Archive for August, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Mixed Nuts!

Awright, people, it’s Friday, it’s pretty much evening, and that means one thing: it’s too blasted hot. No, wait, it also means it’s time for something much more pleasant than the weather — it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes from October 2004’s Outsiders #15 by Judd Winick and Tom Raney, as Grace Choi is stuck fighting the Fearsome Five’s Mammoth:

Yeah, that’s right. Some things are just more unpleasant than the weather. Chief among them is when a superstrong bouncer punches you in your binkityboos.

Comments (1)

Detective Exit

Detective Comics #881

The hunt is on for James Gordon, Jr., the son of Commissioner James Gordon. Jim Jr. is a psychopath, and he has been since he was a little boy. The Commissioner has discovered Jim’s collection of trophies — a box full of keys from the people he’s murdered. And the Commissioner and Babs Gordon have learned that Jim has managed to make his anti-psychotic medicine work backwards — instead of making him feel empathy, it strips empathy from people who take it. And he intends to add the drug into Gotham City’s baby formula, creating a generation of sociopaths. And on top of all that, he’s also managed to kidnap Barbara, who he’s hated since childhood because she was the only person who could tell he was insane. And he plans to kill her, too, slowly and bloodily.

As Batman tries to track them down, he gets a call from Jim, who had long ago figured out that Dick Grayson was now the man inside Batman’s cowl. He’s never been a fan of Dick, either, because he was the member of the Bat-family who had the most empathy for others. Can Dick save Barbara, stop Jim, and foil the plot to poison Gotham’s infants, all without compromising his principles?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great final issue for this version of “Detective Comics,” with Scott Snyder and Jock providing a story that’s claustrophobic, deeply suspenseful, and action-packed. Jim Gordon winds up as an incredibly chilling villain as he describes his motives and plots — I don’t know if DC will be able to use him in future issues, but I hope they can bring him back — he’s too scary to leave behind.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Monsters #2

Liz Sherman is temporarily without her pyrokinetic abilities and on the run from everyone. She’s been hiding out in a rednecky trailer park and impressing her no-good roommates with her ability to whup the tar out of anyone who pisses her off. But things go sour when she discovers that there’s a murderous cult hiding out inside the trailer court — and things get even worse when she finds out that the only people who aren’t in the cult are her two no-good roommates. Does Liz stand a chance against a horde of angry, semi-human cultists? Does she stand a chance when the cops think she’s the bad guy? And what’s the latest bad news coming out of the B.P.R.D. headquarters?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This one isn’t quite as shocking as the previous issue — a whole trailer park of cultists ain’t nothing once you’ve had the dismembered hillbilly corpse dropped in your lap. But the action’s good, the dialogue is fun, and the art is awesome. It’s also cool to see what’s going on with the B.P.R.D. — they’re all watching England blow up, just like you saw if you read “Hellboy: The Fury” — and there is a big surprise for all of us on the last page, too…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • The guys behind “Reed Gunther” have a great introduction for anyone interested in all-ages comics.
  • I was kinda expecting this to be some generic “Superman should be dating Wonder Woman” wishfulfic. It was a lot more insightful than I was anticipating.
  • I’m still reading Grant Morrison’s “Supergods” but I’ve been grooving on the idea of the superhero as the champion of optimism and opponent of nihilism. The blog post author and business pundit Dylan Ratigan specifically point out how this can be seen as a statement about how society, business, and politics should operate.

Comments (2)

Pour Out a 40

Comics these days seem to be full of endings and final issues and cancellations. And this week was the one for unexpected tearjerkers.

Batgirl #24

It’s the final issue of Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl series, as so wonderfully brought to the page by Bryan Q. Miller. The mastermind behind the Reapers stands revealed — and it’s Stephanie’s father, the Cluemaster! It was all part of a twisted plot to keep tabs on his daughter, and now that it’s all out in the open, he shows his latest hobby: gardening. Specifically, growing alien Black Mercy plants. He crushes them to a powder, then blows the powder into Steph’s face, but before she succumbs to the plant’s hallucinogenic powers, she still manages to defeat her father. She awakens in the hospital a few days later, learns that her mother knows her secret identity, and gets to have a rooftop chat with Babs Gordon. So what did Steph see while she was under the Black Mercy’s influence?

