Archive for November, 2009

The War of Light


Green Lantern #48

Basically, what happens here is that a bunch of representatives from the seven colors of rings run around fighting and arguing. We got Hal Jordan for the Green Lanterns, Carol Ferris for the Star Sapphires, Sinestro for the Sinestro Corps, Atrocitus for the Red Lanterns, Saint Walker for the Blue Lanterns (along with the Blue Lantern Guardians, Ganthet and Sayd), Indigo-1 for the Indigo Tribe, and Larfleez as the sole Orange Lantern. There is a heck of a lot of yelling and smacking people around and ring-slinging and all that jazz.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I know, it doesn’t sound like all that much happens, but there’s good characterization going on, beautiful artwork by Doug Mahnke, and a lot of behind-the-scenes plot development for the “Blackest Night” crossover.


Blackest Night #5

And speaking of “Blackest Night” — the “All-Lantern Corps” arrives on Earth, but with the death of Damage, the Black Lanterns have finally recharged their battery up to 100%, and their ultimate leader rises — Nekron, who’s some kind of undead god of the underworld. He’s raised the entire population of Coast City from the dead, but Barry Allen has some friends to call on for aid — the Justice League and the Teen Titans. Black Lantern Jean Loring grabs the Atom and Mera, and miniaturizes them into one of the Black Lantern rings. The All-Lanterns destroy Skar, the evil Black Lantern Guardian, then combine their ring power in an attempt to destroy the Black Lantern power battery — but that doesn’t work at all. And Nekron reveals one of his two secret weapons — first, there’s Black Lantern Batman, but more devastating is the fact that all of the superheroes who’ve risen from the dead, including Wonder Woman, Superman, Superboy, Kid Flash, Green Arrow, Barry Allen, and Hal Jordan, have only returned to life because Nekron let them — and that means he still has control over them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. And I really wasn’t expecting to give this a thumbs up. The All-Lanterns reciting their various oaths as they recharge their rings was dadgummed awesome, and the revelation of Nekron’s power over the risen superheroes was especially cool. I hope they can maintain this level of coolness for the rest of the miniseries.

The Goon #33

Not your typical “Goon” comic — this one is almost entirely wordless. There are word balloons, but they’re usually filled with other cartoons, symbols, and abstractions to represent what the characters are thinking or saying. A floozy sets her sights on the Goon and Frankie, a black-hearted villain runs amok with a meat cleaver, and a little kid thinks happily of robots and candy. All that plus notes from Eric Powell about burlesque, cage fighters, Cracker Barrel, the in-production “Goon” movie, and a bunch of prisoners with “Goon” tattoos.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A fun little experiment, and it still holds true to the spirit of “The Goon.” And Eric Powell’s post-comic notes are always fun to read — there aren’t many comic creators who sponsor burlesque dancers, cage fighters, and roller derby teams…

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Friday Night Fights: The First Beating of the Holiday Season!

So Thanksgiving is over, and Black Friday is over.

Over the past few days, you’ve had to deal with insane crowds in the grocery stores prior to Thursday, as everyone scrambled and clawed for every last overpriced turkey and every last can of cranberry jelly and every last freakin’ yam in the galaxy. You had to deal with the stress and fuss of preparing the big dinner. You had to deal with your Aunt Sophie alternately pinching your cheeks like you were four and complaining that you’ve gotten fat. You had your Uncle Ferd spouting Glenn Beck’s ninny-level demogoguery as if there were something awesome about being a crypto-stalinist nutbag (Could someone explain to me why Beck’s new book has him wearing an old East German military uniform? Or why he’s started saying we should be more like the Chinese? For a guy who acts like he’s terrified that Yuri Andropov is gonna crawl out of his underwear drawer, Beck shore does love him some Commies). You watched 136 hours of football, because that’s all there was to do after eating. You had insanely murderous shoppers and insanely murderous drivers all over town today. You can look forward to the first of a seemingly infinite number of hacked-together Christmas specials on the TV.

I know what you need. You know what you need. You need violence. You need rage. You need a bucket load of anger and blood and pain. You need some dude in spandex curbstomping another dude in spandex. You need FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Let’s hit it — one of the best of the best. From 1986’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: Batman listens to Superman complain that the turkey was dry just once… too… often.


