Archive for September, 2011

Friday Night Fights: The Speed of Pain!

Friends and neighbors, if it’s Friday, and if we’re all feeling the need for a nice fat dose of weekend relaxation, that means it’s gotta be time to kick things off the way we’ve become accustomed to: with FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from October 1994’s Shadow Cabinet #4 by Matt Wayne, Jason Armstrong, and Andrew Pepoy. The Cabinet is working an undercover op in a third world nation to protect the democratically elected president from a military coup. When the team discovers an assassin targeting the president, the Cabinet’s speedster, Blitzen, takes over the action:

And that’s that! Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

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Dark and Dorky

Justice League Dark #1

The Enchantress has gone crazy again, and that’s causing hundreds of clones of her alter ego, June Moon, to start appearing and walking blindly into traffic. The Justice League shows up at the Enchantress’ hideout, but they’re powerless to stop her. Can anyone? Well, I guess we’ll see if Madame Xanadu, Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna, John Constantine, and Deadman can do it.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This is not a very good comic. I like the art, but the dialogue is just plain goofy. And the whole blasted thing bored me to tears. They worked hard to build up some hype for this one, and it just fails miserably.

American Vampire #19

We get treated to an unexpected flashback all the way to the 1860s to the friendship shared by two Missouri boys — future American vampire Skinner Sweet and his future nemesis Jim Book. Skinner was an orphan taken in by the Book family and though he played rougher and took more dangerous risks than Jim liked (including catching a rattlesnake with his bare hands), they still got along pretty well. Years later, when they were both in the Army fighting the Indian wars in the New Mexico territory, they’re under the command of the naive General Hawley. They capture a scout for an Apache chief named Hole in the Sky, and the scout refuses to tell how many braves Hole in the Sky has, but claims that they’re about to unleash something he calls Mimiteh. But what is Mimiteh, and what’s it doing in a book called “American Vampire”?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see a return to the Wild West for this series, and nice to see Jim Book again. The story is excellent, too — wonderfully tense with tons and tons of personality.

Avengers Academy #19

Okay, I’m sick to the gills of “Fear Itself.” Ya know why? The covers for it are awful, and the blasted things just won’t… go… away.

The god-empowered Absorbing Man and Titania are causing the hyper-miniaturized “Infinite Avengers Mansion” to grow — and when it grows to its actual full size, it’ll be big enough to destroy a city. Finesse figures out a way to destroy the mansion and the villains — but she and another Academy member will have to sacrifice themselves to make sure the plan is successful. Finesse has to monitor the computers, and one of the kids has to hold off the villains — it’s decided that Hazmat has the best chance of actually hurting the bad guys, and Mettle decides he’ll help her. Is there any way out, or are three of the students about to become heroes the hard way?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good personality work all around, and that’s what this series has had going for it from the very beginning. Nevertheless, looks like the students have some big changes ahead.

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Squishy Beetle

Blue Beetle #1

One of the best things about the DC Reboot has been the return of Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle. It’s a complete reboot for the character, with the alien conquerors the Reach still in business in the distant past, and in the present day, Jaime still just a normal El Paso High School student. Looks like his supporting cast is intact, including his family and his friends Paco and Brenda — though Paco has been changed into an irritating gangsta stereotype. Brenda’s aunt is still a crimelord, so Jaime’s parents won’t let him attend Brenda’s birthday party — so Jaime and Paco sneak out so they can make an appearance — just in time for the new Brotherhood of Evil and a bunch of La Dama’s metahuman enforcers to get into a fight over the legendary blue scarab — and that leads to Jaime getting a new blue addition to his spinal cord.

Verdict: Ehh, not sure yet. My major complaint is with the new cartoon-lowrider-gangster look they saddled Paco with. It looks stupid, it adds nothing to the character, and it gives DC another black eye when it comes to doing pointless racist crap. Combined with the awkward dialogue — and extremely obtrusive and gratuitous Spanish, dropped here mainly to remind everyone that HOLY COW, EVERYONE, WE’VE GOT A BROWN-SKINNED CHARACTER! — this title isn’t looking so good. I’ll probably stick with this one for a while, ’cause I do love this character, but it’s a far cry from the glory days of John Rogers’ run on this title.