What follows are a half-dozen fantastically awesome splash pages depicting Stephanie’s fondest desires, ranging from just plain kicking butt as Batgirl, getting to travel back in time with Babs and Cassandra Cain as the other Batgirls to meet the Blackhawks during World War II, battling evil in a fantasy kingdom, and earning a Blue Lantern power ring (while Oracle gets a very well-deserved Green Lantern ring).

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s all awesome, from beginning to end. I’m glad Bryan Q. Miller got to give Stephanie a proper farewell, and I’m going to miss this comic and this character an awful lot.

Hats off for Batgirl, everyone.

Hellboy: The Fury #3

I don’t know if I can review this one without spoilers or not. We’ll see — but the secret about how this ends hasn’t been very well hidden anyway…

England is getting completely wrecked up by a gigantic, catastrophic lightning storm, all while Hellboy battles a dragon — in fact, while he battles The Dragon, the one who’s supposed to bring about the Apocalypse. While fighting on a field that’s foretold to be the site of Ragna Rok. Alice, Hellboy’s new girlfriend, is trying to get to him to help out somehow. She learns from Queen Mab what the world’s grim future holds. Mab says that Hellboy can’t win, and he won’t be able to help the B.P.R.D. fight off the horrors that will come about in the aftermath. But can Hellboy prevail? Can he get any last-second aid from friends in the spirit world? Can he defeat the Dragon? Can he survive?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s… not the ending I would’ve wanted, but it feels right, and so it’s the right ending. I didn’t spoil anything, did I? Whether I did or not, it’s an absolutely masterful comic.

The first letter in the letter column is a short note to Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, from a little kid, handwritten on lined paper. He closes it by saying, perfectly, in a way you could only come up with if you were still trying to figure your way around the English language:

“Would you want to kill Hellboy? I hope not, because I would plead you not to.”

And I got a little teary about that.

Hats off for Hellboy, everyone.

Comments off

Heroes for All

Hero Comics 2011

We’ve discussed the awesomeness of the HERO Initiative at least once before — they’re a not-for-profit charity that works to help comic creators, artists, and writers who are having serious money troubles, whether because of age, illness, or just plain difficulty finding work. They’ll help pay medical expenses, rent, even help creators find paying work in the comics industry.

In decades past, comics creators often didn’t get paid very much for what they did, and they rarely enjoyed pensions or retirement funds. And freelancers today often can’t afford medical insurance. There are all kinds of things that can leave comics creators unable to work in the industry and facing hard times without a safety net. The HERO Initiative does what they can to make things better, and they’re absolutely industry heroes.

They also periodically put out a benefit comic to help raise money and awareness — and this year’s is certainly one of the most impressive I’ve seen — whether we’re talking benefit comics or anthology comics. The spotlight piece is a story called “My Last Landlady” by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, and Sam Keith — the original creators of the Vertigo “Sandman” series. It’s a beautifully painted horror short, claustrophobic and tense, set in a seaside resort. Later, Sam Keith whimsically illustrates the e-mails that he, Gaiman, and Dringenberg exchanged while they were working on the project. We also get a short “Elephantmen” story by Richard Starkings and Dougie Braithwaite, and a psychedelic “Chew” story by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

And on top of that, we get three short one-page stories from Christopher Ivy, Jason Craig, and Ralph Reese, talking about how HERO helped them through tough times. And despite the array of powerhouse talent in the rest of the comic, all turning in outstanding work, these little one-pagers are the most touching and moving stories in here.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brilliant comics in here — spooky and funny and sad and heartwarming. It’s all for a great cause, it’s definitely worth the four bucks you’ll pay for it — and please visit the HERO Initiative’s site to learn more about what they do.