That one’s goin’ out to Maxo Romero over at Great Caesar’s Post. Much respect, Max.

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Holiday Gift Bag: All-Star Superman

Oh boy! It’s the biggest shopping day of the year! Thousands of people at the malls and the discount stores, taking up all the parking spaces and hitting each other with purses and axes and pontoon boats and whatnot! But it seems like a good time to kick off this year’s “Holiday Gift Bag” series — over the next few weeks, I’m going to offer you some ideas and recommendations for holiday gifts you can give the comics fan in your life. So if you’re tired of getting crushed and pushed around at the mall, head on over to your friendly neighborhood comic shop!


Let’s start off this year with All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. This was originally a 12-issue series that ran from 2005-2008, designed to boil Superman down to his essence in continuity-free stories.

It starts off with a shocker — Superman is dying, poisoned by excess amounts of solar radiation by Lex Luthor. On the bright side, this means that, for as long as he lasts, he’ll be more powerful than ever. But he still has to worry about his legacy, about wrapping up his life’s loose ends, about saying good-bye to friends without letting anyone know that the Earth will soon be without its strongest defender. We get all the familiar supporting cast — Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lex Luthor — plus a few new characters, like mega-wealthy super-genius Leo Quintum. And the Man of Steel has plenty of new challenges to face — he gets exposed to Black Kryptonite, gets stranded on Bizarro World, and faces attacks from Solaris, rogue Kryptonians, and a super-powered Luthor.


This one is really something else — it may be the best take on Superman ever, with epic storylines and beautifully humanizing characterizations. Lex is an arrogant, self-absorbed genius, Jimmy is the king of the amazing, mad scheme, Clark Kent is a bumbling, doughy wallflower who no one ever suspects is really the Man of Steel. Even minor characters like macho blowhard Steve Lombard and Lex’s niece Nasthalthia get their moments to shine. Morrison and Quitely turned in some of their best and most enjoyable work ever with this one. It’s great fun for longtime Superman fans, and it’s accessible enough for non-comics readers, too. If you know a comics fan who hasn’t read it yet, or a Superman fan who doesn’t read a lot of comics, they might like this one a lot.

“All-Star Superman” is available in two volumes — the first one is out in paperback, but the second is still only out in hardcover. Go pick ’em up.

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Merry Turkey Day!

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving! Hope you’re all able to spend time eating good food with friends and family. And for those of you who aren’t — I seriously hope next year is better than this one, both for you and for the rest of us.

It’s hard to find comics that are specifically about Thanksgiving, so instead, let’s look at some prominent comic book Pilgrims.


Super Pilgrim

Okay, I know absolutely nothing about this guy on the left side of this “Tick” cover. I’ve got to assume he’s a Pilgrim and he’s got superpowers. And since he’s in a “Tick” comic, I reckon it’s a sure bet that he’s very silly.


Just a Pilgrim

An apocalyptic sci-fi Western, this was written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra, and published by Black Bull Comics. Set in a future where the sun’s corona expanded, burning off the oceans and killing most of humanity, the story focuses on Pilgrim, a former cannibal who has burned a cross into his face to represent his renewed faith. He tries to defend some refugees crossing the Atlantic basin from pirates and in a later series, tries to defend some scientists trying to build a space shuttle to take them to another world. Despite Pilgrim’s badassery, the stories don’t often end very well.


Deena Pilgrim

Deena is a character in Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s “Powers” series. She’s a homicide detective partnered with Det. Christian Walker, and they investigate murders of “powers” — superheroes and supervillains. She’s a bit of a goofball, a bit of a punk rocker, and she always plays “Bad Cop” to Walker’s “Good Cop.” At one point, she actually developed contagious superpowers and went on the run, but I understand her powers have been cured now.


Scott Pilgrim

The lead character in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s epic comic series from Oni Press, Scott is a slacker and bass guitarist for a band called Sex Bob-Omb who falls in love with Ramona Flowers. But in order to date her, he must first defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends (which includes one evil ex-girlfriend from college). The whole series has lots of call-backs to video games — all the bands in the series have names based on computer games, and Scott’s battles against the seven evil exes are all reminiscent of video game boss battles. No, I’ve never read this, mostly because I’m too cheap to buy all the previous books.


