Archive for July, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Nuclear Empowered!

Let’s make this short and sweet: Weekend! Huzzah! FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, we’re visiting 2007’s Empowered, Volume 1 by Adam Warren, as Empowered gets good and mad — as well as, for once, good and confident and and not tied-up and not nearly-nekkid — and unleashes all over a bunch of thugs threatening her boyfriend and earns a boatload of respect besides.






Adam Warren does action and cheesecake better than any other artist I know.

Tonight’s musical accompaniment seemed obvious enough. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Aretha Franklin!

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Getting Science from Science Fiction


Via Aaron Williams: Scientists have gone and created transparent aluminum. Or did they actually get it from a Scottish engineer who talked into his computer mouse?

Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. “Transparent aluminium” previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie “Star Trek IV,” but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion.

In the journal Nature Physics an international team, led by Oxford University scientists, report that a short pulse from the FLASH laser “knocked out” a core electron from every aluminium atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminium nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.

“What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,” said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. “Transparent aluminium is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of ‘miniature stars’ created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.”

The discovery was made possible with the development of a new source of radiation that is ten billion times brighter than any synchrotron in the world (such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source). The FLASH laser, based in Hamburg, Germany, produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.

What makes this story even neater is that, as cool as transparent aluminum may be, everything else about this experiment ended up being even cooler. New sources of radiation billions of times brighter than any synchotron on Earth? Pulses of X-rays more powerful than a power plant’s output? A step toward nuclear fusion? Gaining insight into the creation of stars? Holy guacamole, science is awesome!

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The Batwoman in Red


Detective Comics #855

Batwoman confronts Alice, the looney-tunes new leader of the Church of Crime, gasses her in the hope of interrogating her, but gets slashed by a poisoned razor that Alice was holding in her mouth. She loses her wig and starts hallucinating about the night her mother was killed. Kate’s dad goes after her to help, but the Church of Crime has resources that could be much too strong for an injured crimefighter and her aging military dad. Meanwhile, in the second feature, the Question beats up some thugs and gets a lead on the kidnapped girl, heading to a large office building to meet up with someone named Chandless. But his security is a lot better than the thugs Renee took care of before.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good, solid superheroey whoopass from beginning to end. Alice is a nicely disturbing weirdo — and it does seem appropriate that Batwoman would get her own version of the Joker as a nemesis.


Wonder Woman #34

Wondy gets a lead from Dr. T.O. Morrow on the murderous demigoddess Genocide’s whereabouts — an illegal metahuman fighting club in Japan. She enlists Black Canary’s aid to help her infiltrate the club, and Dinah decides to give herself and Wondy a super-makeover so they can disguise themselves as supervillains and sneak into the club. Masquerading as the Orphan Sisters, WW and BC have to fight a robot and a shapeshifter, and Diana unexpectedly manifests some new superpowers. But who’s the mastermind behind the club?

Verdict: Thumbs up, particularly for Black Canary’s dialogue and the hilarious makeover scene.

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Animal Crackers


Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #3

All the Pet Avengers — Lockjaw, Throg, Lockheed, Redwing, Hairball, Zabu, and Ms. Lion — end up deep underwater in the middle of the ocean. They’re rescued by Namor’s honor guard of sea turtles, who create air bubbles to keep the animals alive. While Hairball spends his time freaking out because he’s surrounded by water, the turtles take them to a pair of the Infinity Gems. But they awaken a gigant mutant whale of some sort, which swallows all of them. Luckily, Ms. Lion finds the gems. With just one gem remaining, Lockjaw teleports the group to the final location — the White House. But all the teleporting has tired Lockjaw out, and he passes out on the White House lawn. Forced to drag the extremely large Lockjaw into the White House and then up the stairs, all without being seen by White House security, the Pet Avengers finally find the final gem — on Bo Obama‘s new collar! Too bad they don’t have time to grab him before Thanos does!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Pretty good dialogue and funny situations — while the group sneaking into the White House is fairly contrived, the idea of a sabre-toothed tiger, a dragon, a hawk, a glowing cat, a yappy dog, and Frog Thor dragging a giant bulldog up a staircase does make an enjoyably silly image. Even the twist on all the presidential guest-star roles is amusing.


Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #38

The Mandarin has a plot to lure a group of the Avengers in with a bunch of kidnapped children and then use a power-stealing robot to, well, steal their powers. He’s pretty successful, except that he’s forgotten one little Avenger…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of really cute things in this one, especially the Hulk in the petting zoo. The Mandarin is wonderfully charming and devious all at once, which is a vital quality in all the best villains.

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Marvels vs. Miracles


So Marvel announced at the just-completed Comic-Con in San Diego that they’ve acquired the rights to Marvelman — and right now, I don’t think I can bother to be excited.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know that we can trust Marvel to do right by the character or its creators. When you read the convoluted publication history of the character, it becomes clear really quickly that, while the story itself is acclaimed, the history of the comics themselves have been a tawdry and embarrassing mishmash of conflicting legal claims. Marvelman was originally a 1950s British ripoff of DC’s Captain Marvel; when the title was cancelled in the ’60s, no one touched it again ’til the 1980s, when the great British comics anthology “Warrior” resurrected the character — they didn’t have the rights to the character originally, but assumed that no one would care if they used him. The new storyline was written by Alan Moore, who believed that all the necessary permissions were in order.

The series moved to Eclipse Comics, which changed the name of the character to Miracleman because Marvel Comics was threatening to sue (Oh, the irony). After Eclipse went out of business, Todd MacFarlane bought Eclipse’s back catalog — Neil Gaiman, who was, as far as anyone knew, the last person to hold any rights to the character, sued to keep MacFarlane from using the character. Gaiman eventually won the suit, but there was no expectation that the old Eclipse stories, which have always been considered the best, would ever be published.

But now Marvel has the rights to the character… but no one seems to be talking about what rights those are. Is Marvel limited to just writing new adventures about the character? If so, big deal — they can’t reprint Moore’s or Gaiman’s classic Miracleman stories, much less re-tell them, without facing another punishing lawsuit. If they do have the rights to reprint the older stories, that may be good for readers — Eclipse’s “Miracleman” comics are very rare and very expensive — but that may be bad for Moore and Gaiman, unless Marvel is going to do something DC has always avoided — pay the original creators some significant reprint fees.

And on a fanboy level, I wonder if Marvel is going to shoehorn Marvelman into their regular superhero continuity. In only the last few years, they’ve added Superman-level characters like the Sentry and the Blue Marvel — do they really need another nigh-omnipotent demigod running around their universe?

Marvel’s press release is pretty vague about their plans. I’d like to think they’ll pay Moore and Gaiman — and orignal creator Mick Anglo — a tidy sum, if only to stick it in DC’s eye. But will they? I really have no idea — but I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Comic history is filled from its beginnings with comics creators getting screwed out of their money by the publishers, and my pessimistic nature suspects that the same thing will happen this time, too.

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The Sun Never Sets on the British Vampire


Captain Britain and MI-13 #15

Siiiigh. Yet another outstanding comic book gets cancelled.

The final issue of this series also concludes the “Vampire State” storyline. Though Count Dracula and his vampire army have been thrown into disarray, they haven’t been beaten yet… but they’re a lot closer to defeat than they really expected. See, Pete Wisdom has been thinking about a dozen moves ahead of Dracula, most importantly about one little, important piece of misdirection — when Dracula destroyed the skull of Quincy Harker, the relic that kept all vampires out of England… he’d really only destroyed a fake. With Captain Britain battling Dracula’s pet necromancer, and Meggan showing up to sow dissent among the vampiric army, Dracula is completely unprepared when all his vampires start bursting into flame. He retreats to what he thinks is a safe position, only to get attacked by the S.A.S. and a whole bunch of guest stars. And it all comes down to Faiza Hussain, physician, superhero fangirl, and wielder of Excalibur, to take on Dracula in the final showdown.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Man alive, am I going to miss this comic. As always, beautifully created characters, fantastic plotting, so much wonder and excitement. The last three pages of this issue are the best farewell to the readers that I can imagine. Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk created an awfully fine comic — I wish they could’ve kept it going for much, much longer.


