Archive for September, 2010


Avengers Academy #4

After getting treated to Mettle’s stomach-churning origin (Hawaiian surfer-dude gets his face demolished in a surfing accident — but wherever he loses skin or cartilage, there’s just shiny red metal behind it. And then Norman Osborn gets hold of him and makes it worse.), we get into the meat of the story. The kids from Avengers Academy — selected not because they’re going to be great heroes, but because they have the potential to become great villains — are visiting the Raft, a maximum security supervillain prison. Mettle, Hazmat, and Veil have taken advantage of a blackout to go looking for Norman Osborn to get revenge on him for the way he screwed up their lives. But Osborn talks them down, saying that he’s made them great and promising that he can “fix” them.

Soon enough, the other supervillains start breaking out of their cells and giving the Academy kids and the Thunderbolts trouble. Mettle gets into a fistfight with the Juggernaut and has a little too much enthusiasm for it. Man-Thing shows up and scares the heck out of everyone. Hazmat threatens to give a convict cancer. And eventually, everyone gets the prison back under control, and the kids get kicked out of the prison.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A huge amount of fun. This is a great concept for a series — teen heroes who might turn out to be teen villains — and I love how it’s all progressing. Christos Gage and Mike McKone are both doing great work on this series. And I also like how this crossover between “Avengers Academy” and “Thunderbolts” was handled — they’re telling the same story in both comics, but with different points-of-view. If you don’t read one series, you don’t miss out on half the plot.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #20

It’s the final showdown between the Marvels and Black Adam — and everyone gets their first big surprise when Mary says her magic word and transforms — not into the pint-sized superhero we’re accustomed to — but into a grown-up Mary Marvel! In the confusion, Black Adam escapes from the Rock of Eternity and unleashes all of Captain Marvel’s greatest foes on Fawcett City. Cap ends up taking down all the bad guys almost single-handedly, but Black Adam has one more nasty little trick hiding up his sleeve.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s the next-to-the-last issue of this series, and it’s wrapping up quite well. Art Baltazar and Franco are doing some of the best writing they’ve done on this comic, and Mike Norton is producing some really charismatic, fun art. It’s kinda weird to see a grown-up Mary Marvel — we’ve had a lot of time to get used to Mary as the super-speedy super-kid. Clearly, the creators planned to do this eventually, and the cancellation of the series just pushed it (and the introduction of Captain Marvel Jr. last issue) forward much sooner than planned. Still, great story, great art — let’s hope they can keep it going for the finale.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Adjust your Calendar

Well, now, here’s the thing.

A couple weeks back, I came home from work and had a great idea for a story I wanted to write — not something for the blog, but something I could potentially send in to publishers and get money for. But before I worked on that, I had to write up the next day’s blog post. And by the time I spent the usual hour or two cooking it together, I was sick of sitting in front of the computer and not much feeling like doing anymore writing anyway.

Then the same thing happened the day after that. And the day after that.

Many a week goes by where I don’t have time to write because I’ve got to work on the blog. Heck, it’s even hard to find time for gaming or reading or lots of other fun things.

Of course, I could still find time to write, I’m sure, but the blog is becoming a too-convenient excuse, and so I’m seeing it less as something I enjoy doing, and more as something that’s an unpaid, low-readership, somewhat odious, and mostly unshirkable responsibility.

And that way leads burnout.

I’m not interested in quitting the blog — it has its own intangible rewards. But I’m also not real happy that it seems to control so much of my free time.

So this is what we’re gonna try: I’m going to cut my blogging back from five days a week to three. You can expect blog posts here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I might still post something on Tuesdays or Thursdays, if there’s something particularly interesting I want to talk about. But for the most part, posts will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only.

Let’s see how this works out, ‘kay?

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Friday Night Fights: Can’t Go Wrong with Batman Beating Up a Hired Goon!

Don’t have a lot of time today to put this together, so let’s make it short and sweet — it’s time again for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s fight comes from May 2008’s Batman #675 by Grant Morrison, Ryan Benjamin, and Saleem Crawford, as Bruce Wayne beats up on the Ten-Eyed Man:

And that’s that! Everyone have a great weekend — see y’all Monday!