Dungeons & Dragons #9

Adric Fell and his band of adventurers are stuck in the Feywild and under attack by a bunch of gnolls, but they’ve got aid from Toveliss E’Teall, an Eladrin king — and Adric’s girlfriend’s father. He’s not a big fan of Adric, but he helps them all out anyway. After bringing them to his own magic castle hidden under a waterfall, Toveliss reveals that the Eladrin who were forced through the dimensional portal back in the Dwarven dungeon ended up as disembodied spirits, and the only way to restore them — and the only way Toveliss will agree to send the adventurers back to the normal world — is for the party to travel to the now-ruined City of Stairs, which is now occupied by monstrous Fomorians. After the party battles a dryad (which Khal disarms in a uniquely awesome way), they finally reach the City of Stairs. But to reach their goal, they’re going to have to travel underneath the city…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, great dialogue, and the twist in the battle with the dryad is really superb. All around, a very fun comic book.

Comments off

Sever the Nerves

Severed #1

If you’re like more and more comics readers, you probably think Scott Snyder is pretty ginchy. He’s got a new horror series out now, created with Scott Tuft as co-writer, and art by Attila Futaki.

The story is set in 1916, as young Jack Garron prepares to leave his home for music school. Something weird’s going on with him, though — he jokes around with his mom about becoming a hobo, proudly shows off his new school uniform, talks about his hopes for success at the new school — and then he sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night to actually hitch a ride on a boxcar in hopes of meeting his adoptive father and performing with him. Of course, things don’t go well for him — a railroad cop steals everything he has and throws him off the train, leaving him relying on a bunch of tramps.

But the real danger is taking place not too far away — an orphan named Frederick is offered an apprenticeship with an electrician named Mr. Porter who works for General Electric. Porter is friendly but very, very weird. He tells about working for actress Mary Pickford, makes morbid jokes about his teeth, shows the Frederick the basics of working with electricity, and sends him into a deserted “trainer house” to learn how to hook up the power to a fusebox. But you know what happens down in dark, deserted basements, right?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So far, it’s very early in the story, but what we do have is a nice creepy beginning, and that’s probably enough for now.

Robert Bloch’s That Hellbound Train #3

Martin’s affair with his secretary — a woman who secretly works for the diabolical Conductor in exchange for youth and beauty — leads to more trouble. His wife suspects and hires a private detective to shadow them. When his secret is uncovered, his wife divorces him, his boss fires him, and his whole life plunges straight downhill. And to top it all off, he falls in a river and dies very briefly before he’s revived. So now the Hellbound Train has come to collect him, and it’s too late to unwind the magic watch that’ll allow him to live forever. Or is it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A faithful recreation of Bloch’s old story, along with plenty of great, creepy art.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Friday Night Fights: Fist of the Dragon!

Time for another new round of Friday Night Fights! Let’s kick things off with February 2000’s Savage Dragon #72 by Erik Larsen, in which the Dragon has to take on the all-new, all-evil incarnation of Mighty Man:

Hope y’all have a good weekend — see y’all back here on Monday!

Comments (2)

Getting Snarky

Snarked #0

Roger Langridge has gotten a ton of good press for his spot-on “Muppet Show” comics — now he’s moved on to a new all-ages project based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Hunting of the Snark.” Our main characters are the Walrus and the Carpenter — Wilburforce J. Walrus and Clyde McDunk, two ne’er-do-wells looking for easy money and large dinners. The king has gone missing, and they manage to get inside by posing as dance masters and later as snark hunters. What’s a snark, asks Princess Scarlett. Well, maybe if the mighty hunters have some time to scavenge around the royal kitchens, they’ll be able to figure it out.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The main story is actually very short, with the rest of the length of the comic taken up with sketches, puzzles, the texts of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” and “The Hunting of the Snark,” and plenty of other extras. And it’s all just one measly dollar! Go pick it up, folks.