Solomon Kane

He’s not technically a Pilgrim, but he is a Puritan. He had a series published by Marvel years ago, and a current series published by Dark Horse, but he got his start as a character created by Robert E. Howard, the guy who wrote the Conan the Barbarian stories. Solomon Kane was a dour, near-humorless 17th century swashbuckling Puritan swordsman who adventured across Europe and Africa fighting evil and rescuing innocents. Howard’s original Solomon Kane stories are great action pulp — to be honest, some of the best action prose I can recall reading anywhere — though it can be a bit of a slog to get past the 1920s-era racism that infects them — the more recent comic stories bleed that part out of them.

So there we have it — five different comic book Pilgrims for you to spend your Thanksgiving with. Make sure they get some of the sweet potato pie, a’ight?

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Geek Squad


The Brave and the Bold #29

J. Michael Straczynski’s previous two issues of this have not been very good — lots of blatantly weird stuff that went against all other interpretations of the characters. But this issue is a lot better. Batman runs across Brother Power the Geek, an old ’60s era sorta-superhero who was a living clothing mannequin who hung out with hippies. Brother Power has made very few appearances in comics because his name and concept are so bizarre. Anyway, Bats doesn’t really know what to make of Brother Power — he certainly hasn’t broken any laws, and he seems content to lie around, talk in ’60s catchphrases, and not be a bother. But the mannequin is conflicted about the 21st century — it’s all a great deal unfamiliar to a nonhuman with greater experience dealing with the 1960s counterculture. Can his idealism be rekindled when an arsonist begins targeting old buildings?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent storytelling, characterization, and artwork. Not sure Brother Power could actually carry his own book, but Straczynski seems to have turned him into a credible character again. Hope we get to see him in some other comics someday.


Love and Capes #11

I read an issue of this ages ago at Free Comic Book Day, and finally saw another issue recently and decided to pick it up. Like it says on the cover, it’s basically a romantic sitcom about superheroes. Our main characters are Mark — better known as the Crusader, Earth’s most powerful superhero, and Abby, Mark’s nonpowered fiancee. There’s also Charlotte, Abby’s sister, Darkblade, the world’s greatest detective, and Amazonia, a glamorous superhero and Mark’s ex-girlfriend. Anyway, in this issue, Abby is desperate to find the perfect wedding dress, but when she finally finds one she likes, she learns that it was designed by Amazonia, who she really doesn’t get along with very well. Mark and Charlotte find out and arrange for her to get a trip to Amazonia’s home dimension so they’ll design her a wedding dress for free. Can Abby handle otherworldly bridal fittings, interdimensional cocktail parties, and hanging out with her fiancee’s jealous ex?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Cute, humorous stuff. Abby’s culture shock is funny, and I love the way she manages to terrify her boyfriend, the strongest guy on the planet, with a good withering glance.

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All Hell Breaks Loose


The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #4

Previously in this series, pulp horror writer H.P. Lovecraft had a chance encounter with the blasphemous Necronomicon that causes him to manifest monsters from other dimensions when he goes to sleep. Fearing that this curse could destroy his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, he tries to convince his ex-girlfriend Sylvia St. Claire to leave the city, and he goes to a psychiatrist friend for help. Unfortunately, Lovecraft ended up drugged and locked into a padded room. As this issue begins, Lovecraft’s insane mother, incarcerated at the asylum, gets him out of the hospital and put on a train out of town, but he finally wakes up and takes off back to Providence. Sylvia has returned to the university library with a police escort, but when Lovecraft’s horrors attack the library, she’s taken by the monsters. Can Lovecraft save Sylvia, banish the Elder Gods, and escape the police?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent ending for this story, with lots of action and Cthulhoid horrors all at once. I’ve been very impressed with the characterization in this series — Lovecraft, of course, is our standout here, but Lovecraft’s mother is also a very interesting character, and even minor characters like the mayor and the police chief get some moments to shine. And I’m impressed that the wealthy and shallow Grayson Chesser, Lovecraft’s rival for Sylvia’s love, ends up coming across as a much better person than we’d been lead to believe.


Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1

We’ve got a bunch of different and mostly unrelated stories here, with a framing device about some sort of supernatural distubance in the JSA brownstone that’s causing strange warping effects and hallucinations. We get stories about the first meeting of the original Mr. America and Ma Hunkel; Amazing Man fighting a monster without his powers; Wildcat Jr. discovering a strange family secret; Cylcone time-traveling to help Power Girl and Wildcat fight Icicle; and Damage hallucinating a nightmarish surgery session.

Verdict: Generally thumbs up. I liked some of the stories a lot, and I thought it was cool that they gave Cyclone, who’s usually a comic relief character, a rare chance to be a badass. But some parts of this were wildly clumsy. We get treated to yet another embarrassingly defensive made-up excuse for Power Girl’s costume, we get very inconsistent portrayals of Damage, we get an appearance by Amazing Man that just underscores the fact that we’ve barely seen him in this comic in months. But that’s the problem with DC’s “80-Page Giants” — they tend to be a place to dump a lot of filler material. And even if it’s good filler material, it may never be mentioned again.

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Stretching the Point


Tiny Titans #22

This issue features the introduction of Offspring, Plastic Man’s son, who kinda freaks the rest of the Tiny Titans out with his colossal enthusiasm. Plus we also get to meet the rest of the DCU’s stretchy guys:


Indeed, there is nothing more awesome than a stretchy guy party.

Anyway, Bumblebee and the Atom kids lose a super-duper bouncy ball, which creates a lot of havoc, drenching Robin in oatmeal, getting coffee on Principal Slade’s hot dog, and tangling up the stretchy guys. We also attend a meeting of the Bird Scouts — will Robin be able to maintain his leadership of the club in the face of the amazing shininess and adorability of Golden Eagle?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The whole thing was great, but the Elastic Four were just outstanding.

PS238 #41

I tried to hold off on this one for a while, ’cause I missed Issue #40 somewhere down the line. I was hoping to be able to pick up a copy of the missing issue, but my usual sources have all come up empty. Might be a good time for me to start collecting the trade paperbacks of this one.

Anyway, sometime last issue, Emerald Gauntlet, the pint-sized Green Lantern clone, lost the emerald gauntlet that gives him his powers. He got it back, but now he’s having trouble using its power for even simple tasks, like holding up a tennis ball. His dad, the original Emerald Gauntlet brings his son to the Earth Defense League to see if they can figure out what’s wrong. They can’t, and even worse, a bunch of aliens create a teleportal vortex through the Emerald Gauntlet energy and kidnap the two Emerald Gauntlets and Alexandra von Fogg, kid sister of PS238 student Victor von Fogg, though she’s a student at the rival Praetorian Academy. This sets off a chase as the aliens pursue the kidnapped heroes (and kidnapped pre-teen megalomaniacal super-science villainess). What are the aliens really after? And meanwhile — is Captain Clarinet, now calling himself Argonaut, about to have an unhappy family reunion?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I wish I’d been able to see the previous issue, but it’s still a fun story. Nice to see some focus on Emerald Gauntlet, who seems to be a background character more often than not.

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Friday Night Fights: Skull Kraken!

There’s less than a week before Thanksgiving, and this seems to be the perfect time to consider all the things we have to be thankful for. Family and friends, good fortune wherever it may fall, weekends, days off, and most importantly — FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s pain-party is brought to you by 2008’s MySpace Dark Horse Presents anthology, from from Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s story “Safe and Sound,” starring the Kraken from the Umbrella Academy.




Y’all have a merry weekend, and I’ll see y’all back here bright and early Monday.

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The Forces of Darkness

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #5

In the conclusion of this story of the early days of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, Simon Anders has been rescued from vampires and returned to the New Mexico Air Force base where the BPRD is currently headquartered. Professor Bruttenholm meets a specialist expert he’s brought in to assist — Ota Benga, an elderly former priest who specializes in exorcisms. Bruttenholm needs him to conduct a ceremony to dispel the demonic forces that have taken over Anders’ soul. Most of this issue focuses on the exorcism — played out quietly in the corporeal world but with tons of blood and thunder in the psychic realm — along with the unspoken conflict between Bruttenholm’s friendship with his old exorcist friend who rabidly hates demons and his duties to the young and innocent Hellboy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. In a lot of ways, a very quiet issue, with plenty of discussion and conversation — something that can be a bit rare in the BPRD comics. We also get an unpleasant little hint about what Simon Anders’ future may hold. And Hellboy gets to play baseball. This is the kind of stuff that makes for a good cool-down issue, and I can’t stop enjoying it.


Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #8

Hellboy has lost control of his demonic side, and he may have killed his friend Alice. Now he’s even more concerned about what’s wrong with him — for years, others have been pronouncing him the Beast of the Apocalypse, fated to bring about the end of the world — and he worries that it may be happening now. But a Russian spirit convinces him that he should stop believing what demons tell him and start believing what Alice herself believed — that he was the right person to carry Excalibur. So Hellboy draws the sword from the stone — and it turns out Alice wasn’t dead after all. So Hellboy’s the Rightful King of Britain — is that a happy ending? Well, Nimue is still out there plotting the end of mankind, and the the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra is making their own plans to end the world. So maybe it’s just a sign that things are changing, faster and faster.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another great conclusion for this series. I still don’t know if I can buy Hellboy as mystic royalty, but Mike Mignola doesn’t steer us wrong very often, and I’m willing to give him the chance to show how it makes sense.

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Dr. Horrible #1

If you loved “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” — the genre-busting Emmy-winning web-based musical-supervillain-romantic-tragicomedy created by “Buffy”-creator Joss Whedon and family, and starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day… Wow, I’ve already forgotten how this sentence started. Anyway, Dark Horse Comics just put out a one-shot comic about Dr. Horrible! The story is written by Zack Whedon, who is not only Joss Whedon’s brother but one of the screenwriters! This looks like a prequel, with Dr. Horrible’s origin and his earliest misadventures. See Dr. Horrible plant bombs in parking meters! See his first pain-filled confrontations with the heroic but dim-witted Captain Hammer! See the whinnying villainy of Bad Horse! See Dr. Horrible’s terrifying conveyance, the Horrible Mobile! See Dr. Horrible’s plot to even the odds against his arch-nemesis by giving himself Captain Hammer’s powers!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loooooved it. Great story, great art. Don’t know what else I could say about it — if you were a fan of the “Dr. Horrible” miniseries, then you’re probably going to love this one, too. Here’s hoping they’ll be able to turn this into an ongoing series.


Batgirl #4

I’ve had enough people tell me this was a good series that it finally wore down my resistance. For those new to the series, it stars Stephanie Brown, who used to be the Spoiler and, briefly, Robin. She’s now taken up the mantle of Batgirl, with the technological assistance of Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl and the current wheelchair-bound super-hacker Oracle. Much of this story is told during a blackout in Gotham City — Barbara needs to see to a personal matter at Leslie Thompkins’ clinic, leaving Stephanie to take care of much of the city’s chaos by herself. She stops a purse-snatching and takes on the electricity-powered supervillain Livewire.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding dialogue and lots of good, humorous situations going on. The subplot with Wendy, formerly the Teen Titans’ resident code-monkey before she was attacked and paralyzed by a shapeshifting demon dog, was very good. It’s too bad “Birds of Prey” isn’t around anymore, but I’m glad to see there’s still a place in the DCU for Barbara Gordon.


The Unwritten #7

Tom Taylor is stuck in a French prison, suspected in the brutal murders of a half-dozen people — and he’s just met Frankenstein’s monster, who seems to want to help him, except Tom doesn’t want to believe he exists. On his way back to his cell, he’s attacked by a bunch of guards who’ve been paid to kill him, but he’s saved by Savoy, his cellmate — and one of the guards is accidentally killed. Lizzie Hexam, meanwhile, has gotten herself sent to the same prison, hoping to help Tom out of his predicament. Tom and Savoy are placed in isolation cells after the guard’s death, and Savoy reveals that he’s not really in jail for any crime — he’s a journalist who bribed his way into the prison so he could write about Tom. And while Tom is telling the story from “The Song of Roland” — when they see a vision of Roland himself, blowing his horn to summon Charlemagne. Does this portend more bad things for Tom? Probably…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Weird, spooky, literary stuff. Oh no, not literary! Settle down, young ‘un, it won’t hurt you to learn something once in a while. I am grooving on the “Song of Roland” stuff, and I’m dying to see how it’s all going to play out.

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