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Yin and Yang

Supergirl #56

Supergirl has kidnapped her Bizarro double, Bizarrogirl, so she can return her to Bizarro World. But when they get to Bizarrogirl’s home, they learn that something has cracked the whole cube-planet open, and everything’s in chaos. Well, more in chaos. After a green space monster eats Bizarro Luthor, Bizarro himself shows up and reveals that something called the Godship is behind all their troubles. It crashed into the planet and periodically sends out space-monster drones to eat people — the drones then get processed to provide the ship’s fuel. Supergirl goes out to check out the Godship — and discovers that it’s not a ship at all. And it won’t be easy to beat it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It ain’t perfect, but I love this comic’s blend of humor and superheroics. The Godship is plenty impressive, and I like the way the Bizarros aren’t being portrayed as solely dim-witted buffoons. The artistic style is great, too — it’s so nice, after the last few years, to see a Supergirl who’s not drawn to look like a hooker.

The Avengers #5

Time appears to be broken bad, and while the Avengers in the present mostly sit around and gawp at the ongoing disaster (except for Thor. Thank Thor for Thor! He zooms right out and hits Galactus with his hammer), the small group of Avengers in the future have a lot more to do. Future Tony Stark has stripped out all the electronics and armor out of Regular Tony Stark to keep Ultron from using his armor to spy on them. Future Tony Stark and the Maestro reveal that time breaking is all the fault of Kang — he was trying to defeat a super-advanced version of Ultron and kept twisting time to bring in more and more heroes and villains to help him until he finally fractured time good.

Future Tony has a big Rip Hunter map of the Avengers’ future, and he realizes that he has no idea who Noh-Varr is — which means he’s could be the key to stopping time from breaking. The Avengers suddenly find themselves shot back into the past, Groundhog Day style, at the moment a few issues back when Apocalypse and his Horsemen attacked. Can the Avengers figure out the clues they need to prevent the disaster? And who will they have to ally themselves with to stop it?

Verdict: Thumbs up, with reservations. I loved all the future stuff, even when it was chaotic and crazy. I really disliked the stuff in the present, particularly the way that everyone except Thor limped around staring goggle-eyed at a bunch of cavemen and dinosaurs and whimpering that they had no idea how they could help and the whole world was just ruined and how can any of us go on? The whole thing made me want to smack the tar out of a bunch of whiny superheroes. And Bendis’ dialogue was downright weak this time. But yeah, even with all that going against it, I still enjoyed enough of the story to feel happy with it.

The Flash #5

I didn’t actually buy this one. I’ve been feeling unhappy with the way it’s been going, so I flipped through it in the store. General summary: Flash fights the Rogues and also the future versions of the Rogues, who are all cops. They want to arrest him because they say, at some point in his future, he killed one of the future cops. At some point, for no real reason I could see, Captain Boomerang gets a bunch of White Lantern powers.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The random “Hello, White Lantern!” thing was bizarre. The way the future cops are wanting to arrest Barry for a crime he hasn’t committed yet — and if jailed, will never commit — is stupid. But you know what really chaps my hide about this? This comic about the Fastest Man Alive is incredibly slow and boring. I doubt that I’ll be reading any more of it.

Today’s Cool Links:

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A Dose of Awesome: Dinosaurs!

Hey, you wanna know what’s awesome? Dinosaurs are awesome!

There are several good sources for more information about dinosaurs, and several others that are at least a lot of fun to read. And there are some sources that are completely freakin’ useless. Because creationists are idiots.

Why are dinosaurs so awesome? Because they lived millions and millions of years ago, because they were giant lizard monsters, and because they could eat you easy. Yes, you. You’re not that fast, pal. Even the pokey vegetarians would break their diet to chew on you.

The only way to make dinosaurs more cool is to add them to other awesome things. For example, this dinosaur pirate, which can’t decide whether to make you walk the plank or just to tear you apart and feast upon your succulent flesh. I bet he wishes he could do both…

Robot dinosaurs are also cool. Either way, all they really care about is killing all humans.