Tiny Titans #44

Beast Boy is terrified of the crossing guard patrol — because they’re actually Elasti-Girl, Robotman, Negative Man, and Mento — the Doom Patrol! Well, they don’t seem so bad. Robin really likes Elasti-Girl, Robotman is really enthusiastic, Mento loves to think, and Negative Man is negative about everything. So what does Beast Boy really have against the Doom Patrol? What’s their fiendish secret origin?

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, very cute and funny, and it’s great to see the Doom Patrol in this series. Any chance we can get Crazy Jane in here sometime?

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Devil Inside

Daredevil #4

Everyone at least suspects that Matt Murdock is Daredevil, so every time he steps into a courtroom, his case gets derailed and thrown out because people won’t stop talking about Daredevil. So Matt and Foggy Nelson are now working to coach people who have good cases but can’t afford a lawyer on how to represent themselves successfully in court. Of course, there’s still plenty for Daredevil to do, including fighting lions at the Bronx Zoo, beating up muggers in a diner, and rescuing kids from a tenement fire. But Matt’s new case is a wrongful-termination suit with a blind man, a translator who knows over two dozen languages who was fired numerous commendations after somehow running afoul of a couple of Latverian investors. Uh-oh, Latverians, huh?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Okay, the story is just great, but holy baloney, the artwork by Marcos Martin is just absolutely amazing. That’s all I can say about it — just amazing, beautiful artwork. The fight with the lions alone should be put up in a museum somewhere. That cover definitely deserves to be framed and admired.

Batman #1

Well, I loved Scott Snyder’s work when he was writing “Detective Comics,” so I figured I should follow him to see how he does in DC’s new Rebooted “Batman” series. So we get Batman facing off against nearly his entire rogues gallery — and getting helped out of the jam by the Joker?! We get Bruce Wayne and all his most trusted sidekicks visiting a big social event to sell the city’s movers and shakers on a rebuilt, improved Gotham City. And we get Batman visiting a gruesome crime scene to discover that the killer may be someone who’s very, very unexpected.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This might be the best of DC’s Rebooted comics so far, mostly because it doesn’t read like a series that’s been rebooted. Our cast of characters doesn’t change significantly (the Riddler gets a mohawk, and that’s about it), and Snyder gets to focus on writing a good Batman story. Greg Capullo’s art is fun — Gotham and Arkham’s villains are appropriately grungy, the details of the Batcave are grandly realized, and the action sequences are fantastic. Put this one on your pull list, gang.

Dark Horse Presents #4

This anthology series seems to be getting better and better. Besides a new episode of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s enlessly awesome “Beasts of Burden,” we’re treated to new chapters of Howard Chaykin’s “Marked Man” series, Richard Delgado’s “Age of Reptiles,” Carla Speed McNeil’s “Finder: Third World,” Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten’s “Criminal Macabre,” Robert Love and David Walker’s “Number 13,” the wonderfully funny “Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizzaboy” by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, and much more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Favorite stories? “Beasts of Burden,” of course. Loved the Dog Mendonca story. Chaykin’s “Marked Man” series is getting better by the second. And “Finder” is amazingly fun and entertaining. But I don’t believe there was a single bad story in this issue. That’s pretty good for an anthology comic.

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Friday Night Fights: Bone Breaking!

I know I’ve already used a couple of fights from the Savage Dragon recently in Friday Night Fights — but frankly, I’ve already got the scans done, so that means you’re going to get one more.

This one is from January 1996’s The Savage Dragon #25 by Erik Larsen. The backstory on this one is pretty good — the Dragon had previously been captured by a villain and badly beaten up, breaking most of his bones, then stuffed into a smokestack so his super-healing abilities would make his bones heal crooked.

