Archive for June, 2010

Pirates in Gotham

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3

Bruce Wayne is still traveling through time, and this time, he finds himself captured by the infamous pirate Edward Teach — Blackbeard! Bruce has been pulled out of the sea near the sinking pirate ship, the Black Rose, and Blackbeard thinks he’s the dreaded Black Pirate. Blackbeard and his crew want Bruce to lead them to the fabled treasure trove of the Black Pirate deep inside the caverns of Gotham — caverns rumored to be the home of the mysterious and deadly Bat-People. Can Bruce lead the pirates through the trap-laden caves and still manage to escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Pirates, people. PIRATES.

American Vampire #4

Newly-minted vampire Pearl Jones has been lured out to save her friend Hattie from a bunch of European vampires — only to learn that Hattie is willing to betray her to the other vamps. She manages to escape, barely, with the help of her friend Henry, but can she still manage to prevail against all those vampires? And in our second story, set in the Old West, Skinner Sweet lures his old Pinkerton nemesis out to his new stomping grounds.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is turning out to be a really, really fun comic. The artwork is great, the stories are great, the characters are great, and if you love horror or a good historical vampire story, you should be picking this comic up.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Snell knows that some of the stuff from the Golden Age wasn’t even a little bit golden…
  • Bully the Little Stuffed Bull does a lengthy examination of the image inducer from Marvel’s X-Men comics.
  • Here’s a really fun cartoon called “Fumiko’s Confession.” Outstanding animation that combines anime with the over-the-top Warner Brothers cartoon style.

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Watching the Detectives

Detective Comics #866

A done-in-one story mixing Dick Grayson’s past and present. While Dick, as the current Batman, tangles with some thugs and finds an old lost medallion in a deserted mansion, he remembers his first adventure as Robin, how he came across the medallion for the first time, and how he first faced the Joker. He also meets up with an ex-con who took the rap for stealing the medallion all those years ago, now on his deathbed. Will Batman be able to tie up all these loose ends? Or is there one more mystery he’s overlooking?

Verdict: Thumbs up. When almost every comic is full of long-running storyarcs, it’s cool to see a nice, simple story, told completely in just one issue. I really dug the art style in the flashback part of the tale, with the bright colors, animation-style cartooning, and weathered appearance of the pages. Denny O’Neil has his good comics and his not-so-good comics, and this looks like one of the good ones.

Heralds #4

Reed Richards manages to prevent an artificial black hole from destroying Nova — and New York City along with her. Nova flees, but Reed is sure she’ll be back for Frances, the diner waitress who seems to have a connection to her. She says she once met the Silver Surfer, who made some sort of alteration to her mind and personality. Hoping to jog her memory, Sue Richards takes Frances, Emma Frost, She-Hulk, Hellcat, Valkyrie, Monica Rambeau, and Valeria Richards to see an old friend of Frankie Raye, Nova’s original identity. Frances can’t stand hanging out with any of them and goes out with Hellcat and Valeria to get ice cream. That’s when Nova shows up and kidnaps Valeria.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Part of the problem here is that I feel like I’m not getting the full story. I suspect part of the backstory here was told in Marvel’s cosmic-oriented comics, and we aren’t being told everything we need to know. On top of that, there are now three different credited artists — the very good Tonci Zonjic and the not-nearly-as-good-especially-in-comparison Emma Rios and James Harren. And there’s a whole page in the middle of the comic devoted to a conversation between two bystanders who have nothing to do with the story. The plotline needs to be tightened up a lot before the final issue of the series hits later this week…

Today’s Cool Links:

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Urban Cowboy

Reed Gunther #4

President Grover Cleveland has received alarming reports of monster attacks all over the nation, so he calls out the fearsome Special Agent Mundy to take care of the situation. Meanwhile, adventuresome but somewhat dim cowboy Reed Gunther and his pet bear Sterling have just arrived in New York City, where Sterling is immediately mistaken for a monster, and that leads to a frantic chase, as Reed and Sterling try to both take in the big city sights and avoid getting shot by monster-hunters. And it all ends with Sterling in Mundy’s custody, and Reed with no guns, no where to stay, and no pants. Can Reed track down where Sterling and the monsters are being held? Can he get free from Agent Mundy? And does he still have a chance of finding Starla and the evil Mr. Picks?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ye gods, this one was a lot of fun. Lots of very funny lines from Reed, lots of great shenanigans around the city, great depictions of 1880s NYC, excellent action, the grand comic reappearance of Grover Cleveland, and a bonus pinup by Stan Sakai!