Maybe the only thing cooler than regular dinosaurs is the idea that they may still survive to the present day. Some paleontologists theorize that today’s birds evolved from dinosaur ancestors. If that’s so, it’s the kind of thing that would let scientists extrapolate dinosaur behavior based on the behavior of today’s birds…

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Spider-Dude and Wolverine-Dude and Magic-Dudette

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #3

Doom the Living Planet is about to attack Future Earth, and Spider-Man has a gun that fires the Phoenix Force itself. It can destroy an entire planet — like Planet Doom, fer instance — but at the cost of killing whoever fires the weapon. And Wolverine has knocked Spidey out so he can make the grand sacrifice himself. Spidey tries to stop him, but is too late — Doom is destroyed, and Wolverine reduced to a puddle of glop. Spidey returns to his lab, trying to get the Cosmic Cube to work, and after a long, long time, he gets it to activate, just in time to yank Logan out of a blissful afterlife reunited with his mother. Wolvie is not happy about this at all, and of course, it leads to a great battle — or it would, if both of them weren’t suddenly frozen in time, then shot into wildly different worlds.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of really great stuff in this, starting off with Wolverine’s long walk out to confront Doom, confronting the fact that his healing factor won’t get him out of this one. There’s also Petey’s desperate race to try to catch Wolverine, his obsession with perfecting the Cosmic Cube, Logan’s afterlife, and the beginning of their next fight. Really, the story is awesome from first page to last.

Zatanna #5

Zee is in big trouble as a trio of fire demons have got her on the ropes. She’s able to beat them with a swimming pool of improvised holy water. But she’s not even aware of the real problem — the demon Mammon is plotting against her in Hell, and his servant on Earth is Benjy Raymond, the owner of the casino where Zatanna is performing. Mammon gives Benjy a dozen enchanted roses that mesmerize Zee after a show — and if he can hypnotize her into marrying him before midnight, Mammon will get to claim her soul. Will Zatanna manage to wake up from the spell in time? Or will Benjy and his Vegas zombies win the double-or-nothing bet?

Verdict: Ehh. Completely in the middle on this one. The story didn’t thrill the socks off me, and neither was it a total loss. It was… sufficient, and nothing more.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Mister Mignola’s Magnificent Mythological Madness

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects

I meant to review this a few weeks ago when it first came out — but it turned out to be a lot more popular than the stores in North Texas were prepared for. Every new shipment they’ve gotten was sold out by the time I made it to the store, so I had to wait ’til last week to pick it up.

This is a collection of a lot of Mike Mignola‘s non-Hellboy stories, especially the ones that are very, very weird and funny. We get, obviously, the Eisner-winning “The Amazing Screw-On Head” from 2002, about a robot hero called forth by Abraham Lincoln to fight the evil Emperor Zombie. We also get another Eisner-winning story — “The Magician and the Snake,” a short tale co-written by Mignola’s seven-year-old daughter, Katie. And besides that, there are the fantastically bizarre and wonderful tales of “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk,” “The Witch and her Soul,” and “The Prisoner of Mars.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Well, first, if you’ve never gotten to read “The Amazing Screw-On Head,” this is a perfect opportunity to remedy that little empty part of your life. Screw-On Head, Mr. Groin, and Mr. Dog and their valiant struggle against Emperor Zombie and his undead hordes as they quest for a magical item in the Aswam Valley (“generally considered to be the worst place on earth”) is a masterpiece of quirky humor and Victorian action, and it certainly measures up with a lot of the best Hellboy stories.

The other stories are also very enjoyable. “The Magician and the Snake” is by turns funny and tragic and dragon-on-a-skateboard awesome, which is quite a feat for a five-page story. “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk” is a fantastic twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, with some brilliantly funny lines. “The Witch and her Soul” features the Devil and a couple of puppets, and that’s pretty nice right there. And “The Prisoner of Mars” is entirely bizarre, with a Munchausenian plot and clinically insane characters.

It’s a very attractive hardcover, and it’s great fun to read and re-read. Heck, it’s probably the type of thing you could read to your kids if you want them to start exercising the really weird parts of their imaginations. And you do want them to start exercising the really weird parts of their imaginations, ’cause that’s where all the fun stuff lives.

Go pick it up. If your local shop doesn’t have a copy on hand, they’ve probably got some more on order…

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Classroom Chaos

Tiny Titans #32

The evil Lunch Lady Darkseid brings his son Kalibak for his first day of school, and he quickly ends up being the center of attention. He and Match disrupt everything by sitting around and joyfully bellowing nonsense at each other and then manage to turn Psimon into a gibbering moron when he tries to brainscan them. Darkseid knocks Dr. Light out when he shows him a photo of Kalibak’s mom. And Li’l Barda takes everyone out to get gigantic Barda helmets of their own.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Kalibak ends up being a lot more fun than I expected, and any issue that has the impossibly cute Li’l Barda is a solid winner for me.

Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #6

While Thor entertains some female admirers with tales of his exploits in the distant past against pirates led by the Executioner, Nova jealously doubts the stories. So Thor takes him to the village he defended in the past, which has now erected statues of the Thunder God. But when the Executioner returns for a rematch, how will Thor manage this time?

Verdict: I’m going to thumbs it down. I thought this one was uncharacteristically boring.

Marvel Super Hero Squad #9

She-Hulk, Tigra, and the Wasp are a bit insulted that they do lots of great work, but the Super Hero Squad gets all the attention. So they set up a competition to see who the better superheroes are — a contest to see who can find the most fractals. Unfortunately, the villains are following them all around, looking for their opportunity to steal fractals away. Unless some unseen player comes to the rescue, the bad guys are going to get one heck of a victory. And in the backup story, Hulk and the Thing engage in their own little contest.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing real fancy, but it’s an okay story, with some cool guest-stars and some nice moments of humor.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Lubbock artist Dustin Wallace, an official Friend of the Blog, has a Kickstarter page running to help fund some equipment so he can keep making awesome robots. Go help him raise money for the sake of awesome robots!
  • Evil mastermind Grant Morrison makes a guest appearance in a new video by “Umbrella Academy” writer Gerard Way’s band, My Chemical Romance.
  • Polemical Sparkle Ponies!

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Friday Night Fights: Fists of Fury!

Sweet mercy, what a week! But it’s the weekend now, dagnabbit, and we’re going to get things started the traditional way with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s brawl-for-it-all comes to us from June 1968’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by the one and only Jim Steranko! Here we find Nick Fury taking on the mysterious menace of Scorpio:

And that’s the story of how Scorpio got slammed into a wall while shirtless Nick Fury stuck his butt in his face. THE END.

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Mystery Hunt

Mystery Society #3

While Nick and Anastasia Mystery escape with the super-psychic girls Sally and Nina to a new hideout in the tropics, the Skull and Jules Verne (in his awesomely cool robot body) travel to Baltimore to look for the stolen skull of Edgar Allan Poe. After evading the police by pretending to be going to a sci-fi convention, they meet up with a possible culprit in the theft — namely, the suspiciously-named Charles Y. Culprit, who runs the Edgar Allan Poe Historical Society. Meanwhile, Sally and Nina reveal that they can read minds and teleport when they take Nick and Anastasia to see Zeke Jones, a tech expert who analyzes the security tapes that purport to show that Nick killed a general. Hoping to find more answers, Nick and Ana return to Area 51, but run into the general’s son, who attacks them with giant robots.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All in all, it’s pretty rollicking good fun. The art by Fiona Staples is just grandly charismatic, and Steve Niles’ story is zipping along wonderfully. I just wish we could see more of the Skull, who is frequently hilarious.

Birds of Prey #5

The newly re-reformed Savant and Creote take Babs to her new Gotham headquarters, while Black Canary handcuffs the White Canary and accompanies her back to Thailand. Hawk and Lady Blackhawk are taken to the hospital to recover, and Huntress almost decides to shoot several arrows into Penguin’s face. After Zinda recovers, she and Huntress make a trip to Bangkok to find Dinah, but they’re attacked by a bunch of martial arts thugs with a surprising leader.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s boring, and this is not a comic that should be boring.

The Unwritten #17

We get a little stuff about Lizzie Hexam’s past, and then Tom Taylor and Savoy help her escape from the hospital. I actually had some trouble getting this story to make sense, because it’s all told in the style of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. You know, “If you want to take the corridor on the right, go to page 43. If you want to take the corridor on the left, go to page 12.”

Verdict: Thumbs down. I loved the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books when I was younger, but it turns out, they don’t seem to adapt well to comic books. Bad enough you end up reading nearly the entire comic turned over on its side, but there’s just too much bouncing back and forth in a comic that’s not all that easy to read in that format. I think the story was fine, but it wasn’t worth all the hassle of actually reading the durn thing.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • If you’re ever traveling through time and need a convenience store, you now know where to go.
  • Chad Vader, brother of Darth, gives some humorous shout-outs to the cosplayers at Dragon Con.
  • I’m a big fan of gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello, so I really enjoyed this video and interview.

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