Now the Dragon finally regains consciousness to find Mighty Man, one of his allies, bearing down on him ready to administer another brutal beatdown. Has Mighty Man been mind-controlled by another villain to do the Dragon in permanently?

And as it turns out, it’s not mind control — it’s medical treatment. In his secret identity, Mighty Man is a magically transformed nurse, and at the request of his doctors, he’s using medical knowledge to re-break the Dragon’s bones so they’ll heal properly this time. It wasn’t a particularly big moment, but it was one I always enjoyed because it showed that Larsen was able to think in creative ways that the other Image founders at the time weren’t able to match.

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Wonders and Horrors

Wonder Woman #1

First new Rebooted Wonder Woman comic from Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. And the biggest surprise about this isn’t that Azzarello’s writing is great, or that Chiang’s art is even better — the big surprise is that this isn’t really a superhero story. It’s horror.

We start out with Apollo in Singapore manufacturing his own oracles out of a trio of partygirls. After that, we get someone who looks likely to be Hera creating some centaur assassins by hacking off a couple horses’ heads and letting freakish human torsos claw their way out through the necks. Ewwww. This is all leading up to the centaurs attacking a woman named Zola who is being protected — against her will — by a weird looking guy with blue skin, big black eyes, and wings on his feet. He gives her a key that teleports her into Wonder Woman’s apartment in London. After they teleport back, Wondy beats the centaurs, reveals that Zola’s defender was actually Hermes, messenger of the gods. What the heck is going on here?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, Azzarello and Chiang are quite outstanding. I don’t know if I like the idea of this being a horror comic from now on, but there’s no doubt that the gods are depicted amazingly horrifically. And it really feels like an amazingly apt interpretation — if the idea of gods doesn’t creep you out a bit, you’re not really thinking about it enough.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #1

It’s not a good time to be in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Horrific monsters are roaming almost unchecked across the Earth, Liz Sherman has gone into hiding, and Abe Sapien has been shot, is in a coma, and is probably dying. Kate Corrigan and Johann Kraus are on a trip to Moscow to meet with Russia’s Occult Bureau. And Russia is undergoing some sort of fungal plague that is turning people into monsters. Kate learns from the Russians that many of the B.P.R.D.’s secrets have been revealed to the world by Wikileaks. And the biggest surprise for Kate and Johann comes when they meet the man running the Russia Occult Bureau.

Verdict: Thumbs up. We’re just in the process of establishing the plot right now — but what really has me excited about this one is that it may give us a chance to catch up with the creepy demon girl Varvara, who we haven’t seen in quite a few years.

Severed #2

The year is 1916, and teenager Jack Garron has run away from home to stow away on a train. He wants to make his way to Chicago so he can meet his real father, a musician who he hopes will help make him successful as a performer. Jack has another run-in with the train cop who tried to throw him off, but this time, he’s able to get the better of the man and get his possessions back with the aid of a new friend named Sam. After they get to Chicago, they agree to rent a room together, and Jack learns that Sam is actually a girl disguising herself as a boy to avoid being assaulted or killed on the road. But Jack ends up missing his father — and he’s gone all the way back home to Mississippi. Sam suggests they earn some money by having Jack play his violin so they can take a train south — but the murderous traveling salesman with the horrific shark teeth has Jack’s scent now, and there may be no escape.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A rough-hewn, dirty story set in a rough-hewn, dirty country — it’s easy to forget that the U.S. wasn’t always the clean, heroic place we’ve invented for our myths. Good dialogue and tension — and more tension on the way, from the looks of it.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Just one today. There are a lot of the books in the DC Reboot that I’m very glad I’m not reading, and this article includes a lot of the reasons why. DC looks a lot like they’ve given up on producing comics that are acceptable reading for either children or for mature adults — too much of their focus is on producing comics for, about, and by immature man-children.