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #17

This one’s a break from all the heavy, serious stories of the past several issues. Aliens are abducting cows all over the nearby countryside, and Billy is assigned to help investigate the story for WHIZ news. Mary tags along, and they soon discover that, despite the local farmers’ lame attempts to disguise their cows as human beings, the abductions continue. After changing into Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, the heroes confront the alien responsible and learn his surprising reason for his cow-napping spree.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very cute, very humorous, and very fun. This is what this comic should be about all the time.

The Avengers #2

The Avengers meet up with their newest member, Marvel Boy, an interdimensional Kree warrior named Noh-Varr, and ask them to build them a time machine so they can try to keep their future children from destroying the universe. What Noh-Varr builds is a time viewer that lets them see a number of different alternate futures, including the world of Spider-Girl, the Days of Future Past, and the Age of Apocalypse. They get to see their kids execute Kang the Conqueror, and then time apparently breaks. And before Marvel Boy can get to work on a new time machine, Wonder Man busts in, bellows some threats, knocks everyone around, and then vanishes. After that — hey, look! It’s Apocalypse and a brand new bunch of Horsemen!

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve got some concerns about Wonder Man’s out-of-nowhere attack, but I’m also thinking this is either a mind-control situation, or a Wonder Man from the future. Other than that, the dialogue is okay — maybe a bit strained in places, especially when Spider-Man tries to wisecrack, the action is pretty good, and we’ve got some interesting conflicts being set up.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Love Taps

I gotta keep this short and simple tonight. You know the drill. Day: End of the workweek. Time: More-or-less evening. Occasion: Whallopin’. Put ’em all together: FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s combatants spring from February 1994’s classic The Batman Adventures: Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, as Batman and the Joker square off.

That wraps up another week of comic-book fun — I’ll see you guys back here on Monday.

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Fanfic Service

Well, now, I’ve mentioned a time or two this fan-fiction contest that John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton are doing, right? Let’s review, okay?

John Scalzi is a science fiction writer who has authored several books, including “Old Man’s War,” “Agent to the Stars,” and “Zoe’s Tale.” He writes a popular and fairly mad blog called “Whatever.”

Wil Wheaton is best known to most of y’all as Wesley Crusher from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but in recent years, he’s also gotten some popularity as a writer — he wrote a short memoir called “Dancing Barefoot” and has his own blog called “Wil Wheaton Dot Net.”

Anyway, they decided to hold a fan-fiction contest to benefit the Lupus Alliance of America. You can read the full details about the contest over here, but here’s the gist of it. Scalzi and Wheaton went to a painter named Jeff Zugale and commissioned this glorious painting:

That’s Wil Wheaton wearing a clown sweater and riding a pegasus-unicorn-kitten, attacking John Scalzi, who has been turned into a green-skinned orc.

This is among the most awesomely awesome things ever.

The contest requires entrants to write a 400-2,000-word story explaining what the heck is going on there.

The contest deadline is the end of this month, and you can still get an entry done, ’cause I wrote mine in about four hours. That either means I’m endlessly awesome, or delusionally incompetent, but fer sher, you can write one before the 30th.

As for the story I entered, you can read it by clicking the “Continue Reading” link below.

» Continue reading “Fanfic Service”

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The Final Frontier


A friend of mine recommended this one to me a while back. He loves reading about space flight — the technology, the experiences of astronauts, the mystery and romance of putting people in a metal box and lighting explosives under them until they’re pushed up out of Earth’s atmosphere. He said he read this, and it made him want to cry with happiness. Sounded like a good reason to read it.

This is a graphic novel written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Colleen Doran. It was published by Vertigo in 2003. The story is set a few years in our future — the Space Shuttle Venture mysteriously vanished a decade ago, and the resulting scandal caused the space program to be completely shut down. NASA is no more. Kennedy Space Center is one vast squatters camp.