Avengers Academy #17

Still stuck in the middle of the “Fear Itself” crossover, the kids from the Academy fight off some Nazi soldiers in Washington, DC, and then get given the news that they can leave the battlefield and return to Infinite Avengers Mansion. Veil and Mettle are upset because they had to kill people on the battlefield and start to bond while trying to work their way through their traumas. Meanwhile, the Absorbing Man and Titania, now possessing the powers of Asgardian gods, decide to hurt Hank Pym by killing the students. Once they break into the interdimensional mansion, can anything save the young heroes?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of good character work in this one — and lots of attention paid to the continuing evolution of the kids’ moral backgrounds. Nice to see that Reptil can change into animals other than dinosaurs, and interesting to see that Striker is actually able to talk sensibly about something other than self-promotion.

iZombie #16

Gwen and Horatio finally rescue Spot, but they’re still being pursued by hordes of zombies, leading to a desperate flight through the caverns. Spot’s geeky friends are also chased by zombies, but they’re saved by Spot’s grandfather, still trapped in the body of a chimpanzee. Amon reveals to Ellie that Eugene, Oregon is one of the places on Earth where the walls between worlds are unusually thin, making it a prime location for magic and monsters. The Dead Presidents show up to help stop the zombies, but then Horatio’s old monster-hunting friends in the Fossor Corporation make their appearance — and reveal Gwen’s status as a zombie to Horatio. Is there any way to stop everyone from killing each other?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Tons of stuff happening. Tons and tons and tons of stuff, with lots of slow-moving or dormant plot points finally getting set into motion. This is a plenty exciting comic, and it looks like things are only going to get more frantic.

Comments off


Secret Six #36

Ladies and gentlemen, hats off. “Secret Six” is no more.

Bane knows he and the rest of the Six are going to Hell, and he’s proposed that it’s time for them to re-embrace their villainous natures and either establish themselves as the new rulers of Gotham City or go out in a final blaze of glory. The plan he proposes to Catman, Deadshot, Jeannette, Scandal, Knockout, Ragdoll, King Shark, and their very reluctant ally Penguin, is to break Batman’s will be killing Red Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, and either Huntress or Azrael. The plan goes awry almost immediately, as they discover that their Gotham hideout comes complete with unexpected hostages — a poverty-stricken family who lives on the island in secret. And worse than that — the Penguin has already secretly summoned help.

So they look out the window and find members of the Birds of Prey, the Justice Society, the Titans, the Justice League, and more outside. Hey, that’s quite a lot of superheroes, but the Six have faced worse odds than that before and come out alright, so — oh, wait, now there are a couple Batmen on the scene, plus Robin, John Stewart, and Captain Atom. Worse odds, but Huntress sneaks into the Six’s hideout and offers to be their new hostage if they’ll let the family go. So the odds are actually improving a bit, with a higher-profile hostage and — oh, wait. Superman’s here now.

Well, that’s it, right? They can’t beat odds like that. They’ve got no tricks or powers that will let them get through firepower like that. Jeannette would rather die than go back to prison and is willing to start tearing Huntress into little pieces if they can’t go free. Catman isn’t willing to let Huntress come to harm, Deadshot isn’t willing to let Catman kill Jeannette, Scandal is willing to kill Deadshot to keep people from shooting. Things are coming to a head fast, but Bane has one final gambit — if they can’t survive, they can at least make sure they give the heroes a fight they’ll never forget.

He has Venom for everyone. And the last four pages are glorious and savage and heartbreaking.

Verdict: Thumbs up. We’re losing something amazing and rare with the end of “Secret Six.” It’s one of the comics that’s getting cancelled and isn’t going to be getting a new #1 issue with the new Reboot. So this is the end of it right here. I hope you got to enjoy it the way I did. If you didn’t, I’m sorry you missed out on this slice of comic book glory that Gail Simone left for us. Go out and get the trade paperbacks. Yeah, get all of them. You won’t regret it.

Hats off for “Secret Six,” everyone.

Jonah Hex #70

And speaking of cancelled comics, here’s the last issue of “Jonah Hex,” though it will at least get a continuation in the Reboot with “All-Star Western.”

This is a weird, hallucinatory comic. We start out in 1904, with scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex an old man at 66 years of age. He’s finally gunned down by an old foe, and he finds himself walking an old battlefield with his old (and dead) friend Jeb Turnbull, who tells him he died during that old battle during the Civil War. Then Jonah’s back in another saloon, with other Wild West heroes and the mothers of his children, getting gunned down by his own father. And he wakes up somewhere else with a little girl who has facial scars like his, and a basket full of human hearts. And then he’s alive again. Then dead again. Then alive. Is Jonah Hex dying? Is he already dead? Or can he ever die at all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Well, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti will continue to write about Jonah in the new Reboot — one of the few creators to be allowed to keep working on the same character — but they nevertheless have given this latest version of Jonah Hex a weird, wonderful sendoff. It was also nice to get to see characters like Bat Lash and Tallulah Black one more time…

Hats off for “Jonah Hex,” too.