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Frankenstein 2011

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

Another star from Grant Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers” makes his way to the Rebooted DC, as the badass, Milton-quoting man-monster called Frankenstein gets his own spotlight.

As a member of S.H.A.D.E., the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive, he pays his first visit to the Ant Farm, the organization’s hyper-miniaturized headquarters, designed by Ray Palmer, and meets up with the organization’s leader, Father Time — who, to Frankenstein’s distress, has cloned himself a new body — a Japanese schoolgirl in a domino mask. He receives a new assignment — to investigate a small town overrun by monsters, where his wife, the Bride, has already vanished. And he gets some sidekicks for the job — the Creature Commandos, including the vampiric Vincent Velcoro, Dr. Nina Mazursky, a fish/human hybrid, the lycanthropic Warren Griffith, and Khalis, a genuine Egyptian mummy. But do five monsters stand a chance against an army of hundreds more?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of fairly mad action and a nice big dollop of humor to go along with it. Frankenstein is the same action-pulp hero he’s been in previous appearances, and Father Time’s new look is pretty hilarious. The Creature Commandos are barely sketched-out personalities for now, and the Bride barely appears at all. My primary disappointment is the lack of over-wrought pulp captions that were so prominent in the “Seven Soldiers” comic — there’s not a single “All in a day’s work… for Frankenstein!” to be found here. Still, it was a bucket of fun, and I’ll keep reading.

Daredevil #3

The Man without Fear has been captured by a bunch of partial sound-clones of the sonic-powered supervillain Klaw, and they’re trying to build him into a new remote-controlled body they can use to cause more chaos. Is there a way for Daredevil to escape when the clones’ sound forms wreak such havoc with his superpowered senses? And even if he can get away, is there a way for him to help an innocent man win a court case when no lawyer in the city will take him as a client?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very tense and smart story by Mark Waid, and beautiful art by Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera. Not much more I can say about this — it’s a really wonderful superhero story, without too much of the angst we’re seeing in other comics.

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Prince of Demons

Demon Knights #1

In a story that starts with the fall of Camelot, we get to see Merlin bond the demon Etrigan to a lowly knight named Jason. After that, we jump forward a few centuries to the Dark Ages, we meet the heroes of our story as they pass through a small town — Jason Blood, the foul-mouthed Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, the Shining Knight, new characters called Al Jabr and Exoristos, and of course, Jason’s worse half, Etrigan. And they’ve got to save the world from the evil wizard Mordru. Holy cow, the world is going to get destroyed by Mordru!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not a lot of plot going on yet — we’re mostly just introducing characters. And it’s a great bunch of characters, too. I love the idea that Madame Xanadu is playing Jason and Etrigan against each other, and it’s also really great to see Sir Ystin again, after much too long since she appeared in Grant Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers” series. Looking forward to reading more of this one.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4

Dr. Erik Pavel recounts that for the last few decades, he’s been on the trail of strange, gigantic figures that look like statues but are actually alive — ancient, powerful vampires in a state of hibernation. But normal vampires have been working very hard to destroy all these gigantic vampires over the years, and Pavel hopes that Felicia Book and Cash McCogan, members of the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star, can appreciate that they’re about to awaken, and that they’ll wipe out all the smaller, impure vampires in the world. And even worse, the Nazis and their Nazi vampires finally capture all three of them. Is there anything left that can save them from destruction at the fangs of the vampire hordes?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s still exciting, still beautifully illustrated, and still worth shelling out the three bucks per issue for this series.