And then, the Venture returns. No one knows where it’s been or why it took so long to come back. Only one member of the Venture’s crew is aboard, and he’s insane. There’s dust from Mars in the shuttle’s landing gear.

And the entire ship is covered in a layer of… skin.

So the government calls in some experts to investigate the mystery. There’s Michelle Robeson, a former astronaut assigned to study the shuttle itself and try to figure out where the Venture has been. There’s Terry Marx, a hotshot young physicist who has to figure out what sort of changes were made to the shuttle while it was gone. And there’s Anna Bracken, a psychiatrist who needs to analyze the Venture’s sole remaining crewman to try to make him less violently insane.

And that’s the bulk of the story. It’s a locked-room mystery, except the locked room is a 184-foot-long dual-stage space vehicle, the clues involve things I can just barely understand, like Alcubierre fields, microgravity damage, exotic matter, and bias drives, and the culprits may already be a few dozen light-years outside of Earth’s jurisdiction.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story didn’t affect me as strongly as it did my friend — but I still liked it a lot. I think my enjoyment was somewhat hampered because I kept trying to understand all the theoretical science that Ellis included in the story. I have a tough time really understanding serious, hard science, especially physics. Heck, I have trouble doing long division. If you’re as science-dim as I am, just replace any of the hard physics discussions with the words “Then a miracle occurs.

And once you get past the physics, it’s an excellent story. The characters have excellent backstories and motivations that blend into the needs of the story very well. The mystery alone makes the book a page-turner — a space shuttle with skin? A space shuttle that apparently landed on Mars? What the heck? Makes you want to read the book just to find out what on earth is going on.

Colleen Doran‘s artwork is great, too. If you’re used to her art on comics like “A Distant Soil,” her work here is a bit different, but still really beautiful and vivid. She does some really jaw-dropping landscapes of distant planets and stars.

I think you should consider getting this graphic novel. If you love space travel the way Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran do, you’ll love this. If you like hard science fiction or physics, you’ll probably like this. If you love mysteries, you’ll probably like this. If you’re a fan of Ellis or Doran, you should definitely have this on your shelf. In other words, go pick it up.

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The New New Avengers of Avenging Avengers

The New Avengers #1

It’s yet another “Avengers” title from Marvel. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark want Luke Cage to lead a new Avengers team, but Luke is hesitant. To sweeten the deal, Tony sells him Avengers Mansion for a dollar. Man, real estate values are just crashing like crazy. So while Luke picks out his team, Dr. Strange is in some trouble. He was called out to help Daimon Hellstrom with some problem, but it turned out that the Son of Satan was possessed by… something. And whatever it was possessed Strange, too, then they both went after Dr. Voodoo, the new Sorcerer Supreme, so they can steal the Eye of Agamotto. Back at Avengers Mansion, Luke has selected his team — Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Jewel, Ms. Marvel, and Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. But when the Eye of Agamotto magically appears in Luke’s hands, and the possessed Strange and Hellstrom teleport in, is the new team going to be finished before it even begins?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So far, it’s just an introductory issue, making sure we know who the players are, but it’s got some good moments, particularly the purchase of Avengers Mansion and Ben Grimm’s induction onto the team.

Birds of Prey #2

Black Canary and the Huntress are facing off against an extremely skilled martial artist called the White Canary. Lady Shiva formerly used that name, but this doesn’t seem to be her — it’s someone else entirely. And White Canary is very, very good. She pwns Dinah and Helena without very much effort, and even the intervention of Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk doesn’t do much to even the odds. And it gets worse when the White Canary — or someone associated with her — releases information to the press making Black Canary look like a murderer. A bunch of crooked Gotham cops appear on the scene. The Penguin, injured previously by the White Canary, tells them to take him to his club, where they’ll all be safe, so the team fights its way through the cops — and then finds out that Black Canary’s real name has been released to the media, along with embarrassing information about her past — and two old associates of the Birds of Prey have been killed. How much worse are things going to get?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very intense storyline, so far, with a villain — or maybe a group of villains — whose physical attacks are devastating — and whose non-physical attacks are even worse. Excellent writing by Gail Simone — and while I can’t normally stand the art of Ed Benes, I’ve gotta say, the art here seems to be pretty good. So hey, go pick it up.