Power Girl #3

Power Girl ends up settling Ultra-Humanite’s hash pretty quickly in this issue — in fact, she accidentally roasts him like a hot dog. After that, she and Terra have to figure out how to set Manhattan back down without wrecking everything, and then PeeGee has to try to get Ultra’s ship down safely, without either wrecking New York or dropping into the ocean and causing catastrophic waves.

Verdict: I’ll give it a thumbs up, though the biggest feat is performed by Terra, a guest star… and I’m still a bit irritated that Ultra-Humanite is depicted as an over-the-top sexist. His best-known host, other than the giant albino gorilla, has been Dolores Winters, the fictional film star he transplanted his brain into during the Golden Age. And he’s always struck me as a villain whose primary prejudice was that he thought he was superior to everyone, and that only he had what it took to rule the world. He may hate women — but in fact, he hates them just as much as he hates men. Still, pretty good action and as always, excellent artwork by Amanda Conner.

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Friday Night Fights: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots!

Yet another five days down the tube, with just a couple days of downtime to make up for it. I don’t care what anyone says — it doesn’t seem fair, and it never seems like enough. Still we gotta do with what we got — and that means making the most of our weekends. And it helps to get things started right with a little FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Man, I just can’t get enough of the “Marvex the Super Robot” stories from earlier this week. So much crazy and awesome, all in just a few short comic pages. So let’s head back to April 1940’s Daring Mystery Comics #3 by Hal Sharp, as Marvex takes on a spy named von Crabb.



Our dinner music tonight is a bit cliched, but still fits in pretty well with our general theme. Ladies and germs, give a polite round of applause for Styx

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Poetry of the Undead

It’s been a very busy month for zombies, what with DC’s “Blackest Night” and — well, I guess it’s mostly just “Blackest Night.” But still, it seems like a good time to hit a thematically-appropriate non-comics book review…


Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

Published just last year by Ryan Mecum, a Presbyterian youth pastor in Cincinnati, the book is pretty much what you’d expect from the title — a bunch of 5-7-5 haikus about zombies. What makes this book so cool is its format — it’s told as a story, starting with an amateur poet writing cliched haiku in his writing notebook, advancing through the first day of the zombie apocalypse as our hero is bitten by a pack of zombies, dies, and rises from the dead with a taste for brains. Our poetic zombie ends up eating his way through his family home, a nursing home, a picked-clean city, several farmhouses, and an airport. And wrapped in among all the haikus are zombie polaroids, bloodstains, crude sketches of brains, and poems on torn paper “taped” into the book with duct tape. It’s beautifully illustrated, at least for those of us who love zombies.

Clearly, I couldn’t write a proper review of this book without including some samples of the haikus. So let’s start with our hero, still alive, on the run from the undead:

They surround the car
and are all moaning something.
Is that the word “trains”?!

In the early hours of his reanimation:

They are so lucky
that I cannot remember
how to use doorknobs.

In the process of eating everyone in the big city:

A man starts yelling
“When there’s no more room in Hell…”
but then we eat him.

And much later, during an assault on a farmhouse:

Nothing hurts me now.
Normally, the screwdriver
wouldn’t have gone there.

So basically: funny, gross, very imaginative, and messily drenched in modern zombie lore. And not too expensive either — the price tag on the cover is just ten bucks. Definitely a thumbs up from me.

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Death and Death Metal


Dethklok versus the Goon

Oh, mercy. Someone up there must like me.