The Unwritten #29

Tom Taylor is still trying to discover what his father was doing in Brooklyn in the ’30s. He’d nurtured the talent of a beautiful comic book creator and fallen in love with her — but the Cabal wants her dead. The freewheeling stories in the unrestricted comics medium have too much power to break the Cabal’s control. Wilson Taylor does everything he can to persuade Miriam Walzer to give up the business and go into more mainstream art, but she’s dedicated to her craft. Can Wilson save her, or is it already too late for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The near-ending of this storyarc is full of a few noble hearts and how they all get crushed, trampled, abused, and destroyed. Not the prettiest tale, but definitely an effective one. Wilson Taylor’s plans for taming the comics industry is the type of thing that I’m a bit surprised DC agreed to publish — but maybe they’re focused solely on the Reboot and are ignoring Vertigo? And there are a few excellent twists at the end, too.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Ant Killer!

Alright, let’s just get right into today’s installment of Friday Night Fights. We’re coming from Atomic Robo, Volume One: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, released sometime in 2008ish, by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

Our set-up: Atomic Robo has to beat up a bunch of giant ants. Huzzah for the classics! So he starts out with an old reliable implement of violence:

And then branches into some other implements of violence, including the occasional bad pun.

And he closes things off with the perfect summary for every comic book in existence.

“I just used my violence on them.” That’s brilliant. Atomic Robo, I salute you.

And if you’re not reading this series — what the heck is wrong with you?! Do you hate joy or something?!

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The Return of Batwoman

Batwoman #1

Wow, for a first issue, this comic is just jam-packed with stuff. And it still makes for great reading!

We start out with Batwoman on the trail of a new villain — or possibly an actual ghost — who styles herself after the spectral child-kidnapper La Llorona. We also get Kate Kane planning a date with Gotham Detective Maggie Sawyer and putting her new sidekick, Bette Kane, the former Flamebird, through her paces. We get the backstory of why Kate is estranged from her father, and we learn that Agent Cameron Chase of the Department of Extranormal Operations is being put on Batwoman’s trail.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, I summarized it really quickly, but this was just an incredibly awesome comic, and I didn’t want to spoil too much of it for you. But there’s a lot here to love. There’s a villain based on La Llorona, my favorite urban legend/ghost story. There’s Kate treating Bette as a military trainee. There’s the return of Cameron Chase and the always-awesome Director Bones. There’s J.H. Williams III being a very good storyteller. And most importantly, there’s J.H. Williams III’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful artwork. No kidding, this one is worth picking up just so you can marvel at how gorgeous the art is. So go get it already.

The Amazing Spider-Man #669

Spider-Island is still going crazy, and a million New Yorkers have found themselves with Spider-Man’s powers. Peter Parker is forced to show off his fancy new martial arts skills in a way that makes his girlfriend Carlie suspicious that he may actually be the real Spider-Man. Reed Richards and the other scientists discover that no one who already has powers is able to catch the virus that dishes out the spider-powers, so they plan to give everyone in the city the super-power of… knowing which way is magnetic north. Why such a lame power? Well, it was easiest to mass-produce. Unfortunately, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson learns that he’s already been infected with the virus, and he’ll be getting spider-powers just like his hated nemesis. Spidey runs into the Shocker — and the villain has grown a few extra pairs of arms, just as it becomes clear that the spider-virus is causing additional mutations in anyone who has it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy cow, there’s lots of crazy stuff happening here. But I have to admit, my favorite part of this is the idea that Mr. Fantastic is planning to give everyone super-compass powers. That’s bizarre, hilarious, and awesome all at the same time.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Well, this isn’t very cool, but DC has rebooted Amanda Waller from a devious heavyset mastermind to a typical skinny-girl nobody. Come on, DC, what about that commitment to diversity? Oh, don’t tell me it was a sham, just like everything else Dan DiDio says? Or was it just that the comics company run by stunted man-children still can’t do anything without calculating how much fun it’ll be to pointlessly infuriate their readers?
  • And in more bad DC Reboot news, John Rozum is already leaving “Static Shock.” He says it’s not related to anything at DC. I hope he’s not just saying that so DC will hire him for comics in the future.
  • Snell reminds us that it’s possible to have more than one interpretation of a character out there, even at more than one publisher. You hearin’ him, DC and the Siegel and Shuster families?

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