Comments off

Vampire Wars

American Vampire #17

The military squad from the Vassals of the Morning Star are trying to escape the monstrous vampires of Taipan, but they’ve just discovered something even worse — the Japanese have filled bombs with the Taipan vampires’ blood, and since their blood acts as a high-speed vampire transformation agent, it’s clear that they hope to turn a vast section of the planet into vampires. Not much time to escape now — they’ve got to call in an airstrike to destroy the blood bombs as quickly as possible. Will any of them, including Henry Jones and Skinner Sweet, have a chance to survive the coming chaos?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great action, drama, artwork, and a great cliffhanger, too. You know this one won an Eisner Award, right? It deserved it, too.

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #5

The war against the monsters continues to go horribly. Godzilla and Anguirus tear up Los Angeles, and the US decides to kills Anguirus with heavier-than-air poison gas. The gas kills many people, but Anguirus survives the attack by… standing up. D’oh! The Germans try to kill Rodan with lighter-than-air poison gas, but are foiled when the monster flaps its wings and blows the gas right back at them. D’oh! Battra begins to metamorphose into a new form. And people trying to escape California are trapped in a traffic jam with Godzilla on the way.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I gotta say, this is a pretty weird series, mixing politics, horror, and farce — but as the last pages show, it’s all wrapped around a core of complete tragedy. This may not be the end of the world, but it’s certainly looking like a mass extinction event for humanity.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Spider City

The Amazing Spider-Man #666

Six! Six Six! The Number of the Beast! Hell! And fire! Were spawned to be released!

Oh, wait, comic books. Okay, so it’s the long-promised beginning — or according to this issue, only the prelude — to the “Spider Island” storyarc, with vast numbers of people all over New York City suddenly getting Spider-Man’s powers. A lot of this story is background — and re-introducing Peter Parker and his supporting cast to new readers. The contagious spider-powers, by the way, come from genetically-modified bedbugs created by the Jackal. We get to see Spidey stopping bank robbers, foiling Hydro-Man with a little super-science, enraging current NYC mayor J. Jonah Jameson, working at his real job as a scientist, getting martial arts training from Shiang-Chi and Madame Web, hanging out with the Future Foundation and the Avengers, and just generally being vastly overworked.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I initially wasn’t real fond of it, ’cause I wanted to get into the “Spider Island” story, but I came around pretty quickly on how important it was to show off Spidey’s current supporting cast and personal problems. I try to stay up on comic book stuff, but wasn’t aware of most of the stuff happening in the Wall-Crawler’s comics. So instead of throwing us into a new story with a bunch of people we don’t know, we get an extra issue to get acquainted with who’s who and what’s what. Besides that, it’s well-written by Dan Slott and very entertainingly illustrated by Stefano Caselli.

Detective Comics #880

The Joker has broken out of Arkham Asylum, and Commissioner Jim Gordon desperately calls his ex-wife Barbara (not Oracle/Batgirl — Babs Gordon is, um, dangit, is Batgirl the daughter, niece, or adopted daughter of the Gordons? SO CONFUSING) because he’s concerned that the Joker may target her the way he’s so often targeted Gordon’s family members. Sure enough, his ex is ambushed, slashed, and dosed with Joker venom. While she recovers, Dick Grayson goes from investigating the crime in the lab to looking for the Joker as Batman, tracking him to Gotham City’s sewers. The Joker is able to tell that Dick isn’t “his” Batman, but reveals that he didn’t attack Barbara Gordon. So who did?

Verdict: Thumbs up. More wonderful, creepy Bat-storytelling from Scott Snyder and rough-edged, dirty, awesome artwork from Jock. Last issue didn’t feature Batman at all, with all the focus on Commissioner Gordon, but this one included more of a mix in emphasis between Gordon and the Dark Knight. I think it worked well.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off