Who do we got here? We got “The Goon,” Eric Powell’s crude, hilarious, hyper-violent, horror-noir pulp, and we got Dethklok from Adult Swim’s “Metalocalypse,” Brendon Small’s crude, hilarious, hyper-violent heavy-metal cartoon. It’s all written and illustrated by Powell, with Small stepping in to help. We start out with an evil plot to control the world using William Murderface’s inbred brain, combined with a brainwashed Dr. Rockzo the Rock and Roll Clown (He does cocaine!) trying to kill Dethklok. But things go improbably awry, leaving Dethklok’s gigantic headquarters Mordhaus stuck in the same dimension as the Goon’s Lonely Street. So the Goon and his pals initially mistake Dethklok for some of the new girls at the local brothel before some hijinx get started. Skwisgar does the nasty with Mama Norton, Rockzo introduces Franky to cocaine, Dethklok plays a concert, and the Goon slaughters untold multitudes of Dethklok’s henchmen.

Verdict: You gotta ask? Thumbs up. This ain’t deep storytelling, but if you love Dethklok and you love the Goon, you will love the bleeding screaming snot out of this. Powell is a lot better at drawing the Goon than he is at drawing Dethklok, but he’s absolutely got the cartoon’s brand of humor down perfectly. Tons of hilarious moments and lines here — I won’t spoil the best line in the comic, but you’ll know it when you see it. I also loved Murderface’s reaction after their manager questions the wisdom of promoting the band’s new album by shooting a thousand bald eagles out of a cannon and into George Washington’s face on Mount Rushmore: “Well, I’m sorry! I didn’t know you hated America!” And Dethklok’s concert is just brilliant, as is Franky’s critique of it — “What’s that sound?! It tells me my skin is alive and it hates me!”

Repeating for emphasis: LOVED IT.


Green Lantern #44

The Blackest Night has started, as one of the black rings revives the Martian Manhunter, who goes after Hal Jordan and the recently resurrected Barry Allen. Do they have a chance against a shapeshifting telepathic zombie Martian Superman? I wouldn’t bet on it. Meanwhile, the evil Guardian called Scar reveals to the other captured Guardians what’s going on — emotions are the cause of chaos in the universe, so she plans to bring order by extinguishing all emotions and killing all sentient life. And John Stewart is about to find out what happens when the black rings zombify an entire planet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. J’onn makes an excellent villain here — tossing buildings, shapeshifting, reading minds, and decisively knocking the stuffing out of a couple of DC’s heaviest hitters. The rationale behind Scar’s plot is good, too, and I’m looking forward to seeing what a Black Lantern Planet is going to be like. And yes, Doug Mahnke really is the perfect artist for this — he does great action, he does wonderful square-jawed heroes, and his monsters and zombies are the best in the biz.

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City of Monsters


The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #3

H.P. Lovecraft is on the run — after saving Chesser from demonic squamous horrors from beyond our dimension, he’s actually been identified as the attacker. His aunts manage to hide him from the police, but he goes out anyway, intent on convincing his ex-girlfriend Sylvia to leave Providence to escape whatever disaster may be approaching the city. He also goes to a psychiatrist he trusts, hoping he’ll help him stay awake so the monsters won’t re-emerge. But he’s betrayed by the doctor, shot full of morphine, and locked in a cell in the asylum where his mother’s been imprisoned for years. Of course, the doc gets paid back for his treachery by eldritch forces, but that doesn’t improve things for Lovecraft — or for Providence — one bit.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great suspense and a fun grasp of Lovecraft’s style of cosmic horror. I was expecting Tony Salmons’ impressionistic art style to wear on me by now, but it really does suit the story very well.

The Unwritten #3

Tom Taylor has returned to the castle where he grew up — coincidentally, the same castle where Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein.” As it turns out, there’s a small professionals-only horror symposium taking place there, featuring a half-dozen bad-horror-writer archetypes (Personally, I’m hoping the torture-porn writer gets killed good and hard). The mysterious Elizabeth Hexam is there, too, trying to get Tom to remember what happened to his father the night he disappeared. And as it turns out, Tom realizes that his father hid a safe in the house, figures out the passcode, and finds a couple of strange and seemingly useless items that his dad left for him. Will they be any use against the mystic assassin who’s closing in on Tom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This really is an excellent series. Lots of fun, lots of mystery, lots of spooky stuff, all tied up in a “Harry Potter” wrapping that makes it all feel familiar and strange at the same time.

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