific fighting robot.

B.P.R.D.: The Warning #5

Conventional forces finally put down the giant robots destroying Munich, but at a very high cost. And they haven’t even taken out all the robots — they may very well be scattered all over the world, ready to strike at any time. Johann Kraus learns that everyone in his old neighborhood is dead, Kate Corrigan gets to go on a date, Abe Sapien is seeing ghosts and wishing Hellboy were around to set everything right. But is the still-missing Liz Sherman the key to saving the future? And if so, will the cure be as bad as the disease?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Best scene: Johann being driven through his old neighborhood, leaking ectoplasm, as scores of ghosts spring up behind him. Spooky and heartbreaking at the same time.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

A very merry Turkey Day to you and yours! Hope you get a good meal, a ton of tryptophan, some good football on TV or in the backyard with your cousins, and some quality time with your loved ones.

And let’s not forget those of us who don’t have the resources to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving, especially nowadays, when the economy is tanking, homes are getting foreclosed, more folks are out of work, and money is scarce for a lot of people. There but for the grace of god, as they say…

Let’s look at some comic covers, a’ight?









Save me a little of that pie, okay?

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Red Hot Super-Powered Cheesecake!

Terra #2

It turns out that the new Terra is an exact genetic match for the old Terra — namely, the crazy one who had underaged sex with Deathstroke and tried to kill the Teen Titans. Power Girl and Dr. Mid-Nite try to calm her down while she runs around Mid-Nite’s lab in her birthday suit. When she and Power Girl finally leave, they have to deal with an attack on a subway by Silver Banshee. She’s after a guy who’s stolen a mystical artifact, and when he accidentally steps on the third rail, his death allows the ancient Sumerian god who was inside the artifact to take over his body, grow to giant size, and try to take over the planet. Meanwhile, Richard Whozits, the wealthy geologist guy who got turned into living rock in the first issue, hangs out with his nekkid girlfriend and tries to decide what he’s going to do with his life. And finally, zombies invade Markovia, and Terra shows up to help Geo-Force fight them all off.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story’s pretty good, and the dialogue is fun and funny, but the best part of this is Amanda Conner’s wonderful artwork. Yes, she has a near-perfect eye for classic good-girl art (you did notice that cover up there, right?), but she’s also stellar at action, facial expressions, body language, and everything else she decides to draw. She’s one of my favorite artists out there, and I hope she gets lots more comics work.

Kull #1

Dark Horse continues their recent trend of making awesome comics out of old Robert E. Howard stories with this new series about Howard’s barbarian king. We get a story about siege warfare, political intrigue, and a really ugly monster. Can Kull, Atlantean exile and new king of Valusia destroy the monster and unite his kingdom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story, excellent action, excellent monster. Hope they keep making this one, ’cause it’s fun.

Ambush Bug: Year None #4

Dan DiDio is dead, Jann Jones is the ultimate romantic manga heroine, Argh!yle is running around bothering people in the “52” mega-series, and Ambush Bug gets kicked in the jollies by Batwoman.

Verdict: Dan DiDio is dead? Thumbs up!

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Heroes and Hillbillies


The Age of the Sentry #3

The Sentry meets up with the Mountain Man, a superpowered hillbilly! But putting the smackdown on the irritated irradiated inbred idjit isn’t the toughest challenge the Sentry will have to deal with. There’s also — GASP! — a shotgun wedding! Can the Sentry escape this baleful backwoods brouhaha? Meanwhile, in the backup story by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, the Sentry and Millie the Model have to help a lovesick space monster named Manoo figure out how to win the love of a tentacled space-hottie.

Verdict: Thumbs up for Silver Age ROFLtastic fun.


Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1

And lo and behold, Marvel has cooked up another megapowerful but somehow forgotten superhero from the Silver Age, just like the Sentry. This one is the Blue Marvel, and the twist here is that when his mask gets ripped in the early 1960s, everyone finds out that the most powerful man on the planet… isn’t a white guy. Everyone freaks out, the Blue Marvel gets hounded by threats and hatred, and he’s finally persuaded to retire to quiet anonymity. But why is his nemesis now showing up in the modern-day Marvel Universe threatening to kill everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up, so far. Interesting story, nice characters, decent twist, and a little reminder that, no, everything wasn’t actually perfect just ’cause it happened in the ’50s and ’60s. Hope the story doesn’t fall apart now that the twist is out of the bag.

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Wholly Spirit

Wow, two comics came out this week about “The Spirit”! Sure, that means DC and Warner Brothers are trying to drum up some interest in the Spirit movie that’s coming out in December — might I add, the Spirit movie that’s coming out in December and looks like unmitigated garbage.