Today’s Cool Links:

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What? A superhero movie? Filming in Lubbock?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — we’ve actually managed several comic conventions in recent years, which I thought would never happen… so why not a superhero movie?

I actually feel a bit guilty about this — I’d been hearing some folks talk about this “Alike in Dignity” short film project and always assumed it was being filmed in California or New York. But nope, it’s being filmed locally right here in Lubbock. Why didn’t I ever catch on to this? I have no idea. Just completely spaced it for months and months. Egg on my face? Yeah, that’s me — pretty much totally dropped the ball on this one.

Basically, here’s the situation: Daniel W. Ballard is a film student living in Lubbock but taking classes out of San Francisco — good ol’ online coursework means you can take classes anywhere as long as you’ve got a good Internet connection. He and a friend named Tim Kuhn wrote a script for a movie, and a guy named Daniel P. Ballard (no relation to Daniel W.) is going to direct it.

The full title is “Alike in Dignity: A Super Love Story,” and it’s about a guy and a girl in love — but the guy and all his family are superheroes, and the girl and all her family are supervillains. Thanksgiving with the in-laws gets interesting when everyone wants to shoot you with plasma blasts and laser beams, ya know?

You can read William Kerns’ article about the movie here. And Daniel W. Ballard put together a site and video to help fundraise for the movie here — they’ve met their fundraising goal, but any additional money will just help make the movie (and Ballard’s other thesis projects) that much better.

If you want to get an idea of what the movie will look like — without fancy costumes or special effects — you can watch a sample here. Looks pretty good for a bunch of people yelling “PCHOW! PEWW! PSHH!” while running around in their underwear — just imagine how good it’ll look with real costumes and effects…

Hopefully, that makes up a little bit for not helping to do any promotion of it before…  :/

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Crybaby Crisis

Tiny Titans #29

It’s Supergirl’s turn to babysit the various toddlers amongst the Tiny Titans set. Should be easy for a Kryptonian, right? Well, maybe not. We’re talkin’ the toddler-sized versions of Miss Martian, Wildebeest, Jericho, Copperhead, Disruptor, Dreadbolt, Persuader, Tim Drake, and Jason Todd, and they’re all quite a handful. They bring in Beast Boy and Zatara for more entertainment, but things get even worse when Zatara gets hypnotized into summoning animals from his top hat. Bunnies? No problem. Goats? Umm, okay. Giraffes? Whoa, wait a minute…

Verdict: Thumbs up. That awesome cover is worth a thumbs-up all by itself, but the story inside is fun, cute, off-the-wall, and funny, too.

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #4

The Pet Avengers and the creatures of myth are in big trouble — on the run from vastly powerful giant monsters. Their only chance is to get Damiella the unicorn to the Golden One, the mythological world’s ruler. It seems that their land is ruled by a child — but only on a temporary basis. After a set period, each child returns to Earth and is replaced by a new child ruler. Well, Damiella told the current ruler that she’d have to leave soon, which upset the kid, who immediately started tearing the myth world up and making giant monsters. Can the Pet Avengers get Damiella to the Golden One? And can they persuade her to return to her real home?

Verdict: Ehh, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t all that great either. Not enough stuff for the Pet Avengers to do and a bit too much emphasis on Damiella the unicorn.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Hit like a Girl!

People, it’s already past the mid-point of June, and it’s getting painfully hot. I can’t do anything about that. Sorry. All I can do is try to distract you from this increasingly awful heat with some early-weekend fisticuffs via… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

The last time we featured Supergirl here, it didn’t really end well for her, as she got impaled on a giant shard of artificial Kryptonite. But we’re gonna make it up to her now. This is from that same storyarc, from May 2007’s The Brave and the Bold #2 by Mark Waid and George Perez. A little background info — Supergirl and Green Lantern have traveled to a planet obsessed with gambling to try to shake out a stolen artifact that can foresee the future. In an attempt to get the thief to reveal the artifact’s predictive abilities, the Girl of Steel is going to fight a couple of giant rock monsters while in this disguise:

And what follows after that… is this:

Dang it, that didn’t distract anyone from the heat at all! I think it’s actually getting hotter!

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