Ahh, but on to the comics for now…

The Spirit #23

Ooh, lookit! A cover by Joe Kubert! BONUS!

Anyway, in this story, the Spirit travels, with Commissioner Dolan and his daughter Ellen, to a dude ranch for a little Wild West R&R. Along for the ride: a wealthy industrialist, his unfaithful trophy wife, and his scheming assistant. When the industrialist is murdered, will the Spirit be able to pin down the murderer, even with the “assistance” of a dimwitted sheriff and a mysterious Indian?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier’s version of the Spirit is often too silly and not rooted deeply enough in the grime and grit of the city, but this is excellent storytelling, along with an enjoyable (if a little obvious) mystery.

The Spirit Special #1

This is the real deal — four classic stories from Will Eisner himself, creator of the Spirit and one of comics’ greatest storytellers. The stories range from 1947 to 1950 and are perfect examples of Eisner’s pulpish, gritty film-noir style. We get one story featuring the villainy of the Octopus, a story about an assassin gunning for the Spirit, and a two-parter telling the story of Sand Saref.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is beautiful, vital stuff. The most uncomfortable part of the entire thing is the story that includes the Spirit’s sidekick, Ebony White. While the modern incarnation of the character is a perfectly normal kid, the version from the ’40s was a crude minstrel stereotype. Modern opinions on the character consider him an unfortunate element of the story who still managed to transcend the era’s racism, to some degree. But it may still make you really uncomfortable reading him.

Aside from that, again, it’s an amazingly beautiful comic, and I recommend it highly. Get it and see how a true master put his comics together.

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A Mammoth Undertaking


Shades of “Jurassic Park”…

Scientists are talking for the first time about the old idea of resurrecting extinct species as if this staple of science fiction is a realistic possibility, saying that a living mammoth could perhaps be regenerated for as little as $10 million.

The same technology could be applied to any other extinct species from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA.

Though the stuffed animals in natural history museums are not likely to burst into life again, these old collections are full of items that may contain ancient DNA that can be decoded by the new generation of DNA sequencing machines.

Well, we’ll probably never get revived dinosaurs, because they all went extinct 65 million years ago (except for birds), and DNA can’t live that long.

But still… mammoths are cool. Neanderthals are cool. Dodos are cool. Cave bears, dire wolves, Irish elk, giant sloths, sabre-toothed tigers — let’s bring the whole bunch back, partly for the sake of advancing the science of cloning, partly to advance paleontology, partly just so I can squee over prehistoric animals brought back to life…

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Dungeon Crawling


Today, the Duffster wrote about Dungeons and Dragons and how it seems to make some folks a bit crazy.

Parents and church leaders are so determined to protect their kids from phantom Satanists they can’t see the real benefits of gaming. In an age when our culture is encouraging kids to be bad at math, hopeless at science and functionally illiterate, D&D inspires literacy, imagination, logical thinking and familiarity with basic math.

Most critics reject D&D for religious reasons, but I’ve known parents who didn’t approve of Star Wars or Star Trek games, either – as if the very act of using your imagination is offensive to God.

How many writers have we lost because of this? How many artists? How many poets? How many scientists and teachers have we lost because acts of imagination were dismissed as frivilous or wrong?

I had lots of fun playing D&D back when I was in junior high. It’s fantastic escapism when you’re at that age when your hormones are freaking out and when you’re too shrimpy to keep the jocks from shoving you around the hallways and you’re too awkward to keep from stammering and sweating every time you talk to a pretty girl. It was great to have an activity where you could, at least for a few hours, be the hero who saves the princess and dismembers the orcs.

Heck, it’s not even like you have to be in junior high to enjoy it. D&D is wonderful escapism no matter what age you are. Ain’t nothing wrong with escapism. It’s why we read comics, watch TV and movies, play video games, read books. Everyone needs some fantasy in their lives sometimes.

For some reason, roleplaying games like D&D really set some people off. I remember back in the 1980s hearing from people who’d claim that D&D was a sure way to turn a kid into a Satanist, that it taught you how to contact demons, that its casual violence would transform seemingly normal people into cackling serial killers. Funnily enough, they said the same thing about rock and roll (including Bon Jovi, the Eagles, and Madonna), video games (including the cartoonish fantasy “Dragon’s Lair” game), and jewelry (for some reason, while girls could wear earrings safely, guys who wore them were dooooomed). Wow, the ’80s were weird.

I think that particular form of lunacy has mostly faded away by now. I think ya gotta credit the “Satanic Panic” of the late 1980s for that. That was when fears about hidden Satanists really hit peak levels — people got arrested on incredibly vague rumors that they were devil worshipers sacrificing hundreds, even thousands of people in bizarre rituals that somehow escaped anyone’s notice. People who expressed public doubts about all this were accused of being Satanic conspiritors. People were even convicted and put in prison, despite the complete lack of evidence, of bodies, of motives, of anything.

Eventually, attorneys started winning appeals based on the bizarre testimony at trials, on the clearly unfair prosecutions, on the fact that there was no physical or circumstantial evidence of any mass murders or sexual assaults. The people who still insisted that a global Satanic conspiracy was sacrificing people were revealed as delusional. Sanity returned, for the most part.

Of course, there’s still a tendency on some folks’ part to accuse anything popular of being EEEEVIL. I remember a few years ago when a bunch of local Lubbock churches bought a full-page ad in the Avalanche-Journal to accuse the Harry Potter books of turning young readers into Satanists capable of performing real magic. You don’t hear much of that anymore, partly because most people are now familiar with the story and know that it’s an innocent fantasy, partly because Harry Potter kept getting more and more popular and yet there wasn’t an accompanying rise in Satanic toddlers paralyzing people with magic wands…

…and partly because, honestly, most of those howling church groups didn’t really believe that Harry Potter — or for that matter, D&D, rock and roll, or goth fashion — were actually evil.

Most evil in the world can be narrowed down to greedy people, violent people, bigotry, liars. It’s hard to oppose evil like that. It could cause greedy bankers to stop donating to your church, it could cause bigots to claim that you’re too soft on those kinds of people, and not even the best sermon in the world can stop some violent drunk from venting his frustrations on his wife and kids. As important as it is to help people through the rough spots in life, to teach them how to make good moral and ethical decisions, to provide a supportive and enriching community for others, there are people who get frustrated that it’s so hard to do anything about the root causes of evil.

But if only Capital-E Evil, Old Scratch himself, the damned demons of Dis, if only Satan could be tied directly to something small, weak, and easy to target and smash, wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t indulging that fantasy make you feel like you were striking a meaningful blow against God’s greatest enemy, like you really knew how to make things go your way, like you were as powerful as you always wished you could be as a kid?

I guess everyone needs a little roleplaying, escapism, and fantasy in their lives sometimes.

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Friday Night Fights: Robots vs. Nazis!

I don’t know about you, but after a week as wild, wooly, wacky, and, um, wabash-cannonballesque as this one, I needs me a little dose of violence to get the weekend started right. So let’s get going — it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, our whuppin’ comes courtesy of this year’s Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #3 by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

The only thing better than beating Nazis bloody is robots beating Nazis bloody.

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Knife Guys

The Goon #30

Bella, the love of the Goon’s life, is back. The Goon doesn’t want to talk to her, because she broke his heart. Franky doesn’t want her around because she makes the Goon crazy. The pitiful tale of Roscoe the Orphaned Werepup gets even more pitiful when he gets hit by a train. Labrazio takes some more revenge on the Goon’s allies. Buzzard has control of the Zombie Priest, but he runs into a monster called a woky that wants the answer to a question that Buzzard doesn’t know.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The woky is good and scary, and the soap opera that is the Goon’s life is full of more ups and downs. The story concludes in the next issue — expect a lot more fighting and a lot more awful stuff to happen to the Goon and his friends. This is a smack-jam awesome comic book — you should be reading every issue you can get your paws on.

Captain Britain and MI-13 #7

Plotka, the creator of the Mindless Ones, is running amok in Birmingham, creating slaves by offering people their hearts’ desires — and he manages to snag Captain Britain by offering him his long-lost wife, Meggan. Blade and Spitfire call a truce in their vampire-hunter-vs.-vampire-speedster brawl to join the fight against the monsters, but with Plotka creating more and more unstoppable Mindless Ones, does anyone have a chance of surviving?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wild stuff going on here. There are some surprising secrets revealed about the Black Knight’s Ebony Blade, Captain Britain’s fantasy of life with Meggan is well-done, and I’m glad Blade isn’t likely to turn out to be a one-shot hero-killer. I do wish they’d figure out some way to heal up Spitfire’s skeletal arm, though…

Manhunter #36

Manhunter and the rest of the Birds of Prey get out of Mexico, the Suicide Squad shuts down the sadistic Crime Doctor, Cameron Chase is pregnant, Dylan is on the run from the Joker, and Kate goes public with enough evidence to shut down unethical megacorp Vesetech, thanks to their tainted research into almost every piece of medical and drug treatment on the market. But all the publicity isn’t all good for Kate — it gets her screamed at by Amanda Waller, and Mr. Bones has to cut her loose from the DEO. On top of that, Kate doesn’t even know yet that her son has superpowers.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I still think the art is weird, but it’s kinda cool to have a comic where the hero delivers the coup de grace to a villain in the form of a lengthy analysis of legal and evidentiary issues.

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